TIME

America is failing moms. Let’s start over

IN 1974, HUMORIST ERMA BOMBECK PUBLISHED A syndicated newspaper column that looms over the lives of American mothers whether they’ve read it or not. In “When God Created Mothers,” Bombeck describes God making a mother with the help of an angel. “She has to be completely washable, but not plastic. Have 180 movable parts … all replaceable,” God tells the angel. “Run on black coffee and leftovers. Have a lap that disappears when she stands up. A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair. And six pairs of hands.”

My mother, who homeschooled eight children, saw that column as a mark of her valor. Not only did it hang on our wall at home, I grew up hearing it quoted in church sermons on Mother’s Day.

But once I became a mother, I came to

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