Suburban Angst Behind The White Picket Fence

By Lisa Earle McLeod

What did you want to be when you grew up?

If you were like many little girls who bought into the June Cleaver myth, you probably spent more time thinking about where you were going to live than what you were actually going to do.

A picket fence, 2.5 kids and a matching washer-dryer set. It was the suburban dream, and many of us were raised to believe it was a lifetime warranty for happiness. I’m not quite sure what little boys were dreaming about. Perhaps it was a big job and a cute wife — two things my husband can tell you bring challenges all their own.

But for little girls, domestic bliss was usually part of our aspirations. We may never have personally known anyone who really lived like June Cleaver or Carol Brady. But we assumed that, if we could make our lives look like theirs, we would spend just as much time smiling as they did. Yet Carol and June moved on to the great cancellation gods in the sky, and many of us found that life in suburbia wasn’t the nonstop funfest we thought it would be.

It has its fine moments, to be sure. But for the 26 million women living in the ‘burbs, there’s as much angst in the carpool line as there is in corporate America. However, unlike the ’50s moms who felt they had to pretend like everything was perfect, us modern-day slackers are ready to come clean about our inability to duplicate the TV standard and our unhappiness without even bothering to try.

The tides have turned, and pop culture has followed suit. Sitcoms are no longer about showing the perfection of suburbia, but more about revealing the flaws behind it. From “Rosanne” to “Desperate Housewives,” TV has made it permissible, and even funny, to admit that you’re not perfect.

Yet while we laugh at the shows, many of us are loath to admit that the cluttered homes and frantic neuroses of our TV counterparts bear any resemblance to our own less than ideal lives. It’s almost like we believe all the good parts of the lifestyle (love, family and comfort) are universal, but the bad parts (stress, monotony and drudgery) are ours alone because we’re doing it wrong.

If I’ve learned one thing from my own years in the ‘burbs, it’s this: Get a few glasses of wine in a woman, and you’ll find out that you’re not the only one struggling.

One group of Greenville, S.C., girlfriends, Christa Sorauf, Lesley Johnson and Stacey Massengale, found so many common themes in their late-night confessionals that they turned their laments into a line of greeting cards. Suburban Myths is a collection of cards committed to debunking the myth of the “Satisfied Super Mom” forever.

The hundred cards include: Suburban Myth No. 1 – Domestic bliss can be achieved! With the right pharmaceuticals. Suburban Myth No. 5 – My house is in perfect order! Unfortunately, my life is a mess. Suburban Myth No. 11 – Packing perfectly nutritious lunch boxes fills me up! With resentment.

From cocktail playdates to control-freak room mothers, it’s the down and dirty on life behind the pristine picket fence.

The line ( launched in 1,400 Target stores in June and will be available in 3,000 Wal-Mart stores by September. Co-Creator Christa Sorauf said, “It’s funny, one minute you’re drinking a bottle of merlot with your girlfriends and the next minute your late-night rantings are on every greeting card aisle in America.”

The popularity of the Suburban Myths product line demonstrates that we’re all still desperate to know that others share our struggles. It wouldn’t be funny if it wasn’t a common experience.

Life in the ‘burbs may be easy compared to war, ditch-digging or foraging for food. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have permission to whine a little.

Snellville resident Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of “Forget Perfect” and “Finding Grace When You Can’t Even Find Clean Underwear.” Contact her or join her interactive blog at .

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