Sarah 4Comment

Originally published in February 2012

The moms on current sitcoms are frumpy, chubby and total shrews to their husbands- or they are gorgeous, thin, and sleeping with someone other than their husbands.  Either way, the common theme is that they’re not happy.

In the 1990’s, sitcoms focused on the totally distracted dad who went to work and dreaded coming home, where he was treated like a Neanderthal and thus, acted like one. Ray Romano, Homer Simpson and Tim Taylor were all examples of this stereotyped husband and father. But in the last ten years, as the “mommy wars” have gotten more intense, the stay-at-home mom has become the focus of the joke. For example, in the 2004 pilot of “Desperate Housewives,” one housewife hides her unhappiness with perfect housekeeping, another cheats on her husband out of boredom, and another drowns in baggy flannel shirts and her children’s needs. The message: getting married is boring. If you are a woman, even in this culture of choices, you will be pushed into suburbia, where you will eventually lose your once fabulous self to crockpot recipes and play dates.  Gone are the happily married, smart and fulfilled women like Amy Matthews on “Boy Meets World.” This character has been replaced by a new paradigm.

In the 2011 primetime satire, “Suburbia,” a trendy city girl is plucked from her fabulous life in the city to live with her single dad in the safety of the suburbs. She laughs at the plastic-like, but seemingly happy stay-at-home moms. The undertone is that these suburban women look happy, but if they are, they must be empty and stupid. Smart women are not stay-at-home moms.

This caricature only perpetuates the anxiety that women face as they make the decision to stay home or continue working. “What am I missing out on? What will others think of this decision? What if I lose everything I’ve worked for?” What these women forget is that focusing on raising a person is essential to society, is difficult, and is worth it.

In his article, “Housewives not Desperate,” Dr. Adam Groza asserts that “the truly desperate women in America are…the women who would love to stay at home but fear their ‘self-identity’ would suffer or that they would be viewed as ‘unsuccessful.'”

We’re scared. What if our hobbies and our kids aren’t enough? Everywhere we turn there’s a story of another woman who is depressed, lonely or has sacrificed so much that she’s lost herself. We don’t want to endure the eyebrow raising smirks when we say we stay home and raise our kids. We’ll have to justify our choice to everyone. So we multi-task, we try to do everything.  We get jobs, we push our kids away, we don’t just “be.” We protect ourselves from the terrifying fate that permeates the media; staying at home is not going to be enough.

But there are stay-at-home moms who are happy and fulfilled. Where is their voice  in this cultural zeitgeist? These moms should be heard online and on television shows as well. Stories about child-rearing shouldn’t just be about how it drains you, but how it saves you. Maybe if these moms were more vocal, if their characters were prominent in sitcoms and on the internet, more women would be confident in finding happiness by slowing down a little, taking a breath and “just” being a mom.

Unfortunately, our current culture doesn’t approve of the happy and fulfilled stay-at-home mom. Instead, moms get the message that we should see our kids for an hour a day and keep up our hectic and self-serving schedule. Raising children isn’t enough, and we shouldn’t let it become enough.

That would mean we’d become stupid, empty and focused on the wrong thing…right?

– Sarahlynne


“Housewives Not Desperate; Sexist show calls Hollywood’s progressive bluff;” Salvo Mag; 2011


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4 thoughts on “What Primetime Television Does to the Stay-at-Home Mom Stereotype

  1. I can’t remember the author but a mother once said “people would be more impressed by the idea of me raising orangatuans over raising children”. Sadly I think this is true.

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