I’ve been the sole earner for a household with a homemaker, I’ve also been part of the common modern household with two earners and no homemaker, and I’m about to become a full-time homemaker while my husband is the sole earner. The opportunity I’ve had to experience these different kinds of households has given me perspective to value homemaking in a way that I didn’t in my youth. Now, I’ve always respected homemakers, my grandma was one until the day she died, but until I experienced the difference it can make to have someone working inside the home, I don’t think I ever fully appreciated the work that goes into it.
Years ago, my best friend and I decided to rent a place together. She wasn’t working, but I was making enough to cover the expenses for our little place, and she offered to do the housework and cooking while I was at work, with the understanding that she was going to look for a job. Since I was working full time, she took on the majority of the chores. I’d come home from work every day to the smell of dinner cooking, food almost ready to eat. The house was clean, she’d have the radio on. There was enough dinner to pack my lunch for the next day with left overs. I did my own laundry and cleaned my own room, but she kept the common areas clean. I helped with yard work on the weekends, and we’d do dishes together every night after dinner. She even made our own laundry detergent from scratch, and had a windowsill herb garden so we never needed to buy herbs from the store. On my days off we’d go to the grocery store together, and when we had the money we’d go out to lunch and watch a movie.
After a little over a year, my best friend got a job outside the home. We sat down and reevaluated the distribution of chores. We came up with a chore calendar so that nothing would get missed and we could make sure tasks were being divided evenly. We both were working 32-40 hours a week though, and we noticed the difference within weeks.
The house didn’t get dirty, but there were little tasks we normally managed that were suddenly getting pushed aside under the reasoning of, “I’m tired, I’ll do it on my day off.” And then our days off were filled with the bigger tasks we needed to accomplish. A couple weeks went by and we needed to clean the windows, but we both agreed to wait until the weekend. Only on the weekend we went grocery shopping, did our laundry, vacuumed, did the yard work, and did meal prep for the week. All things that were previously getting done throughout the week so that we had time on the weekend for other things. By the time our weekend was over, we hadn’t had time to clean the windows.
The weeks kept going, the windows never got cleaned, and other little tasks that used to be easy to fit into our schedule started falling to the wayside. Before we knew it, it had been six months, and big things had changed because of these little differences. We’d started eating fast food more than homemade meals, we hardly went out anymore, we were both always tired, and even though the house was neat, it felt dingy.
It made us realize that running a home was a full time job, and with both us working full time outside the home, our house just wasn’t getting the attention it had been previously. Now, I realize that our experience isn’t a universal one. A lot of folks can’t afford to have someone stay home. A lot of folks aren’t interested in working in the home. And that’s fine. Everyone needs to do what’s best for their families and themselves, but I learned a real lesson about the value of a homemaker.
In my experience, homemakers tend to be drastically undervalued. People call them lazy, and I honestly think it has a lot to do with the cultural attitude that all household chores should be evenly split. Which, in a home with multiple earners, is accurate. In a home with a full time homemaker though, splitting chores down the middle just doesn’t work, and isn’t fair either. It’s important to realize that if you’re aiming to be a homemaker, maintaining the household is as much a full time job as what the household earner does.
There’s also a wide range of skilled labor that goes into managing a home. From knowing how to properly clean and repair clothes, to cooking, cleaning, and decorating. Homemakers of any gender provide an immense value to their household, providing labor and skills which would otherwise be outsourced or neglected.
I think people also tend to view homemaking as something simple, or not recognize how challenging it can be. I haven’t even transitioned to a full time homemaker yet, and I’ve already put so much effort into personal development and education. Did you know you can make your own furniture wax at home? Did you know that the reason people used to “brush” clothes was to gently clean them while preserving the fibers so the cloth would last longer? Do you know how to pickle produce for storage? Okay, I don’t know that last one yet, but my point is, I’m constantly researching and learning ways to get better at being a homemaker. It’s not as simple as washing the dishes, vacuuming the floors, and packing some lunches.
If homemaking isn’t for you, that’s fine. I’m not saying you have to leave your career to become a homemaker.
What I am saying, is that we, as a culture, need to recognize the value provided by those who choose to be homemakers. They are skilled workers, with diverse talents, who work hard to make their home the very best that they can. Devaluing the men and women who work in the home does a great disservice to their work.