Being a Housewife in the 21st Century

Being a Housewife in the 21st Century
Being a housewife in the 21st century puts you in a controversial position. Many people believe women who are housewives are nurturing their families, making homes and building up society. Others are convinced housewives are old fashioned and outdated, responsible for thwarting the efforts of women who work outside the home and insulting the memory of those who worked so hard to obtain equal rights for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.

What does it really mean – being a housewife in the 21st century? Frankly, it’s almost easier to approach it from the angle of what we are not.

Housewives in the 21st century are not ‘typical’
There are no ‘typical’ housewives or stay at home moms anymore. We are all different, with different lifestyles and circumstances. Some of us have never worked outside the home, many of us have. Most of us are well educated – some of us are even biochemists and neuroscientists. Many of us have children, a number of us don’t. Some of us love what we do, others are doing it as a labour of love while they put their own dreams on hold.

We are not bored – or boring
Most of us are so busy that we get up earlier and go to bed later to try to fit more hours in the day. We are well read, well informed, politically active, contributing members of our communities. Honestly, I haven’t been bored since 1991! Anyone who believes a housewife’s life is boring should come and spend the day with one. Seriously – I dare them to!

We are not anti-feminist
Most housewives are feminists. The feminists who deride us – and I’d love to name some very public names here but I’ll take the high road – seem to have forgotten that the whole premise of feminism was a woman’s right to choose her own path. The majority of housewives believe in that right no matter whether a woman wants to work outside the home, be a housewife or become prime minister.

We are not looking down on women who work outside the home
Being a housewife in the 21st century doesn’t mean that we think every woman should be one. Not every woman wants to be a housewife nor should they be. We know that there is no proof that children raised by stay at home moms are any happier or well adjusted than those raised by women who work outside the home – or vice versa. We don’t think we are looking after our homes or our families better than anyone else. We respect every woman’s right to choose her career, be it outside the home or within it.

We aren’t housewives ‘because we can afford to be’
The decision to become a housewife or stay at home mom can have far reaching financial complications in the 21st century. Having only one income can mean having to tighten your belt and make sacrifices. It can mean spending years on a tight budget and struggling to make ends meet. While my husband and I now enjoy a very comfortable lifestyle, this was definitely the case for us when we first started out.

We are not kept women
Many of us contribute to the family finances either through savings we have built up in earlier years or via working part time at home. We bring value to our homes by the tasks that we perform. Ever priced up hiring a nanny, personal assistant, housekeeper and accountant? Enough said.

We are not ‘ladies of leisure’ or ‘ladies who lunch’
If you see a housewife out to lunch with a friend, it’s likely been scheduled for weeks and we are sandwiching it in between other commitments. It’s not a regular occurrence and we’ve probably been looking forward to it for ages. The ladies of leisure shown on certain ‘reality’ television programs? They are our bête noir and about as far from ‘real housewives’ as you can get.

In a nutshell, being a housewife in the 21st century is a profession in and of itself. Running a home, raising a family and managing family life full time can involve making financial sacrifices, putting your own dreams on hold or foregoing them entirely. Being a housewife in the 21st century is a vocation and a labour of love. It’s a choice that deserves more than just a little respect.

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Article by April Harris

April has written 1218 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. The word which resonated with me most strongly here was “choice”. If someone makes an informed decision to live their life a certain way then I’m sad that others feel justified in weighing in to criticise. But I suppose, as a society, we unfortunately have thousands of years of history in thinking we know best for the choices made by others concerning politics, religion, and so on. Sorry that you have to deal with this, April.

    • Thank you, Pauline. I’m so glad the idea of ‘choice’ resonated with you as I really wanted to focus on that very thing. I agree, as a society we do have a long history of thinking we know best for others – you put that very well!

  2. Well said. I worked part time when I was single, then a little bit during our marriage, but I prefer staying home full time. Some women assume I want all women to stay home and it is not the case!

  3. LOVE LOVE this! “the whole premise of feminism was a woman’s right to choose her own path.” AMEN to that! Seriously I hate that it feels like I have to defend my choice to stay home, shouldn’t it be celebrated as with true feminism I have a right to choose and that was my choice; and for those that choose to work, I am happy for them and even am amazed at by them at times for all they do. We are all awesome and do things differently but as long as we are trying our best and loving our kids then life is good! Thanks for linking up with the #bestoftheblogosphere

    • Thank you, Emmy! I like what you said too – “We are all awesome and do things differently but as long as we are trying our best and loving our kids then life is good!” That is SO true!!

  4. April, I love your article! I was able to be a housewife when we were raising our four children, if we needed some extra money I found things I could do out of the home to earn money. Now that our children are grown I still enjoy being a housewife! I find I never have enough time to do all the things I want to! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
    – Nancy
    On The Home Front

  5. People today can often be a bit too outspoken about things that are none of their business! I know women who are housewives and women who have careers outside the home. One of the housewives who comes to mind takes on so very much that she recently had a heart attack.

    • I totally agree, Jean 🙂 And oh my goodness, I hope the lady who had a heart attack is okay! It’s amazing how we women push ourselves these days – both those of us who are housewives and those who work outside the home. We are only human after all!

  6. I’ve always worked outside the home, except for brief times of unemployment. My partner (male) has had longer times of unemployment and in recent years has been working from home. We feel it’s very obvious that SOMEBODY has to do the “homemaking” stuff; we can split it up and each be a part-time homemaker, but we can’t live comfortably without a homemaker. Although we have never chosen to arrange our family so that one of us is a full-time homemaker, that certainly seems like a valid way to do things.

    You might enjoy reading about <a href="http://articles.earthlingshandbook.org/2011/10/09/my-grandmother-got-a-few-things-done/"what I finally realized about my grandmother's life. In my adult life I’ve been shaking off “feminist” assumptions that everything women traditionally did is degrading. I’m pleased to see some signs that our society is becoming more egalitarian via men spending more time and taking more interest in nurturing children and in cooking at home (not just in restaurants or backyard grills); I think that’s far overdue!

  7. Thanks for the great blog post April. I agree x 1000000!! If we could only add a few more hours to the day too, that would be nice lol!

  8. I totally laughed at the “ladies of leisure!” It’s funny that so many say, “Since you don’t work, can you…”

  9. Loved this! I’m currently working outside the home for the next few weeks at least, until I have my first child and go on maternity leave. Our goal as a family is for me to stay home with our children until they go to school, which will mean lots of financial sacrifices as well as criticism from all directions for “giving up” on my career. That’s why I loved your line, “the whole premise of feminism was a woman’s right to choose her own path.” Feminism doesn’t mean tearing down women who choose different paths. It means supporting and encouraging each other in a world with equal opportunities for all.

  10. am a working woman. I am also a mother of two children. One just past the first decade of life, the other not halfway through. I am professionally qualified, am good at my work (if I may say so myself). I also have always wanted to work. As in be gainfully employed. As in earn in hard cash. As in be someone who can claim to have a direct financial contribution to the family. I have worked from before marriage, and have just continued doing so. Never thought seriously that I should not…. It helped that I have an understanding family. Ma in law who pitches in and hubby who does not mind the house going bonkers when my office workload hits the roof, which happens like every other day. I am not advocating that you should or should not work. Rather, am just putting in my two bit of wisdom.
    The comparision between ladies of leisure and working woman applies starkly in two situations:
    1. The working woman is a 9to 5er, who works at a lowly position to help in the finances, to ensure food on the table the next week, or, to ensure that kids can go to college.
    2. The lady of leisure is a lady of leisure because she chooses to be one, i.e. she is amply provided financially, has no worries about the coffers of the house.
    Most housewives,( and that is a misnomer, if any, which I too agree) complain that its unfair to say they dont work. They do. And I agree to it too. That they might not directly be paying bills, but are saving a lot of money in not making hubbies pay through the nose for them. But look at it from the other side of the spectrum. We as working women, do the household stuff and THEN go to office. At least those who are doing the job because they need th money. We get up early, pack the kids lunch boxes, our own, clean up the house, lock up and go to the office to work eight to ten, sometimes more, hours. We come back, do all that needs to be done (though laundry and dirty dishes are the last on the to do list) make kids study, listen to their worries, be nurse, psychologist, teacher cook maid etc etc. in this short time, and then get rest. We miss out on seeing the summer bloom, the winter frost, we miss out on most of the kids milestones, because we have to work. We feel envy when we see the lunch ladies, which admittedly they went after serious planning et all, but which we cant, because a half day leave that we would need from office for that lunch date, is so much better utilised in taking kids to the dentist.
    So lady friends of mine, before you pat yourselves on the back saying the women who work are being sarcastic, please read this carefully:
    1. We hate it when our housewife friends say “its so good that your kitchen work is over by 9 am, I have to slog over the stove till 2 in the afternoon”, after 9, we have to rush to the office to do something else, which you obviously dont do, for whatever reason.
    2. It jars our brains when you pride over how you “clean your house from top to bottom every fortnight, my _____(put the name of your son / daughter / husband / dog) cannot tolerate dust”. Please, we dont have the luxury of allowing our son / daughter / husband / dog to be intolerant to dust.
    Now tell me, who is being smug, intolerant and is backbiting. And last but not the least, since feminism is about choices, it should be both ways, we respect yours, you respect ours. And not just choices but everything, including our situations. It might be that if our situations are reversed, we might both be unable to cope.

    • Thank you for your comment but you have completely misread and misinterpreted my article. Every family makes tough choices and I am so sorry you feel so bitter. I am very sad that you have taken my article – which was meant to be supportive of both women who work outside the home and women who are housewives as well as to be a positive reinforcement of how women need to stick together and not criticise one another – and twisted it the way that you have. It sounds to me as if some of your “housewife friends” have not been as supportive as I would be and that makes me sad too. And I must stress again that I am not and never will be a “lady who lunches” – although when I do have the opportunity to go to lunch I am very grateful. I also want to point out that neither my husband nor my son are intolerant to dust and I would never, ever criticise another woman’s home or her life choices. I hope that you manage to find some happiness in the future – it sounds like you have had to work so hard that you have missed much joy.

      • Thanks April.
        The bitterness in part may also come from envy on my side, since I do not consider myself to have had a very hard life anyway. God has been kind to me in myraid ways. It is also, in part because we belong to two very diverse regions, India, is not a very conducive place to have a career. But being a housewife is way easier since help is cheap here. So maybe I was bringing my regional experience, which you obviously would not be able to relate to.
        Best of luck to you too.

  11. Hi again April! Lately, I’ve been getting all sorts of comments from nosy people, asking me where I work, what I do. Then when I say I’m a housewife they spill all sorts of negative comments ad judgment. I am married to my husband, not them! Do you ever get those? If so, how do you react? I need some help!

    • Hi there! Yes, I’ve definitely had negative comments and they can be really hurtful. It’s often hard to know exactly what to say but I think the most important thing is not to take the nasty comments to heart. Having said that, I also think you should definitely calmly disagree with them. I’m just guessing at comments you may have had here but “I’m far too busy (or I simply don’t have time) to be bored / lazy / unfulfilled” has worked well for me in the past as has “Me being a housewife works extremely well for my husband and I.” If they have been very rude I would add “Your assessment of the situation is completely inaccurate and honestly, it’s none of your business.” I hope that helps. If you have some specific negative comments you are okay with sharing I’d be happy to try to help more specifically. If you prefer, you can email me at april@apriljharris.com. I hope this helps!

      • Thanks, it helps! I’ve been called “just a 50’s housewife waiting for her husband to come home”, which isn’t true, and just in general, many women just stare at me and say “you don’t work”, which is quite annoying!

        • Those are mean comments and very untrue as well! It sounds a bit like the commenters might be jealous, although I know that doesn’t help when people are hurtful! Maybe try “I’m far too busy to sit around waiting for anyone” or “Maybe you don’t work around your home but I sure do!” as responses. I’m really glad I could help a bit but I hope people will be kinder in future!

          • Thanks! Most commenters have been working women, although there has been men as well. I usually just listen and don’t have much of a clever response as I think about it later! I feel like I can’t even leave the house without someone questioning me.

          • I’m really glad I could help but I’m so sorry you feel that way. Honestly, no one should have to feel that folks are questioning them like that. I do hope some of my suggestions hope and it gets better. Take care x

  12. Thank you for voicing something which a lot of people feel but struggle to express. 🙂

  13. wow. I have been reading some of your voices- amazing. Im 24 and married. We hope to start a family God willing when we get out house and have always believed in being a a mother and wife staying at home to provide and nurture my family. In the society we live in it can be disheartened but its for us to stay focus on what is really right and good for us and our family !

    • I’m so glad this post resonated with you, Yasmin. I hope that all your dreams of home and family will come true and that you enjoy being a housewife as much as I have 🙂

  14. Mary Crowley says:

    I really likes this 🙂 I’ve never worked other then cleaning for a family member and baby sitting, I’m homemaker I like it but I get board a lot, do you have tips for young homemaker?

    • Thank you, Mary. I’m really glad you enjoyed this post. I’m sorry you are feeling bored sometimes – I have very little time to pursue my hobbies these days as I am so very busy so I never feel bored. In fact, I am always wishing for some free time. However, when I was just starting out as a young homemaker, I looked for ways to expand what I was doing to help support my husband and the family. (Of course, you need to discuss with your husband the things that would be most helpful for you both.) So, for example, I began to look after the day to day finances, I managed our family social calendar etc. I also included activities like regular exercise and maintenance of myself as well as our house. Also, like anyone, homemakers need hobbies that they enjoy – perhaps you enjoy reading or sewing or some form of art? It’s important to keep learning as well, so I made sure to read widely about current events and other things that interested me as well as to visit places like art galleries and museums when I could. I hope this helps 🙂

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