What it Means to Be a Housewife

 Posted by on March 9, 2010  Add comments  Tagged with: ,
Mar 092010

I recently received an interview request from a journalism student who’s writing a paper about “Desperate Housewives.” She’s interested in my take on what it means to be a “housewife” in the present day, and what I think “Desperate Housewives” communicates about women in American society.

I think this project is very interesting, and it got me thinking. First, I don’t consider myself to be a “housewife.” In fact, I kind of hate that term (once, our accountant put it on our tax return as my occupation, and I really bristled at it). In my mind, it stirs up images of a “kept” woman, trapped in her home all day, defined only by her status as someone’s wife. I’m much more than that, and I prefer the term “home manager.”

In some Christian circles, the idea of the submissive wife is taken to the extreme. Women are given an extremely limited role – namely to bear and raise children, cook, clean, and satisfy the every whim of their husbands.

This is not me, and my husband is not at all interested in having a wife like that. He says that if I never took a stand for anything, and just did whatever he said all the time, he would be very bored, because my strong will and opinions were part of what attracted him to me. I’ve mentioned in the past that my husband and I practice mutual submission,” because we feel that this is the Biblical ideal, and in fact, I have authority in many areas of our lives. While I do care for the children, and do nearly all of the cooking, we share many cleaning and laundry chores, as well as the yardwork. My husband gives me his paychecks, and I manage our finances, though we make all major financial decisions together. My husband doesn’t give me authority over the finances because I “control” him, or because I “wear the pants” as some anti-feminism proponents might suggest. Rather, he prefers for me to handle this aspect of our lives because he recognizes that financial management is a strength of mine, and it frees up time for him to do other things.

Long-time readers know my philosophy about home management. A home is a business. Think about it. Just like any other business, profit and loss must be carefully managed. Necessary tasks must be scheduled and completed efficiently. As a home manager, you must see that your family has clean clothes, nutritious meals, and sufficient rest, because they are the product that you send out into the world each day. Each day, the start they get at home contributes to the impact they have in society. If your kids are well-rested, eat a nutritious breakfast, and have completed their homework, they have the tools they need to be successful students. If your husband comes home to a delicious meal, a (reasonably) orderly house, a loving and supportive wife, and happy kids, he has a peaceful respite from the stresses of the workaday world, and can return to work energized and productive. If you devote time to being a careful steward of your family’s income, you can free yourself from the burden of debt, and all the stress and worry that come with it.

This is how I look at what I do. I’m helping to provide something that the world desperately needs – happy, well-adjusted, hard-working people. I might be behind the scenes, but I’m OK with that. I give the gifts of my time, and of myself, to my family, and that is no small thing. It’s something to be proud of.

Now, this is not to say that I’m not sometimes frustrated. Like all women who stay home with children, I have days when I think I simply cannot handle one more day of staring at these 4 walls, and never having an adult conversation. Sometimes the grind can be exhausting, but you know what? Most people have days like that at their jobs.

I think there is a misconception about women who stay home. People think that we do it simply because we don’t want to take any responsibility to provide for our families. Or we’re lazy, and just want to sit around all day and do nothing. There is also the perception that we’re all bored and miserable, and would much rather be somewhere else.

I would like to set the record straight. I stay home because my husband and I agree that this is what’s best for our family right now. After our children are all in school we’ll reevaluate, but for now, it works for us. Taking care of a family and home is a lot of responsibility, but it’s not given the same respect in our materialistic society because there is no paycheck. And I’m definitely not lazy. In fact, I’m on the go from the time my children get up in the morning, until they go to bed (and sometimes after that). I don’t have time to get bored, and I’m definitely not miserable. I could get a job outside the home if I wanted to, but I’m here because I want to be. Part of the reason why I created systems like my Home Management Guide, and my filing system, and my organized pantry, is so that I can do my job well, and still have leisure time, and time to enjoy my children. As with any line of work, it’s all about balance.

So, I’m curious. For those of you who stay home, how do you feel about the term “housewife?” Is this how you see yourself? What does it mean to you, to be a “housewife” today?