Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What it Means to be a Housewife

My friend Heather over at Want What You Have did a post yesterday on housewives. Its worth the read if you want to stop over and take a look.

At the end of her post she posed some questions:

So, I'm curious. For those of you who stay home, how do you feel about the term "housewife?" Is this how you see yourself? What does it mean to you, to be a "housewife" today?

So Heather, here it goes.

Like you, I don't really care for the term "housewife". It makes it sound like we are married to a house. And I wouldn't have picked 97% of those houses to begin with....

So, to me, the word "housewife" implies stuck at home. Today, I think it is more of a struggle/challenge to make sure we are in our houses enough....even if we don't work outside the home. It is so easy to get caught up in the crazy merry-go-round of over scheduling ourselves and our kids. I know many mothers that don't work outside the home that are NEVER home. Very few woman I know personally have figured out how to truly balance home time with away time. And if that schedule works for a family, that is great. The sad thing is when it does not work and they don't know how to stop.

Anyways...back to the subject.

Heather has always referred to herself as a home manager. You know, I don't think I could improve on that if I tried. But then, working mom's are home managers also. They just manage in a different way.

I'm willing to bet the answer to this question would be pretty close to identical to what it means to just be a wife/working mom.

I think the real difference is a matter of convenience and time. At least thats how I see the difference between when I've worked or stayed home. So what does it mean to ME to be a "housewife" today?
1. When I worked, I bought convenience. At home, I make my own laundry soap to help with 3 different family members skin problems and toxic load. If I worked, I would buy something labeled as "natural" or "Free". Making my own natural products is cheaper and healthier... but you need the TIME to be able to do this. This also goes with household cleaners and some health/toiletry products.

So, being at home means TIME to make my own decisions on what chemicals come into my home and the ability to produce what I need myself.

2. When I worked, someone else took care of my children. Obviously staying home keeps your child under your influence/mores/values much longer than if someone else has your child for several hours a day. Whether this is good or bad is different for every family, every different child in your home and a ton of other considerations.

If a mother does not want to be home with her children...then its not best that she is. That might outrage some...but its the truth. A caring daycare provider or a mother that snaps at the child and doesn't interface with them at home? The daycare is a more nurturing place in a situation like that.

In our home, I think its best for my children to be with me. I want to be with them. We can cut corners enough that I am able to stay with them. But all three have been different. The oldest was most challenged in a larger setting and thrived on it. This means when he got to preschool age it was time for him to be otherwise occupied than just being home.

The second did good only with part-time care so I had to drop down to part-time work. She needed to be away from me a little...but not too much. Hers was personality and separation anxiety. Training was required with a little tough love.

The youngest? Oh my. I had to stop working altogether because of her issues. At 5 it is still a struggle to get her out of the same room with me. And this is not a normal situation and was hard for me to adjust to. But bottom line I was fine with being home and that's what she needed. Still needs even though she is in school.

The important thing is I have taken my cues from my children and their individual needs. Each one has been different. As at home mom's we need to be sure to recognize that and not just decide we have it right by being home with the kids all day. There is no ONE right. There are only families that are all different.

So, for me, being a housewife means being able to give my child the mommy time they need - or the ability to try other situations for them by choice, directed by their lead, rather than by necessity of getting the bills paid.
3. Being a housewife means giving up money now AND later. Assuming there is still social security when I retire...I sure wont be getting much. I'll be one of those little old ladies buying dog food for dinner because the check is almost gone. Now, we do invest and have IRA's, but with the way our government is going...I fully expect they will take away everything we have worked for to give it to those that get themselves head over heels in debt and never save... or those that make a living collecting government checks and not being productive members of society. Yes, I honestly do believe that.

So, for me, being a housewife means learning to be happy and have a great life with much less material things than others. That's where I'm always gonna be. But, as long as we have a home and food on the table...we are more abundantly blessed than the largest percentage of the world population. This isn't actually a hardship right now...and I hope it remains that way.
4. As a working mom I hated or was too tired to cook. As a stay at home I can experiment and take over in the kitchen and have hubs only have to cook now and then. (He cooks more than now and then but by choice more often than not.) I did not have the energy to take on meals after working.

So, being a housewife means fresher, healthier food for my family.

5. As a working mom, housework and cleaning were hated and dreaded chores that took away from family time and the million other errands I needed to catch up on. As a stay at home and as I have gotten older, I have also developed more of a love for my actual home. I still don't really care for cleaning...but I don't hate it like I did when I worked. Again, that is as much a TIME issue I think as anything else.

Being home has given me the opportunity to make a true home. It's allowed us all to slow down when we need to, yet frees me up to make sure my teen can participate in extra-curriculars as well.

But the biggest thing that being a housewife means to me is this:

Being home allows me to concentrate on others more than myself.

All the previous points are covered by this one truth.

I can focus on my children, instead of on getting them to day care and picking them up on time.

I can cook the foods my family loves from scratch to help keep them all healthy.

I can work on individual allergies and needs and spend hours researching and trying new formula's without having to settle for someone else's bottled product.

I have time to take care of the household chores and cleaning while the family is doing other things so that it doesn't cut into their time and activities and limit them. It frees up more family time.

Now that the kids are all in school I can also volunteer at the schools or in the community. And I can do this during work hours where the need is greater as so many people work.

So there you have it. To ME being a housewife means being able to focus your energies on others.

It won't make me rich, but it sure makes me happy.


  1. Bless you, my friend.

    I agree wholeheartedly.

  2. For me it means smoothness... because I have friends where both parents work, but the husband's job is such that they have flexibility with their schedules and their childrens' needs. With us? It wouldn't work. The nature of my husband's job... and where he works (long commute)... make it virtually impossible for me to work unless we sacrificed in many other areas: time, stress, etc. So, for me, not working equals smoothness within our family. We don't have to worry about convenience foods with our food allergies. We don't have to give up family time to run errands and keep the house in order. And on and on.

  3. I usually refer to myself as a wife first, because that is what I am, and a homeschooling mom second. The title of wife I plan on having for my entire life, but I will give up the title of homeschooling mom and regain my mom title one of these days, and eventually add the title of grandma, I hope. But housewife, no, that doesn't begin to cut it as a title!!

  4. As a working mom, my husband and I both provide healthful food choices for our family. As a teacher, I am home by 3:45 and able to cook nourishing meals. The kids love to help! My husband and I do a lot of crock pot meals as well. Tonight, we are having crock pot cacciatore chicken. So, not all working mothers sacrifice fresher, healthier food. I also don't buy convenience foods. I get a lot of tips on how to shop frugally on many of these blogs, actually. After school today, the kids and I went to double coupon days at our local store.
    As far as housework, I keep a routine of picking up small amounts every day and clean specific parts of the house on different days, such as bathrooms. My husband shares all household tasks with me. Many people that come into my home comment on how clean and spotless my home is. As a working mom, in my household anyway, housework is not sacrificed by my working. By staying on top of clutter and mess, I find that it isn't a huge time commitment, either. I think most mothers find the balance that they need in their own homes.

  5. I am not sure if the term housewife just sounds negative, or if it has been referred to negatively so much in recent years that it just sounds bad. It doesn't apply to me anyway, so I have never given it much thought. I definitely don't think of myself as a housewife, since I am not a wife. But I now have the privilege of being a stay at home mom. I am still digging out from the chaos that trying to be full time mom and full time employee brought to our lives. I am a better mom and better housekeeper now that I stay at home. With all the doctor appointments and all that I was forever behind on, I don't feel like I have more time for others outside of our family, but I definitely have more time for my girls and that is something I wouldn't trade for anything in this world.

  6. Anonymous and everyone else. I did try to write this post in a manner that reflected what being a housewife means to ME.

    I do not for a minute think there aren't mothers that can do it all out there. They rock.

    I am not one of them. I don't feel the need to explain that - but I do feel the need for everyone to know that my answer was all about ME and ME only.

    Being a working mothers doesn't mean you automatically have a dirty house or feed your family poorly or that you don't spend any time with your kids. That would be beyond ridiculous.

    Please do not look at this post as a finger pointer or judgment on anyone except MYSELF.

  7. Great post as always my friend!

  8. That was a great post Autumn, very well said :)

  9. I am not offended by the term housewife, but I don't use it. I wouldn't trade being a mom for any other job in the world! Since 11, I was raised by a single mom, who became a teacher, and I saw how life changed after having our stay-at-home mom become a working mom. I liked the former better! :)

    As a side note: Why can't a person who is passionate about what they do and believe be confident enough not to post anonymously? Sorry...I may have crossed the line there!

  10. To Having It All,
    Why shouldn't I post anonymously, when I'm in a territory so obviously filled with stay at home moms, with hardly any voices of working mothers?
    By the way, I'm sure there is a difference between having a single mother who has the burden of raising her children all by herself, versus a working mother who has a supportive husband. It sounds like there was a whole set of circumstances, other than her just going back to work, that caused your life to change in an unfavorable way.

  11. Autumn ~ if you don't mind, I'd like to reply.

    Anonymous ~ I did consider what you mentioned, as I was writing my first comment. It is a good point you make.

    You are in the land of stay-at-home moms b/c it is a stay-at-home mom who writes this blog. That doesn't mean we are diametrically opposed to one another. In fact, now that we've added baby #3 to our brood, I make it a conscious effort not to judge other moms. There is a reason why every mom does what she does. I honestly think it's wonderful that you are so organized. (Because I'm hopelessly not!) Why feel judged when you know you aren't doing anything wrong?

    Autumn, my friend, forgive me for using your blog this way. I will stop now! :)

  12. Hi Autumn,
    I just wanted to let you know why I enjoy reading your blog so much. My husband's mother is Japanese. (She has since passed away). I like reading your blog because it is interesting to me to hear your perspective about raising a child of a different ethnicity in a mostly white community, just as I am raising my own diverse kids in a mostly white suburb.
    I did not mean to seem so defensive when I originally responded to your blog. I totally appreciate your kind comments regarding working women. I think that some of the comparisons you made in your original blog, about how much your life has changed, touch on some of the negative stereotypes that are made about working women (even if they were solely about your own life). So, I think it was a knee jerk reaction on my part to counter back in a defensive way.
    So, thank you for you kind words and for continuing to post about your family's adventures.

  13. And thank you Anon for sticking around. And any advice you may have about raising kids is VERY appreciated. How wonderful that you have a husband that can relate to things your children might encounter. Sure is an eye opening experience for me I can tell you.

    Look forward to hearing more from you.