I don't think the positive view of full-time mothers should be dismissed as a "Catholic" or "American" peculiarity. Both of the Orthodox priests I have spoken with about this have stressed the importance of mothers to Orthodox family life, and I have found this advice very helpful.
A full-time wife and mother can provide material and spiritual benefits which are tremendously valuable, and probably impossible for a "SAHD" to duplicate. Recently my wife read an article about the fact that a mother's hormones are tuned to the developmental stages of her children as they grow. The mother's brain actually re-wires itself to help her cope with the particular challenges of raising and educating children. Not that biology alone can provide answers, but the intricacy of God's design never ceases to amaze.
Of course, the value of motherhood is strongly stressed everywhere in Orthodoxy, but that does not automatically translate into an obligation for mothers to be physically present with their children 24/7. Fathers' role and presence can also never be duplicated by a mother - that is why children have both. It is a sad reality that some kids with SAHMs rarely get to see their fathers, who have to work LOOONG hours to provide for the family, and I think this absence of fathers is just as worrying as an absence of mothers. Ideally, we'd never have to leave our kids. Ideally, we wouldn't have to work or labor in pain - but we live in a fallen world.
an American peculiarity, and probably justifiably, is the prominent notion of a stay-at-home parent. I believe this has practical causes in some other American peculiarities:
1) the often insane working hours - try getting most Europeans to work the long hours that Americans do. No way!
There are mothers and fathers in the USA who almost never get to see their children , b/c they arrive home around or after their bedtime! This is inconceivable in Serbia! My parents, who both worked, were both home by 3.15PM. Then we had the whole day before us! It is indeed cruel to children to grow in circumstances where they don't see their parents, but this is not a problem only mothers should be made to face.
2) the commute - America is big; Serbia is small. I'll be able to reach home from work and vice versa in 7.5 minutes of light walking. So I just factor in 15 more minutes into my absence due to work.
3) the lack of significant maternity leave - it is true that infants need their mothers at all times, if this is at all possible, but this exclusive need diminishes in time, and the child is then ready to socialize with other loving caretakers as well. In Serbia, mothers get a full year of paid maternity leave, so it is not an either/or (work/stay at home) situation. We are not made to leave tiny infants in daycare.
4) the distance (geographical) from and lack of close relationships with other relatives. Mothers are important, but they are not the only person in a child's life. There are other indispensable, or at least very important, people in childrens' lives: first fathers and siblings, then grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins... I fondly remember being taken care of by both sets of grandparents at times. It is customary in Serbia for kids to be minded by grandparents until they're 3 or so, and then to be enrolled in preschool. In America the SAHM has to replace all these people with whom a Serbian child grows up and is comfortable with from birth.
5) the cost and difficulty of finding good daycare - there are absolute horror stories out there! of infants being left in cribs all day, with bottles propped against the wall and inserted in their mouths...
In Serbia, if you want to work in daycare/preschool/kindergarten, you have to study AS MUCH AS a future lawyer! That takes dedication and real love for this vocation. I remember loving my preschool so much that I was angry when my dad came one day to pick me up early. "We're in the middle of something - wait!", I told him.
6) not enough general love for children in society - children viewed as 'personal choice' and thus personal responsibility, so working mothers tend to receive little understanding and flexibility from their employers. In Serbia, undergoing rapid depopulation, children tend to be viewed as little treasures, bearing them as a patriotic act, and mothers as heroes of some sort. That results in understanding and flexibility.
7) school and after-school activity proximity - my kids' school will be in our street, only two buildings away. Any sports or arts my kids want to take part in are likely to be within easy walking distance. That will hardly require someone to drive them around and make sure they arrive safely. There is no 'suburbia' in Serbia, only urban areas and actual farming villages.
These American 'peculiarities' make the SAHM thing a painful, burning issue not likely ever to be resolved. In Serbia, for instance, the stakes are just not nearly as high. If a woman works, it will just not be as big a deal.
Of course, we have to deal with the hand we are dealt. For instance, Americans in most states are blessed with relative freedom to educate their children at home, or in an alternative setting to the classroom. I know that this is actually illegal in some countries (such as Germany), which means that the issue of home education simply never comes up. Similarly, if it is difficult for men to get jobs which can support a family in Serbia, then you have to work within that reality. As in most things, there will always be trade-offs. As long as we move forward with prayer and spiritual consideration, we can trust that God will guide us along the path.
Amen. God bless.