Staying at Home the Modern Family Way.

by Meredith O'Brien


I recently wrote in this space about how much I admire the freshman ABC comedy Modern Family, called it “off-kilter,” but in a good and witty way. Now I’ve found yet another reason to extol its virtues: Its writers were somehow able to address a woman’s insecurities about being an at-home mom without getting all preachy and super-serious. Instead, they used a light, humorous touch, one that I found refreshing.


The at-home mom in question was Claire Dunphy (Julie Bowen), who has two teenage girls and an 11-year-old boy with her husband Phil (Ty Burrell). Claire feared she was being pitied by her former co-worker whom she hasn’t seen in 15 years. But even before Claire met up with her old friend Valerie for lunch, she had to explain to her children why she left her job at a hotel when she got married, giving birth to her first child five months later.


“I can’t imagine you working,” her son Luke said.


Claire’s well meaning husband Phil replied, “Luke, that is very offensive to women. Your mom works very hard, it’s just now she works for us.”


Not loving the “works for us” comment, Claire forged ahead and tried to impress her kids: “I will have you know that I had quite the little career going. I was an account manager at Starcrest Hotels. I had a little cubicle and I wore my tennis shoes to work and changed into my work pumps. It was very Working Girl . . . And I don’t mind saying I was making quite a splash.”


“Well then why’d you quit?” her 15-year-old daughter Haley asked.


“Well, Haley, call me old fashioned, but I wanted to focus on raising a family so I married your dad.”


Once at the restaurant, Claire made the grave error of smugly assuming that her single, child-free former colleague was jealous of her, because after seeing a Dunphy family photo, Valerie grasped Claire’s hand tightly and said, “You chose the mother. You’re the mommy, the yummy mommy, mama person.”


Things started to get dicey though when Claire expressed surprise that Valerie had been promoted to upper management. “If you hadn’t left, it probably would’ve been you,” Valerie said, to which Claire responded by downing the first of a few glasses of wine.


Claire’s apparent insecurities about leaving behind her career to be a full-time mom increased when she learned that Valerie was named to a prestigious post as the head of the international division and had lovers in Paris, New York, Miami and San Francisco. “Last night I vacuumed the radiator thingie, under the fridge, you know that collects the dust, because you should, and, I don’t,” Claire babbled. That’s how, I’d venture to guess, many mothers who’ve opted to be at home or to pare down their work schedules to raise kids might feel when faced with a former peer who’s working full-time, is leading a jet-setting life and has it all goin’ on career-wise.





This show has made me appreciate my kooky life and family more than ever. I don't know how the writers manage to do it every week, but I am hooked. Claire is my TV soul sister.


Well said. I'd only add the ending - that she did get frustrated by their behavior, act out, take a break (instead of doing something more damaging) and that it was okay. It was okay. She had her moment, took her time, came back all the better for it, and her husband understood (that might be where the fictional part of the story really takes flight, ha ha ha). It was this last part that really hit home for me, especially since I'm not a stay at home mom - yet.