One of the reasons I founded The 21st Century Housewife over ten years ago was the J word. It was driving me nuts. Everywhere I went I heard people say things like, ‘Oh me, I’m just a housewife’, ‘What do I do? Well I’m just a stay at home mom’. ‘I just work part time.’ ‘My wife? Oh she just stays home and looks after the kids’. Or the very worst, ‘I’m just a mom’. I had even found myself saying those very same things.
When Betty Friedan published ‘The Feminine Mystique’ back in 1963, women were not encouraged to further their educations or establish careers, and the brave souls who did were looked down on. Careers for married women were almost non-existent, and returning to work post children was frowned upon. The lack of life choices available to women back then was completely unacceptable.
Unfortunately, instead of creating choice, the social change that followed Ms Friedan’s book actually created more limitations. Her book contributed to a paradigm shift in society’s perception of the women who genuinely wanted to make caring for their homes and families their career. Housewives and stay at home moms went from being valued members of society to being ridiculed and looked down on. The worst thing was, it was hard not to believe the hype.
‘A housewife? Oh my, you must be bored’, ‘Staying home with the kids? Wow, you are definitely going to lose your edge’. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have heard these demeaning statements. Usually we are reeling so much from the shock of hearing them yet again that the fabulous retort we think of hours later is anywhere but on the tip of our tongues.
Oprah Winfrey said that mothers have “the most important and difficult job on the planet”. I would add that caring for a home is incredibly important too. Whatever stage in life your family is at and whether or not you have children, if your job is caring for your home and family, you are doing something very important indeed.
This is not meant as a criticism of women who work outside the home. Their job is equally important and often they are caring for homes and families as well. We are all on the same team here and it’s such a shame we often forget it. Some of the sharpest criticism of my decision to be, and remain, a housewife, is from other women.
At our tenth wedding anniversary party twelve years ago, my husband gave a speech. He said that without what I had done, keeping our home and raising our son, he would not have be able to achieve the things he had or be the man he had become. Even today, my husband will say he considers his success our success and recognises my contribution to it. Not everyone wants to be one of those of women standing behind a great man, nor should they, but it’s a role I love.
I firmly believe that complaining about something is a waste of time unless you have a solution and I offer mine here. We need to stop using the J word, and we need to stop using it now. How can I use an adjective like that to describe a job I find incredibly fulfilling and exciting, something that more than fills my days and nights, as less than it is? If someone wants to think of me as a ‘lady of leisure’ or a ‘lady who lunches’ that’s absolutely fine, but it isn’t what I am and I’m not going encourage them by belittling what I do.
Building up and supporting the framework of society and raising the next generation may not be well paying jobs or ones that allow you to see your name in lights but they are important. Some of us do it full time, and some of us do it while holding down other jobs as well. But whoever you are and whatever job you are doing, you are not now, nor will you ever be ‘just’ an anything.