On Being a Housewife

There’s a lot of talk these days about being a stay-at-home mom but what about us gals (and guys) who are “just” homemakers? There isn’t a lot of talk about that, let alone recognition, and I’ve noticed amongst the girls a generation younger than me a lot of confusion about the subject. So, seeing as I’ve been holding down the fort at home for a few years, I thought I’d share some thoughts.

So, here are some things that most people with “real” jobs don’t understand.

1) Housewives are never off the clock.

That’s something I certainly wish I’d known going in. Yes, we don’t have any set hours, which is nice, but we also never get any real time off. It might be the weekend but if there’s laundry to be done, it’s still my job. We still have to eat, which means I still have to cook. It never stops.

2) Just because we don’t work outside the home doesn’t mean that we’re free whenever you need a babysitter, help moving, etc.

We actually do have things to do and schedules to keep. We can’t drop everything to help just because we don’t “actually work.” This applies to the self-employed as well. So, please, don’t just drop by and expect us to be gung-ho. We deserve a few days warning just like those who get a paycheck.

3) Being a housewife is slightly akin to factory work, i.e., it’s not as happy-go-lucky as it sounds.

Sometimes, most of the time, it’s a lot of drudgery. It’s a lot of the same thing over and over again, just like any other job, paid or otherwise. While we might eat the occasional bon-bon, we’re still also scrubbing toilets and washing dirty underwear and trying to make meals out of frozen peas & leftover meatloaf. And we’re doing this day after day after day after day. Which brings me to my next point.

4) Lack of self-worth.

We don’t get paychecks. We don’t get pats on the backs. In fact, most of us get looked down on when someone asks what we do because, simply put, we don’t “do anything.” Society as a whole sees our choice and our job as inherently worthless and sometimes our significant others see it as that as well.  Which also brings me to my next point.

5) Loneliness.

It’s pretty self-explanatory but we get lonely. It’s not like it used to be pre-feminist revolution. There just aren’t a lot of us out there anymore, not enough to mix with socially. And we don’t get the same amount of social interaction as most people with paid jobs do. We remain fairly isolated and that can make us downright frustrated, to say the least.

And here are some things that housewives need to understand.

1) The house isn’t going to fall apart without you (at least not for a few hours).

It’s okay to have down time. It’s okay to go out to lunch. It’s okay to let the dirty laundry sit for a day and skip mopping the kitchen floor. Sometimes, because of several of the points made above, housework can become our whole world and we feel this overwhelming compulsion to make sure everything is done before we relax. Stop, take a deep breath and go have a cup of coffee. The world won’t end, I promise.

2) You don’t need to put in the same amount of hours as your significant other in order to feel like you did a full day’s work.

Being a housewife is simply different than other jobs just as other jobs are simply different than other jobs, as well. Doctors don’t work the same hours as a construction worker. Retail managers don’t work the same hours as lawyers. And, statistically speaking, just because your significant other is at work doesn’t mean they’re actually working. There’s a lot of downtime with paid jobs as well. But, unlike a lot of paid jobs, remember that as a housewife you’re never actually off work. So, just because you only worked four straight hours instead of eight doesn’t mean you are working less hard. Chances are you put in more hours than you think you do.

3) It’s perfectly okay to take the day off even if your significant other has to work.

I’ve had several chicks tell me that they actually feel guilty taking a day off if their significant other is working, even when they’re sick. That’s just silly, girls. You’re allowed to have sick days. Heck, if you were getting paid, the law would require you to have them. Anyway, chances are that you’ll be sick longer if you try to push through. Better to take the day off and rest up so that you can get back to it more quickly.

4) Your significant other is perfectly capable of feeding themselves/doing their own laundry/shopping, etc.

Granted, the longer your significant other has someone feeding them, taking care of the house, etc the more they’ll get out of the habit of doing it themselves. That doesn’t mean, however, that they’re incapable, especially if you need to take a day off. As I said, the house isn’t going to fall apart and neither are they. And if they can’t figure out how to do it themselves, that’s what Google and fast food are for.

5) Get a hobby. Seriously.

If you want to save your sanity, find something fun to do so that your life doesn’t become just about the house and your significant other. It’s important to maintain an identity of your own, especially since you don’t get to exercise your personality quite as much as someone who socializes at work. Find something you love to do and it will really keep you from wanting to tear your hair out when you’re swimming in laundry and dirty dishes. It can be anything from the typically housewifey stuff like sewing or knitting to something that completely takes you out of that head space like roller-derby or skeet shooting. But do find something or you’re going to burn out.

6) You are doing something significant.

Perhaps you believe in the feminist idea of complete equality amongst the genders. If so, skip this part. Perhaps you’re a religious fundamentalist. If so, skip this part. Otherwise, let’s talk science for a minute. From an evolutionary point of view, the male gender is better at some things and the female is better at others. I’m not saying that men can’t raise children and women can’t have careers. I’m just saying that it’s a relatively modern idea that women not remain within the home or within the tribal setting. Men go out and hunt. Women, well, let’s be honest – they do everything else. So, this idea that taking care of the home and your significant other is meaningless or lacking in worth is also relatively modern and, honestly, bogus.

Just like your significant other’s job provides shelter and money to make your job possible, your job makes it possible for your significant other to function and happily so. There are very few of us who have never worked for a paycheck. Just imagine how happy you’d be if, after coming home from work, you didn’t have to worry about food or dishes or laundry. It makes the idea of being at work not as torturous, now doesn’t it?

However, if you still struggle with self-worth even after recognizing that there is inherent worth in what you do, then go volunteer. Join a women’s club (do those exist everywhere or is it just a Southern thing?), run a canned food drive, crochet some afghans for your local elderly population. Do something that does make you feel significant. Let’s face it, most people hate their jobs, whether they get paid or not. Luckily, as a housewife, your schedule is a bit more flexible. Plus, it will make you feel a lot less lonely and that’s important, too.

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19 thoughts on “On Being a Housewife

  1. Yay! Thank you for sharing some of the same feelings as I have about being a housewife. I especially agree with the loneliness thing. I think it is very important to make sure you get outside of the home a few times a week, even if just to the grocery store, and to even just exchange pleasantries with the cashiers and bag boys or hold the door for someone or thank someone for holding the door for you. Small behaviors like that can add a big smile to your day and keep your sanity. Online “social” applications are just not the same thing. Of course, it is even better if you have some kind of organized social event like a shared hobby that you can get together with others and enjoy.

    • I tried just “coping” with the loneliness through Facebook and, you’re right, it’s really not the same. Luckily, even though I live in a small town, there are a lot of organizations I can join that take the loneliness edge off. And you’re right as well about the small gestures. At the very least, you’re making a better day for someone else!

  2. I love that you posted this. I think I’m going to print it out and share it with my mom. She’s been a housewife since I was born and as I’ve gotten older I’ve started to realize how the working women in our extended family take advantage of that (such as expecting her to run errands for them during the day or babysit their children at the drop of a hat).
    I keep telling her she’s allowed to say “no” and take some time for herself to do something fun even if it’s as simple as spending an hour at Starbucks…maybe hearing it from one housewife to another will help 🙂

    • She’s lucky to have someone who understands that about her situation, even if your extended family does take advantage! Use my post to bully her into taking some time for herself! 🙂

  3. I’m very thankful that I have a husband who appreciates that everything I do means we can just enjoy spending time together at the end of the day. I was surprised to find that other “professional” women seemed to be the condescending ones when we decided I would stay home. Saying things like “Oh it is work, I get that BUT….”. I don’t miss working outside on top of it all. We are all happier and this works for us, that’s what matters, and I make no apologies for that!

    The flip side is, it’s very easy to get lonely or feel like you shouldn’t want things because you don’t contribute financially. BTW I made a long overdue hair appointment after reading your post, thanks for the reminder to stop and take care of myself too.

    • I hadn’t thought to mention that but, you’re right, I also have a hard time with wanting things but feeling like I shouldn’t because I don’t financially contribute. Luckily, my other half spoils me so I don’t want for too much.

      I’m so glad you made that hair appointment! Reading that really made my day!

  4. This is brilliant. So many helpful and encouraging thoughts and feelings in this. I stay at home with my fiance’s daughter from a past marriage! That makes everything different! Even though she’s a little person to talk to it is DEFINITELY not the same as social interaction with adults. Loneliness sets in a lot and that is when I try to craft or go see my family who luckily lives close. Housework is an important job and I do wish it was taken seriously. Thanks for writing this. xox 🙂

  5. No time off is a big thing that a lot of people don’t think of. Your right, we can set our own schedule to a certain extent, but we work on and off from the time we wake up until the time that we go to bed.
    I remember when my children were younger and I was home. Everyone thought that I could babysit or pick up their kids on school closing, among some of the other things that you mentioned. Maybe they could return the favor. My tax professional buddy could do my taxes while she is at it, and my restaurant buddy could whip up dinner for my family. LOL
    I do get a lot of satisfaction from my work. It is a shame that it is not valued in all of life’s circles, but hey, what is? I have been blogging on a more professional platform and just started a housewife/reading/crochet/random/random/random blog, just for fun. My first post was on that very subject.
    Thank you for your great post.

    • Being a housewife myself has certainly made me realize why my mother was cranky all the time – it was NEVER DONE! I do love your mention of what people expected of you in comparison, i.e., babysitting, to what you would expect from other people. Certainly most people don’t think about it in those terms.

      I love your blog, by the way. Can’t wait to see more posts!

  6. Thank you! I am a stay-at-home mom, but its really new for me. I identify the most with the working hours and the self-imposed guilt about getting everything done. I know that I’m supporting my husband and making his time at home more comfortable and relaxing (he’s a medical researcher and student), but its so easy for me to forget when I get caught up in dirty floors and dirty diapers!
    *And I love to crochet!*

    • Just remember, when you’re knee-deep in housework, that 150 years ago no one would have ever questioned your job or your work ethic! It takes some getting used to but I’m certain that, especially since your husband is both a researcher and a student, he’s incredibly grateful for all of the work you do. That’s what it all boils down to really – your family’s opinion, not society’s. And keep crocheting! It’s a spark of light amongst the dirty diapers and dishes, I’m sure. 😉

  7. Great post & excellent points. A lot of people forget that there are those who don’t work outside the home & who are housewives. I think it’s important to remember that, as you said, your time is still not completely your own. I like, too, that you put things at the end that those of you who work at home need to remember as well.

    What you do is just as important – if not more so – as many jobs outside the home, & you should take pride in what you do.

  8. Mmh, the only problem is that the rest of us have to do everything that housewives do, and work 8-10 hours a day on top of it. We have to scrub the toilet, do laundry, make dinner- and that’s in the what, four hours between getting home from work and going to bed? Oh, and I’m in college, too. I have a hard time believing that the random chores I do between work and school counts as a job in itself.

    Obviously, to each her own- just bear in mind that most of us aren’t lucky enough to have a significant other whose job can support a household single-handedly. Correct me if I’m wrong, but if there’s someone here who’s gone from working full-time to being a housewife and agrees that housework is just as hard, I would be mighty surprised. I’d LOVE to be a housewife. No more waking up at 4am to bike to work~

    • I’ve worked full time since I was legally allowed to, more than forty hours in most cases – on my feet – as well as attending school at the time, and I think housework is just as hard. I’m sorry that you feel the need to dick-measure about the subject and I do hope that you’ve made yourself feel better about your life by denigrating others.

  9. Getting up at 4am to bike to work is not a choice every worker outside the home makes. I applaud that you do it, though, and I think it’s great. I use my bike to do all the chores and errands around town. But you can’t lump everyone in the same boat. I have actually gone from working full-time for half my life to being a housewife and I do think housework is just as hard for those that treat it as their job. Office work was much less physical labor for me than being a housewife and there used to be more help with household stuff from the significant other when I was working outside the home. Also, the level of cleaning and organization is much higher than what I was able to get away with when working outside the home. Let’s face it, the floors didn’t get washed as often as they should,nor the windows or curtains, etc. Having said that, there will always be some housewife slackers just as there are always some slackers at the office. There will always be some that have more initiative than others and there will always be some that make everyone else look bad. I do, however, wish that every woman had the CHOICE to be a housewife or stay-at-home mom if they so wanted, though, because I do think it might benefit society and children more. I think of dropping in on the elderly, accompanying a friend to her biopsy, being there to provide an after-school snack and those kinds of things. For that, I am happy to be “just” a housewife and though the work is more physically labor-intensive, I find it more satisfying and it benefits hubby and me more than when i worked outside the home. So I wish everyone had the choice, though I realize they don’t, but that should not lead anyone to believe it is easier – it’s as individual as the person and what they put into it.

  10. I had a full time job working in a Hair Salon when I became pregnant with my first child. I have not been able to keep a Salon job because of the hours I kept to breast feed my child and helping my husband out so he can work full time and finish up his masters degree. For us it was a blessing to have me at home not only cleaning because that is hard labor but just a small part of the stay at home job. I did grocery shopping, medical appointments, made sure that my husbands third job which is what I call (weekend warrior for the army) cloths were clean his name tags and other tags were correctly on. The hardest part is making sure that everything gets done and the worst part of the job is going to social events because I already feel the stigma attached to being a stay at home wife but…a Cosmetologist must mean I am too stupid to go and get a real education.(EYE ROLL) I can’t tell you how many times I have had people look for the first excuse to get as far away from me as possible. I always found this predicament to be interesting in itself. These people who are supposed to be so educated and enlightened would feel I am so much lower on the human scale and feel that I couldn’t contribute an idea or opinion without having a piece of paper from a university. I have never felt that education or pedigree makes someone worth more than the other or less able to contribute to society in general. Half those people I met when speaking with them further, not only were they one paycheck away from being broke but were about the most ignorant of people I had come across. It has been hard to deal with the isolation and judgment of others who are ignorant to what applies when being a stay at home mom. I have done everything from office jobs, waiting tables, factory jobs ect… and being a stay at home mom, I learn something new about myself and this world everyday. That to me is priceless and some of the best education that money can’t buy. )

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