My latest TV addiction is “Desperate Housewives.” I loved it from the first campy moment. The show breaks two standard television conventions.
1. Even though the main characters are in their 40s and have children, they are attractive/sexy.
2. The show focuses on the women as human beings in their own right, rather than as props for the men and children to interact with.

At this point in history, women who leave the workplace to stay home with their children have two contradictory images.
1. They are saints who sacrificed their own careers, their own wants and needs, their own very selves to be the all encompassing earth mothers for their offspring. (They also homeschool and keep a perfectly clean house.)
2. They are fat, lazy bon bon popping slobs who watch soaps all day while their slovenly children play xbox in the filthy family room.

Not very attractive images, are they?

Whenever I meet somebody new and tell them that I’m a SAHM, I get “good for you! Best thing for the kids!” from their mouths and “How pathetic. Must find somebody else to talk to” from their eyes. They can’t imagine that I might be speeding on my kid’s Ritalin, screwing the teenaged yard boy, or hiding a deep dark secret. (No, I’m not doing any of those things, not that I’m admitting to, anyway, but I COULD be!)

The Desperate Housewives each embody a piece of a real person. Put them all together and you might get a whole woman. By teasing her apart into components- the one who’s tearing her hair out over the kids, the one who is outwardly perfect in order to mask the chaos inside, the one who seems to have everything she ever wanted and can’t understand why she still isn’t happy/fulfilled, the one who bumbles through every ordinary event because nothing is as easy as it looks- the writers show us the real SAHM, who is all of those people and more.

It’s a tricky balancing act, this SAHM gig. You can easily lose yourself. You can get mired in guilt and depression because your life didn’t turn out the way you thought it would, because you didn’t win the Nobel prize, because you’re not “important” anymore. You can become over-involved in your kids’ lives, micromanaging their existence to make up for your lack of corporate managerial duties. You can become isolated because everyone else on the planet seems to have a 9-5 job. You can resent your husband because he gets to leave the noisy, messy house behind and spend the day being Important.

Me, I view it as a phase. I gave my whole self to my kids for a number of years. As they grow and become more independent, I get some of it back. And I get to reinvent my self, so that I come out the other side the person I want to be. A person who raised two beautiful children. A writer. Important.


36 thoughts on “

  1. The SAHM imagery is two faced though I believe…I think guys have one view but other women loathe the idea of SAHM sometimes worse…isn’t that because it goes against the supermom mentality and expectations that were so built up?….

  2. I haven’t watched a single episode, yet, though I must admit I am intrigued. I am not the soap-opera type and I assumed that’s what that show was. Methinks I need to check it out. BTW…yes, you may borrow my handcuffs

  3. It is a tricky balancing act, and I don’t think you can help but lose part of yourself for a few years. But you come out the other end with such a broad range of new experience.  It’s a good chance to try on a lot of different hats along the way.  It’s true your resume might not read as well.  That’s the one thing it’s hard to get around.

  4. I’m glad there’s a show out there challenging some of the stereotypes. Usuualy when I meet a SAHM my eyes are just glazing because I’m trying to beat down the rising jealousy – don’t assume I’m bored. Now I’ll also being trying to fight off the image of her schtumping the yard boy, goldarnit!

  5. the husband is addicted to the show.  i think it is kind of goofy myself, and couldn’t wait to turn football back on.    one thing i did notice with the show that i haven’t heard talked about — not every mom is cut out to be at home full time.  being a sahm isn’t admirable if you hate yourself and resent your kids. 

  6. You are important and a damned entertaining writer, too boot. I forgot to post that above. RYC: thank you for the new word: Morass. Now, I need to learn how to pronounce it. Regarding your point: I think people are inherently good, but I also think they seek pleasure and avoid pain in all things they do. Those are simple and primal motivations. To do good for others, which is sometimes a pain, now THAT requires divine intervention of some kind … so there’s got to be SOMEthing. Some hard-wiring going on …

  7. Yes, yes, and you are doing much better than I am. :)In my head I think what you just wrote…but in practice, day to day, man, who knew twenty-four hours could stretch out so freaking long?????? These years aren’t flying by…they are crawling like a limping tortoise across an eight-lane desert highway.

  8. I love that campy show but sometimes the world of SAHMs is too small for me. I blogged about this several weeks ago and still feel this way about the circle of SAHMs that I am exposed to.Since I only work VERY part-time I totally identify with the SAHMs but at the same time the circle of them that are around me are very petty and clique-ish. Very into “their own” little group.

  9. I haven’t seen Desperate Housewives yet. I understand the stereotypes assigned to SAHMs though. Stayed at home for years, and now I’m a SAHM during the week and work weekends.
    The biggest thing that bugs me about being a SAHM: that other people think nothing of asking you to do things for them “since you’re home all day anyway”! Huh? So I have nothing important going on in my life that it is OK for you to ask me to come over and wait for the cable guy while you go to work? Please. Usually I am glad to help friends and relatives—unless they say “since you’re home anyway.”

  10. It’s an excellent show, one of the few that I make a point of watching.  It’s such a relief to come across such excellent writing in the electronic wasteland!  RYC:  You’re right, of course.  Flylady made me do it.

  11. I like Desperate Housewives too. I think people often forget that being a SAHM is a job too and it doesn’t end at 5′ oclock. Kudos to you.
    Thanks for stopping by my site. Don’t be a stranger.

  12. You are the second person I’ve read today, who mentioned this show (Nina Williams did too).  I’ll have to check it out.
    And I can see people thinking the stay-at-home gig is unglamorous. . . Because it it is.  But I really think it’s the most important job on the planet.  That sounds all cliche, but I’m not just channeling Oprah here.  The impact we will have is eternal.  There’s not many jobs you can say that about.

  13. I’ve been a SAHM for over 10 years and I recognize most of what you’ve said.  I also enjoy Desperate Housewives; the first show in years that I’ve been really interesting in watching.  They don’t really mirror my life in any way, but there is definitely pieces of each with which I can identiy–as you stated.
    Btw, I responded to your comment on my blog.

  14. Wow wow wow, these are the exact reasons I love it as well.  Even though they are overdone characters they symbolize so much.  I could relate so much to Lynette in the last episode and have even said previously in my blog the same thing she asked “Why don’t we tell each other how hard it really is?”  It is a fabulous show. 

  15. I love Desp Housewives also. I recently started watching it, so I have a lot of catching up to do. I love how you compare each character to different sides of one woman. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but you are probably right. I am a working mommy, but really envy those who can stay with their kids. One thing that surprised me, my husband loves the show too! Usually he hates my chick shows!

  16. We had everything in the lockers from really old newspapers (from when the casino opened in 2000) to cans of tuna to books to old dirty saucepans to dirty undershirts. So far nothing of the girlie mag/alcohol/questionable content variety, but it’s all dusty and grimy  and ICK!

  17. Desparate Housewives is pretty popular. I’ve never watched it myself because I cannot relate. Probably won’t ever because I’m probably be fat and unattractive by the time I have two kids and a husband. Yes, green peppers are expensive. And they rot. Hmmm. Plastic red balls?

  18. I admire you. I tried to stay home, but I drove my children crazy. I teach now, and I have the summers off and most of the same holidays. Also, my kids spend so much time at our school (my husband teaches at the same school) that it seems like home. 🙂

  19. I perefer not to watch “desperate housewives” because there are hardly any housewives in the world today and aven if there were, they wouldnt be desperite in between the diaper changes and runs to get more peanute better in a tube and koolaid.

  20. Whenever a woman tells me she’s a stay-at-home-mom I also say “good for you! Best thing for the kids!” My eyes say the SAME thing as my words since I really do mean it. As a single dad who takes care of two daughters fulltime during most weekends of the month, by the time Sunday night rolls around and their mom picks them up, I’m pooped ( and my daughters are 13yrs and 6yrs ). Being a stay-at-home mom isn’t anything to be ashamed or guilty of. Heck, if I had the finances to support it, I’d be a stay-at-home dad while my daughters are still young.  I haven’t watched the “Desperate Housewives” show so I can’t comment on it.
    p.s. I see the rabbit has been replaced by a pic of you. Now if we can get that camera to zoom in on your face… 🙂

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