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Unless you've been living in a bubble, you've probably heard about--if not watched--one of ABC television's breakout hits, the Sunday-night series, Desperate Housewives. In it, four suburbanites (and one prerequisite neighborhood floozy) live on upscale, picture-perfect Wisteria Lane. But things are not as perfect as they seem. One character in particular, "Bree," hides her turbulent emotions behind her perfectly coiffed, Martha Stewart-like image of the homemaker who dresses in a twin set and pearls, whips up gourmet meals, and drives her family nuts.
Although this television series' slick mix of sexual hijinks, intrigue, and comedy makes sweeping generalizations about women's roles, its popularity shows it strikes a nerve. Are there really lots of "desperate housewives"--or rather, "desperate moms"--out there?
Carla Barnhill, former editor of CHRISTIAN PARENTING TODAY and author of The Myth of the Perfect Mother (Baker Books), would say yes. Her experience as the mom of two, Emily and Isaac, and the experiences of the women she surveyed in 2003, led her to believe the weight of the perfectionist expectations Christian moms labor under is taking its toll.
"I was part of a series of nationwide Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) events and talked to lots of women there," says Barnhill. "A number of these moms talked about depression, even suicidal thoughts, and how they found help through their friendships with the other moms in their MOPS groups. I thought about what would have happened if these women hadn't had anyone to help them through these situations. I know at least one of them would have killed herself."
Moved by these woman--and the tragic story of Andrea Yates, the 37-year-old mentally ill Texas mother of five who in 2001 drowned her children one by one--Barnhill has been busy taking on …