Let’s talk about the social climate surrounding housewives. It’s no secret, go into just about any online forum, even ones meant specifically to be a place of solidarity for housewives, and you will find people going out of their way to put these women down. There is a certain, specific group of people who are extremely vocal, and go to great lengths to let housewives, homemakers, and stay at home moms know just what they think of us.
But the vocal crowd isn’t the only one who disapproves of our lives. When people ask what we do, answering with “I’m a housewife” is often met with some variation of “but you’re looking for work, right?” We’re told, in no uncertain terms, that people think of “housewife” as a way of trying not to say “unemployed.” Few ever ask us why we choose to work in the home, and those who do phrase it as “why aren’t you working right now?” In an age where women are told they can be and do anything they set their hearts to, we’re told that choosing homemaking is the wrong path.
There are a variety of reasons why a woman would choose to be a homemaker. Some of us suffer from a disability or an illness which impacts our ability to work outside the home. My grandmother, God rest her soul, was wheelchair bound. She kept her house spotless, did the cooking, and raised a family. Most typical jobs never gave her a chance. Not all illnesses which prevent careers are as visible as her example though. And, not all illnesses prevent a person from working outside the home. If you’re not the individual in question, you don’t get to decide what their physical limits are.
Some of us choose homemaking because we believe it the right thing to do, either for religious or personal reasons. Maybe we grew up with a stay at home mom and want to provide our family with that same support. Or perhaps we grew up, coming home from school to an empty house, microwaving something to eat, and going about our afternoon as we waited for parents to come home from work. Maybe we want to give our children a different experience than the one we had. Maybe we’ve read studies about children left home alone while you’re at work doing worse in school, getting into social trouble more frequently, and being more likely to use drugs and alcohol; and we hope to prevent that for our children. Each family must do what they feel is best for their children. For some of us, yes, that means working outside the home. But, just as validly, for some of us that means staying in the home. If it’s not your family, you can’t decide what’s best.
Some of us embrace homemaking because we have no other choice. Did you know that unemployment among military spouses is 24%, and that of those working 31% are underemployed? This is just one example, which I see impact my neighbors daily. The circumstances of a military life make it difficult to find work, and when a military spouse does find work, they’re moving again soon. What’s left then, in the time in between jobs? And can you blame those women who choose to give up the job hunt, and become full time homemakers? If it makes them happier than the endless job hunt, then how can we, in good conscience, degrade that decision?
But even with valid reasons such as these, women are pushed toward work outside the home. Have you ever been helpfully given examples of where your friends are sure you could find work, even after you tell them you’re happy as a housewife? Have you overheard jokes about housewives? Have you been confronted directly, perhaps being told you’re spoiled or lazy because a working woman has a full job and cares for her home, while you manage only the household?
Just yesterday I saw a tweet, which said that a housewife will never do as much work as a working woman. A working woman has to get up, get ready, go to a full eight hours at a job, come home and care for any children she has, do the cooking, manage to clean, and then repeat it all the next day. Frankly, she’s right that she does more work. She has two jobs. The job of being a mother and wife, and a career outside the home. But we don’t choose to shame others if they only have one job, instead of choosing to work days in a grocery store and nights serving fast food. So why, then, do we shame housewives when they choose to only have the one job of running the home? Why do we belittle the amount of work that single job entails, and try to bully women into a job outside of the home if they don’t want one?
The things which a housewife does, are work enough that we would pay others for their services. Cooking, buying groceries, cleaning, gardening, mending clothes, laundry…. All of these things can be outsourced for a price. We acknowledge them as work when we choose to pay another person to come in and clean our home or to do our grocery shopping for us. We even acknowledge how much work it is when we ourselves do them while also having a career outside the home. But as soon as a women says that it’s enough work for her, just to manage the home, we look down on her, questioning her decision.
So, what do we do about it then? How do we combat all this negativity? How do we show other women that their decision is valid, even if that decision is to be a housewife? It starts by having a conversation.
All of the negativity directed at housewives is discouraging, and misplaced. You wouldn’t shame a teacher for not having decided to go into engineering, so why shame a homemaker for not choosing the career you would have picked? We aren’t saying you need to be a homemaker. Housewives don’t undermine women working outside the home. We don’t prevent you from getting the job you want. Housewives aren’t a threat to you and your career. We’re only exercising the same right as you to choose what’s best for ourselves and to do what makes us happy.