Being a Stay-At-Home Homemaker
For many years, I felt bad about myself for being “just” a stay-at-home wife. In the hierarchy of homemaking, I am at the bottom of the list. There is no doubt that the feminist movement created a lot of opportunities for women, however, it had the unfortunate side effect of devaluing homemaking. In essence, homemaking lost its merit as a profession. Years ago in the 1950’s, society’s expectations defined a woman’s place as being in the home. Now, women are expected to work outside the home in addition to meeting the demands of being a wife and/or mother and housekeeper. Essentially, they are burning the candle at both ends. Women who choose to stay at home are often criticized by those who work outside the home. While there are obviously some women who seem to “do it all”, I can’t help but wonder if this is creating an unrealistic standard for other women.
To complicate matters further, there are some women who prefer working outside the home. By hiring others to do household duties, or ignoring housework altogether, this inadvertently brings shame upon stay-at-home homemakers. So what is the right answer? In the true spirit of feminism, women should take pride in whatever they decide to do. Being unhappy only results in negativity being passed onto others. Is it worth doing something that makes us unhappy, only to feel resentful towards our loved ones?
While researching this issue, I found a wonderfully inspiring article in a recent issue of Cosmopolitan entitled Being a Housewife – I Chose To Be A Stay-At-Home Wife. In her article, Jen Williams describes her struggle achieving a balance between outside employment and managing a household. Because her husband works long hours, she is faced with completing most of the household tasks (Williams, 2014, para. 2). Eventually, she decided to leave her job as a librarian to become a full-time homemaker. As a woman in a similar situation, I can totally relate. When my husband and I we were both working, we had difficulty getting household tasks done. I was always needing to take time off to take the dog to the vet and be present for various home repairs. Dinner was always an afterthought, and we ate mostly take out. As for weekends, forget relaxing. Saturdays and Sundays were for cleaning and catching up on errands. Now, my husband doesn’t to have to worry about rushing home to let the dog out. We also get to eat healthy homemade meals. Our weekends are now free for us to enjoy ourselves.
According to Pew Research, there is a rise in the number of mothers staying at home. There appears to be many factors involved, yet the largest percentage of these are ““traditional” married stay-at-home mothers with working husbands” (Cohn, Livingston, and Wang, 2014, para. 3). Could it be that attitudes towards homemaking are changing? Chaunie Brusie writes “I never stopped to consider that my being home with our children could actually be a gift to my husband” in her article Being a Stay-at-Home Parent Is a Luxury … for Your Spouse (Brusie, 2014, para. 11). She adds that the stay-at-home parent eases their spouse’s stress, ensuring that there is someone “…always there to take care of the inevitable days of sickness, arrange the doctor’s appointments, make sure the cupboards are stocked, and heck, to ensure that no one steals the FedEx package off of the porch” (Brusie, 2014, para. 8).
And let’s not forget the stay-at-home men! Yes, not only are there stay-at-home dads, but stay-at-home husbands as well! Kudos to you all! In his article, Yes, I’m a Homemaker I’m a guy. My wife works. We’ve got no kids. I’m a stay-at-home dude, Finn Boulding describes his day…”I drop my wife off at her office (we’re trying to remain a one-car couple), then clean, mend, cook, run errands, and deal with the various logistics of life. Kids are a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to breaking stereotypical gender roles, but without them homemaking is not really seen as an ambitious life-calling or even particularly time-consuming. I have to say, I don’t see it that way” (Boulding, 2013, para. 3). He notes that because he is a full-time homemaker, things are a lot less stressful between him and his wife. When there is someone is at home “keeping the homefires burning”, there is a lot more time for relaxation, and a lot less resentment…”As a result, when she is done with work—if I’ve managed my time well—the evenings and weekends are now totally open for us to relax together” (Boulding, 2013, para. 8). For the couples with the stay-at-home dads, the benefits are even higher! In her article, Stay-At-Home Dads, Breadwinner Moms And Making It All Work, Jennifer Ludden quotes the wife of one stay-at-home father…”And suddenly the world just became much calmer and quieter. Egan [their son] wasn’t as upset and he wasn’t as tense anymore. And our relationship, even though we were stressed about not having money, we weren’t rushing around when both of us got home. And so, it was just a happier place” (Ludden, 2013, para. 4).
As I always say, perception is everything. In her blog post, Adult Daughters at Home and The Homemaking Profession, Kelly Crawford notes that each individual household task (i.e. child care, cleaning, cooking, etc.) is a job that would be considered as a profession if it were paid. She adds that it is a paradox that…”a woman who wants to be adept at all these professions tied into one is laughed off or pitied” ( Crawford, 2013, para. 2).
As a homemaker, I can definitely attest to the fact that maintaining a household is work. Anyone who wants to argue that is definitely welcome to shadow me for a day. My day starts with walking and feeding the dog.This is followed by tidying the house, doing laundry, more dog walks, grocery shopping, couponing, and cooking. There are also sometimes trips to the vet, calls to repairman, post office runs, medical appointments and any number of miscellaneous tasks. Once a week, I do a thorough housecleaning along with grooming the dog.I rarely find myself on the couch, and a quick inspection of my cupboards would come up empty for bon bons. Lately when I totaled up the monetary value of my homemaking services, it was approximately $1000 monthly. For homemakers with children, that total is most certainly higher.
Although there is a long way to go, there is no doubt that attitudes towards homemaking are beginning to change. Regardless, people should embrace the value of whatever profession they choose, inside or outside the home. Until next time, happy homemaking!
Boulding, F. (2013). Yes, I’m a Homemaker – I’m a guy. My wife works. We’ve got no kids. I’m a stay-at-home dude. Retrieved on January 10, 2015 from Slate.com: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/02/i_m_a_married_guy_with_no_kids_and_i_cook_clean_and_mend_call_me_the_stay.html.
Brusie, C. (2014). Being a Stay-at-Home Parent Is a Luxury … for Your Spouse. Retrieved on January 10, 2015 from Babble.com:
Cohn, D., Livingston, G., and Wang, W. (2014). After Decades of Decline, A Rise in Stay-at-Home Mothers. Retrieved on January 10, 2015 from PewSocialTrends.org:http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/04/08/after-decades-of-decline-a-rise-in-stay-at-home-mothers/.
Crawford, K. (2013). Adult Daughters at Home and The Homemaking Profession. Retrieved on January 12, 2015 from GenerationCedar.org: http://www.generationcedar.com/main/2013/05/adults-daughters-at-home-the-homemaking-profession.html.
Ludden, J. (2013). Stay-At-Home Dads, Breadwinner Moms And Making It All Work. Retrieved on January 10, 2015 from NPR.org: http://www.npr.org/2013/05/15/180300236/stay-at-home-dads-breadwinner-moms-and-making-it-all-work.
Williams, J. (2014). Being a Housewife – I Chose To Be A Stay-At-Home Wife. Retrieved on January 10, 2015, from Cosmopolitan.com: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/confessions/advice/a6307/stay-at-home-wife-essay/.