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.
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.