Being a housewife or stay at home mom – or as I prefer to call it, being a professional housewife – 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 On the other we are old fashioned and outdated. There are those who hold us 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 ‘professional’. 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 seventeen 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.
Housewives and Stay at Home Moms Are Professionals
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 a professional housewife requires. 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’s Not Always The Easy Choice
Staying home with your children may be a lifestyle choice. However, in many cases it is one that involves making sacrifices and living on less out of a desire to give children a more traditional upbringing. Many women work their way to the top of the corporate ladder, save their money and then give it all up to be with their kids. It’s hard work, and not the easiest choice to make.
In my case, it wasn’t even really a choice. Although I came to love my circumstances and am still a housewife even now we are empty nesters, I simply could not afford to go back to work in 1993. When I added up childcare and transportation costs, my salary (as a PA) simply wasn’t enough. Most days I would have been paying to go to work. There are plenty of women still in this kind of situation today.
The Media Often Gives Housewives a Bad Reputation
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 behaved as those women do.
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, and you get the shift in perception that means professional housewives may even be seen as something negative. We are often seen to have somehow ‘let down the side’ in the cause of equality. Some people even see the way we trust our husbands to provide for our families as laziness. They’ve clearly never spent a day with a professional housewife. It makes me sad that large portions of society have lost respect for housewives and stay at home moms.
Being a Professional Housewife Isn’t For Everyone
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.
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. Every child is different. No one should be judged for wanting to carry on with their career, any more than anyone should be judged for wanting care for their children at home.
There’s No Such Thing as a Typical Housewife
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. That isn’t what a professional housewife is. 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.
Being a Professional Housewife is a Worthwhile, Important Role
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 for leisure activities.
Making a home and/or 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 choose her own career. Being a housewife or stay at home mom is definitely a career – unpaid, messy and challenging – but a professional career nonetheless.