Are You A Professional Housewife?

Housewife collageBeing a housewife or stay at home mom puts you in one of the most controversial professions today. Society’s views of us fluctuate so wildly it’s impossible to keep up. On one hand we are valuable members of society who are strengthening family ties. On the other we are old fashioned and outdated, possibly lazy, responsible for thwarting the efforts of women who work outside the home and insulting the memory of those who worked so hard to obtain equal rights for women.

Some people might even take issue with my use of the word ‘profession’. I have long argued that being a housewife or stay at home mom is a career in itself, and that we are professional housewives. I even went so far as to buy the URL ProfessionalHousewife.com over ten years ago (it still points to this website). I wrote and posted the first draft of this article on my original website around that same time. Sadly not much has changed in the ensuing years and the words I wrote then are still very pertinent today.

I’ll say it again. Housewives and stay at home moms are professionals, just as much as anyone who works outside the home. Creative problem solving, multi-tasking, advanced project management and diplomacy are only a few of the skills these careers require. On any given day we are required to be project managers, diplomats, childcare workers, nurses, psychologists, chefs, chauffeurs, interior designers, party planners, financial managers, social secretaries, electricians, repair people and change management experts, often all before lunchtime.

It makes me sad that large portions of society have lost respect for housewives and stay at home moms. The British government is currently struggling with the concept that these careers deserve respect and support. Yes, Mr Osborne, staying home with your children is a lifestyle choice, but  in many cases it’s one that involves making sacrifices and living in reduced circumstances on less out of a desire to give children a more traditional upbringing. It was certainly that way for my husband and I back when our son was born.

It’s not surprising that even The Chancellor of the Exchequer has a skewed view of what being a housewife or stay at home mom really entails. We don’t see many real housewives in the media, which has embraced a version of the housewife who is wealthy, spoiled and self-centred. My particular bête noire is the “Real Housewives” television series. This ironically unreal version of housewives bears no resemblance to day to day life for most of us. While we have been very blessed and my husband’s hard work has provided us with an abundant lifestyle I only dreamed of back in the early days of our marriage, I have absolutely never lived or behaved as those women do. My husband has always taken pains to point out that it’s a team effort, maintaining that without what I have done to support our family from home, he could not have achieved what he has in his career.

Once you add the skewed portrayal of housewives in the media to the insecurities of many women who have struggled to carve careers for themselves in a corporate world that still favours men, you have the shift in perception that has contributed to a society in which housewives and stay at home moms may even be seen as something negative. We are often seen as women who have somehow ‘let down the side’ in the cause of equality with the potential to place a burden on society. We are possibly lazy, reliant on our husbands and the wife of one ex-Prime Minister even suggested our children might be less independent than those with mothers who work outside the home.  (I’d like to point out to Mrs Blair that my son left home at 19 to study 3,500 miles away. He lives in his own apartment by himself. Less independent – I don’t think so.)

I don’t mean to sound old-fashioned. I absolutely do not think every woman should be a professional housewife nor that every mother should stay at home. It’s not the right choice for every woman. My own Mom couldn’t wait to get back to work. My Dad was not in favour of this and insisted she wait until I was in my teens. Even then he fought her on the issue, and in a last-ditch attempt to dissuade her, threw down the gauntlet “Well, you’ll never get a job anyway”. Less than 12 hours later, my mother was gainfully employed and remained so until she retired 14 years later. She was a great mom, both before she worked outside the home and afterwards. There is no conclusive proof that children raised by stay at home moms are any better or worse off than those raised by moms who work outside the home. My choice to be a housewife doesn’t not mean I am judging or criticizing women who are not. Every woman, and every family, is different.

I also want to make it totally clear that I don’t espouse the frighteningly dated vision of the stereotypical 1950’s housewife wearing a twin set and pearls. Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing all that retro about being a housewife or stay at home mom in the twenty-first century. In almost every case, we are forward thinking, forward looking women bearing little resemblance to the unfulfilled housewives of Betty Friedan’s ‘The Feminine Mystique’. Most of us are well-educated, independent and have worked outside the home as well as in it. Some of us work from home as well. We may have chosen a more traditional role, but there’s nothing old fashioned about us.

Belittled, misunderstood and looked down on, housewives and stay at home moms might begin to believe the misconceptions that are being peddled as truth and start to wonder if we are really not doing enough. It is little wonder that many of us suffer from stress and that eating disorders and various addictions are on the rise amongst us. How many of us have been teased about ‘not having anything to do’ or ‘being on permanent vacation’?  Even other women refer to us as a ‘ladies of leisure’. All of these comments perpetuate the myth that we are frivolous creatures, at home all day with very little to do. And it is just that, a myth. There isn’t a single moment I haven’t had something to do since January 1993, and I simply don’t remember what being bored feels like. Like many of my contemporaries, I have to make an effort to find time to read for pleasure. Seriously. Busy.

Anyone who thinks a housewife or stay at home mom isn’t doing something worthwhile with her time is quite simply wrong. Making a home and raising the next generation full time should be lauded, not criticized. It’s time for a change in attitude within society, government and especially amongst ourselves and other women. The equal rights we women fought so hard for were intended to include a woman’s right to be respected regardless of her choice of career. Being a housewife or stay at home mom is definitely a career – unpaid, messy and challenging – but a professional career nonetheless.

You may also enjoy Just As You Are.

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Article by April Harris

April has written 1250 great articles for us.
April is a food, lifestyle and travel writer who lives in Berkshire, England. She shares inspiration, tips and trends for anyone who loves food, cooking, entertaining, fashion, travel and the finer things in life at her blog, AprilJHarris.com.
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Comments

  1. Great post!! As a professional housewife and stay at home mom for the last 25 years or so I appreciate every word you wrote! I agree it is definitely a career! I wouldn’t have changed anything about my time at home!

  2. I’m not a mother and I’m currently working, but I am all about individual choice and if being at home works for either half (or both) of a couple, then I think that’s wonderful. You’re quite right: it typically means some financial sacrifices but the corresponding benefits can make it a fantastic choice for many family units. And even without kids, running a home, keeping it clean, and feeding the ‘family’ with interesting, nutritious food can be a battle without someone keeping the home fire burning. Once you add kids to that equation, I can fully understand that having one adult with the home as their focus is a highly logical choice for many.

  3. Dina Nunez says:

    I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for advocating for us professional moms. I have spent the last 20 years juggling a career and my three lovely kids and find that ultimately, there’s no better career than raising a family. The time invested in them is definitely worth it.

  4. I grew up in a culture that spoke, and lived, by this motto: “There is no success, however great, that can compensate for failure in the home.”

  5. Being a full time house wife is wonderful. It’s, also exhausting, isolating, and more than full time! When I was single, I worked as a Staff Nurse and that was exhausting! But- I got to go home and switch off and recover. I don’t know how women fit everything in that needs doing in the home as well as holding other jobs down. I really love Kathy’s comment. Being a stay at home wife and Mum has been the most challenging thing I have ever done, but I wouldn’t swap it for the world. It is hugely satisfying. Thank you for your great article, I found it so encouraging.

    • Thank you so much, Jenny 🙂 I totally agree with you and I like Kathy’s comment as well. Like you I feel that being a full time housewife truly is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done but I wouldn’t swap it for anything either!

  6. I have no problem with a woman who chooses to be a housewife, my issue is with the term ‘professional’ as it is not a salaried position. However, there are professional housewives who undertake the duties of a housewife, well the ones outside the bedroom, for a salary for families who for whatever reason are unable to undertake those jobs.

    • While dictionary definitions of ‘professional’ may suggest that one is salaried, more modern definitions also include the terminology ‘professional volunteer’. In this case I am referring to part of the Oxford dictionary definition which states “Worthy of or appropriate to a professional person; competent, skilful, or assured”. And just for the record, I don’t consider my duties as a housewife to include anything in the bedroom. What happens there is part of my Christian marriage to my husband and nothing to do with the fact I am a housewife.

  7. Thank you for writing and posting this, April. I have been a professional housewife for just over two years. It was never my life’s ambition to be a housewife, but I’ve found that I enjoy it. My husband really appreciates coming home to a nutritious, delicious meal and a tidy house every night.

    When I first took on the role of a housewife, I was burnt out from my previous job. Although I needed to take time for me, I couldn’t help but feel guilty. It was difficult to tell people that I was a housewife, even though my husband’s job made it a little more “socially acceptable” (he’s a farmer).

    I’m only beginning to understand the important role housewives play in society. We are the ones to make sure our spouses have good, healthy food to eat and a clean place to lie down at night. My shame about staying at home full time and not bringing in an income was misplaced. Thank you for showing me that.

    • I am so glad my article resonated with you, Christina, and that it helped. Thank you so much for commenting and letting me know. What you are doing is definitely important, valuable and makes a difference. Wishing you all the best!

  8. Patti Palancia says:

    As a working mother since 1988 – try working full time and raising children. It’s a hell of a lot more difficult than having the luxury of focusing solely on your home, kids, cleaning and cooking. Working moms juggle it all and provide fiancially for their family. Not to mention the intellectual benefits of working in an actual profession. Being a stay at home mom doesn’t even compare. When the kids are at school, what DO you do all day?

    • If you read my article carefully you will notice I made a point of not criticising working mothers, Patti, in fact I praised them. We all have to do what suits us – and not what others think we should! As for your question – that is a typical example of the kind of prejudice that has to stop. Women bashing other women is utterly out of date. We need to SUPPORT one another as I have attempted to do in this article. But to answer your question, running our home and our very busy life keeps me more than occupied every single minute of every single day. It’s hard for me to even fit in the time to write!

  9. Thanks for this post, I’ve just come to the realisation that it makes much more sense for our family for me to stay at home and work as housewife at least while our kids are still little. It makes practical sense given our family situation but I can’t help but feeling very mixed up about it. I have a master’s degree and did pre-kids have a nascent academic career, I attempted to go back to work last year but found it impossible to manage everything – my husband works long hours and his job really does pay enough to support us as a family, me going out to work would just mean pre and after school clubs for the kids, which would take most of my wages, a chaotic household and me on the verge of a breakdown! As a feminist, I find it hard to swallow probably because I’ve internalised a load of nonsense that somehow this role would be meaningless or unfulfilling. I’ve mentally and physically been on strike while I work my head around it, the house is getting cluttered, I’m doing the bare minimum, which is just serving to feed my sense that I’m not cut out for this, but I know I am, I just can’t get my head around it right now. Your article helped, so thanks.

    • Hi Lisa, I’m so glad you found my article helpful. I really appreciate your comment and how you’ve shared your experience. I think its important to remember that feminism was supposed to be about choice – somehow it got twisted to mean women had to have – and do – it all. I do consider myself a feminist as well, however I have chosen (even when it wasn’t economically a good idea for us) to be a housewife / stay at home mom because it created more balance in our lives and made my family and I happier. Not that it was roses all the time – often it can be exhausting and frustrating! The important thing is that on the whole, I personally am happier with being a housewife and I do find it very fulfilling. Honestly, you have to do what works for you. I suppose the question is, are you really happy as a stay at home mom, do you enjoy it? If you truly are unhappy about staying at home then you should not feel you have to, even if it makes sense. However if all that is stopping you from enjoying being a housewife/SAHM is a perception forced on you by others, then I hope you can put that to the side and enjoy the fun parts of being there for your family in a way that works for you. And one more thing, you mustn’t feel that being a housewife means you have to have a perfect house – I have clutter sometimes and there are times that only the bare minimum gets done here too. A happy home and family isn’t always picture perfect and that is absolutely okay. Thank you so much again for getting in touch.

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