Everyday men leave their families. Some do it because there's another woman, some do it because they've decided they're unhappy and need to be away from their families to discover how to resolve their issues. Some do it just because their own fathers left and they're repeating the pattern. When it happens, people close to the abandoned families cry and wonder why it happened, but then move on saying "Oh, he's having a midlife crisis," or "That's a guy for you," and the wife is left to pick up the pieces and continue to take care of the kids.
In rarer instances, the woman is the one to leave, though usually, when she chooses to leave, if there are kids involved, she takes them with her. It seems rare for a woman to leave her husband AND her kids, but if she does, the perception is that she has contradicted nature's way: a mother would never abandon her children! How can this be? What kind of a mother is she? Few people ask the same of the fathers who leave their families. Few people question his parenting skills. Few people are as willing to write off a mother's abandonment of her family as a "midlife crisis."
But, if men and women are the same, as the experts would have us believe, isn't it just as likely that a woman could go through a midlife crisis as a man? Couldn't it be that a woman could grow disenchanted with her life just as a man does?
It would be interesting to study what coping mechanisms women utilize in order to keep their families intact rather than to cut and run. To study the alcoholism rate of stay-at-home moms. Valium was frequently prescribed in the '50s for the SAHM set, then in the '60s, speed, disguised as a weight-loss drug, became the new vogue for SAHMs. In the '80s-current, antidepressants are the norm.
As demonstrated by Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney ("She never worked a day in her life"), the impression of SAHMs is that all they do is sit around and eat bon-bons all day. Nothing about the actual lives of the average SAHM is reflected in Rosen's comment. Rosen obviously has never had to get children ready and out the door on time for the bus to school. Rosen has never faced a morning of strife with teenagers only to face an empty house full of the detritus left behind by children rushing out the door. Rosen has obviously never faced the reality of weeks filled with conversations had only with young children or dogs. Rosen has never faced the loneliness that comes with little adult contact. Rosen has never had the demands that raising a family puts on a person - the constant upkeep of a home, the stress of finances, the cleaning that lasts a nano-second before the house is destroyed yet again, the constant demand that she participate in the PTA/Booster Club, etc. or experienced the feeling that one's life is centered completely around self-centered little human beings who also believe that the only reason one is there is to fulfill their every need and demand.
Women who choose to stay at home with their children sacrifice more than just the income they could be making in a "real job." They're postponing their own dreams for success outside of the home in order to raise the next generation into quality human beings. For some, it is a life-long dream to be a mother, and God bless those who do it well. For others, it was a dream to be a mom and have great kids, but there were other dreams that were put on hold when those children came along. For others still, the kids came along and the moms continued to finish their schooling and then attempted to work outside the home, only to discover that all the income they brought in was going out to pay for childcare.
It has been said that to be a working mom, one is generally trying to do three jobs: Wife, Mom and Career, and that truthfully, it is only possible to do two of those three jobs well - one part of the triangle always suffers in some way when one is attempting to fulfill all the roles. Unless one has a good partner who shares equally with the children/home duties, a working mom can be stretched very thin, and understandably faces her own obstacles and possible depression as compared to the SAHM. The stress of attempting to maintain a home and family on top of a career can lead to a high level of burn-out, too.
So why don't more women leave their families? And when they do, why aren't they given the same benefit of the doubt that men are when they leave? It would seem that women, whether working or SAHM, are under a considerable amount of stress and should be more likely to bail when it gets to be too much then men, who are also under a lot of stress, but who are generally not as involved with the day-to-day family life as women are. (This is sure to anger a lot of men, but unless they have assumed the role of being their family's primary caregiver, they need to be more honest with themselves and admit that their wives are doing way more every day than they are.) Is it biological for women to not abandon their families? Is it our culture that keeps them from running away in a newly-purchased sports' car with a young hot dude beside them? Is it that they know that without them, the family would truly disintegrate and that would equate to a massive failure on their part? Why does a man not equate bailing from his family as failure? Why doesn't society see it as a man's failure? Why does it seem ok for a man to take a powder but not for a woman?