Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Misconceptions About A Housewife's Role

Misconceptions about the role a homemaker plays in the family are probably due to the fact that so many people hardly experience any domestic life nowadays. Since a lot of children grow up in two income households they never get a clear concept of what a homemaker normally does. When they become older and start a family of their own, they may wish to return to the traditional labour division but their difficulty is that while they have a general idea of what the duties of a breadwinner are, they are not so sure about housewives.

Internet can help in such a situation, but here comes another problem. Some domestic and even Christian blogs present a rather distorted view of life at home. I'm not sure what's the reason of it, it may be an American vs European thing, or may be it's due to something else, but frankly, some of the domestic bloggers I encountered sound hyperactive. Take the obsession with home businesses, for instance. Personally I have nothing against home businesses. A woman can sell something as a hobby, or may be she gives music lessons at home to help make both ends meet, it's all fine as long as having a home business is not presented as part of the religious doctrine WHICH IS A MUST FOR EVERYBODY (Prov. 31 feminism, anyone?)

Another thing is having children. Marriage is for procreation, it's true, and most people will go on to have kids, at least one. I also know about the demographic concerns the West encounters and I think generally it's a good thing to encourage western European folks to have more children, but surely it doesn't mean that every family is called to have ten? If you take the Bible versions about growing and multiplying seriously and you go on and have three children, guess what? You did grow and multiply.

Again, I have respect for large families (as long as they don't live from welfare, that is) but it's quite a different thing to turn around and say that every single family should never ever use any form of birth control, even NFP or full abstinence, whatever the circumstances. There are actually busybodies on the internet (many of them male) who go around complaining that some women have only two children who go to school and they dare stay at home and call themselves housewives. One man stated that a woman must have a minimal amount of three children whom she homeschools AND a home business to be allowed to stay home. (Allowed by whom? A committee?) 

Which takes me to another point. homeschooling. I think homeschooling is fine and I'm actually quite envious that my American readers are free to make this choice, while it's not the case in some European countries, including my own. I don't believe in nanny-statism and I fully support the right of the parents to educate (or not) their children the way they see fit. The key word here is choice. It's up to each family to decide how to raise their children. There is no law which says that only those women who homeschool are real housewives, at least, not yet.

The real reason that so many people are all upset about what housewives are doing at home is not that they care about children or the survival of the Western civilisation. A woman can homeschool and still will be attacked by others for not doing enough if she so much as allows herself to sit in a garden with a book for half an hour. The subtle and not-so-subtle attacks on homemakers come because of the idea that home should resemble a factory in the way it is run. That's why a housewife will never persuade anyone she works really hard until she has ten children AND homeschools AND runs a business AND cooks three meals every day AND grows her own food etc etc. You see my point, don't you?

The role the traditional woman plays is not so much quantitative but qualitative. Her success is not measured in how many activities she manages to cram into her day, but in the quality of  life in the home that she creates. The traditional housewife is first of all, a caregiver of her family. She creates a certain atmosphere at home and sees to it that the needs of other family members are met. She is also the family manager which means that even if she delegates certain tasks to her children or domestic help, she bears the final responsibility for the smooth functioning of the household.

Being a homemaker isn't only about material things, it's about catering to the spiritual needs of others, such as finding time to listen to your children and their concerns, offering a sympathetic ear to your husband,  visiting your elderly parents and so on and so forth. And finding time to relax and enjoy because nothing destroys the happiness at home as much as a stressed out, neurotic mistress of the house.


  1. It's all about priorities isn't it? We do have many homeschoolers around here. There are advantages and disadvantages to everything. Often times homeschooling moms have very little time to volunteer as do working moms. Their lives are very busy. What are we here for and how do we fill our time? I love reading a good book, love gardening, swimming, being with the grandchildren, volunteering - as you can see our hours are quickly consumed. It's about being balanced - not that easy to do.

  2. I have heard the same comment about housewives all my life. What do they do all day? Like as you said they think you do nothing worthwhile. While people at work usually know what someone is doing. They have a certain set of demands each day. At home since the home is not so relegated to certain hours for this and that and no one punches the clock people must think we are not producing our quota of work. As my daughter said so many now a days grew up with full time working mothers and fathers that they cannot imagine a mother being at home. They have no reference in their mind to seeing it. It is hard to imagine that within two generations the world's views have changed. What used to be more of an exception is now normal. Like so many things the world has flip flopped on its head on so many basic things.
    Yes it is the families choice what they do within own their family. No one else's. As long as the couple agree it is their private decision. Our choice is our's,.. your's is yours.
    It is hard for some to understand things that are not black and white. The wife being home to guard the home being one. Some think that just by being home you are trying to say others that are not or cannot be are not as good as you are. It is not a contest. It is a choice I am not judging you..please don't judge us. Our priorities were my saying home and I am grateful that I could. It was not financially easy at all but we felt it was worth the sacrifice. We still do.
    Many of the mothers I know homeschool or did. Their children were taught in their own homes and at times in others or wherever they needed the studies. l these parents also had their children in other activities. I felt the homeschooled I knew actually had a better balanced life than those in public schools. They even took college classes many times before graduating high school. Knew their music well enough to teach younger ones etc and earn their own money for camp etc. They are happy and relished learning. I am in awe of these many families. It cost them more to homeschool their own children than send them to public schools..another sacrifice they were willing to bear. This was their choice. Others choose differently. If we would spend as much time thinking and getting upset with others and more on our own families we would all be better off. :-) Thank you for another good post! Sarah

  3. I guess my point is that the work a homemaker does can't always be measured in a number of things she did on a given day. There are many little tasks she accomplishes daily which go pretty much unnoticed and aren't normally classified as work, but nevertheless, they take time. Making and serving a cup of tea or setting a table for breakfast, making a flower arrangement or taking an hour to discuss the book your child read with him, nobody sees it as work, and yet they all contribute to the welfare of the family and its members.

  4. Housewife from FinlandSeptember 24, 2015 at 5:00 AM

    Excellent post. When I first stayed at home, I also thought that I should be doing something "productive" all the time. That gave me lot of stress, especially since my health isn't the best possible. And when you think you should do something all the time -well, in household of two adults and a dog there is not really that much housework to do, so you end up doing things that have no real value. And then you are all stressed out because you try to do too much and nobody appreciates those silly things you do...

    Nowadays I just relax and to what feels good.:) Our house may not be totally spotless all the time, but when my hubby comes home, dinner is ready and I am relaxed and happy.

    I actually think that since everybody seems to be so awfully busy nowadays, society needs people who take more relaxed attitude. To set an example. Hard work is not bad thing, people have always worked hard, but being busy all the time kills people. I mean in the old days when people lived at countryside, even when it was haytime or harvest (the busiest times of the year) people ate several meals around the table and took a nap afterwards.

    Now I assume that many ladies like to keep themselves busy and that is totally fine. But nobodody should feel that they should be busy all the time to be good housewifes or just decent human beings.

    Busy people cannot create tranquility. And creating tranquility is my main goal in lifre. :)

  5. Very good post. very true too. "catering souls at home" - very nicely expressed. It is also important for any housewife to do her best with what she has on hand. Time is a huge resource that we have at home and this treasure is to be kept safely from any intruding activity or task that can make our efforts ruin. Home businesses are time eaters, they don't allow you to be a real housewife but some wives need more money indeed and I understand the particular need for more money (in my country staying at home in urban areas is very unlikely to happen due to the life standard, in villages this can be done but with great efforts). Children need their mother at home at any age in my opinion. Childless housewives shouldn't be judged by anybody, they are needed at home too if they have no children, but in my personal opinion I couldn't live without children in my home, although I am infertile, no matter if adopted or not, children make a marriage more stable, more valuable. even nephews or nieces around, they give more sense to a marriage if they are part of a home. This is a conclusion I got to in time. That is why I fully support the idea of welcoming children in the life of childless couples, not as an obligation but as a personal feeling for it, not only through adoption but through any form of presence, help and guidance that a couple can offer to children of their community or extended family who live in the neighborhood. Being a housewife makes this thing possible too in the limits accepted by husband and wife. Nobody has the right to point fingers, but the right to make choices, as you said.

  6. Thanks, ladies! I think as a result of the constant attacks on the homemaker's role starting in the 1960s, housewives felt the need to prove that they, too, work. Also, homemaking annuals of that period all encourage building a rigid structure into your day and treating homemaking as any other profession. By stressing efficiency, they made homemaking into something mechanical, imo.

    As for childless couples, before the welfare state came into being which further atomised the family, it was normal to take much more interest in one's nephews and cousins, up to the point of taking them into your house if their parents died. They generally could expect an inheritance from their childless relatives and poor girls would often get a monthly check from a rich aunt so that they wouldn't be pressed into taking a job. Of course, nowadays, infertile couples are encouraged to go to the other side of the world and invest their money into adopting and raising perfect strangers, while their own needy family members or members of their community are left in the cold. Somehow it doesn't strike me as a right approach to life.

  7. This is such an important topic - homemaking is NOT like a business in the public sphere, rather it encompasses the private sphere and has its own way of being. Two different worlds that have an effect on each other. You wrote "By stressing efficiency, they made homemaking into something mechanical". I agree completely. The home is the balance to the public life. When you make it too much like work in a factory or business the balance is gone.

    GK Chesterton wrote that a woman was kept home not to keep her narrow, but to keep her broad. The public sphere where business takes place requires specialization. But at home, a woman has to be many things and that requires all her wit, strength, and intellect. Chesterton said he pities women for the hugeness of their task, and not because it is small.

  8. What an excellent reminder! And thanks Sanne for the 'Proverbs 31 feminism', it was hilarious! I've never heard it put that way :-)

  9. GK Chesterton and I appear to have been thinking along the same lines:) Though I admit he said it better than me...

    Miriam, you are welcome!

  10. Thanks Sanne! I've been quietly lurking around lately because I haven't read Pride And Prejudice ;-)

  11. Well, may be, you should. It's great fun!

  12. Housewife from FinlandSeptember 25, 2015 at 8:56 AM

    I wish I could learn to say with pride: "I'm a housewife", if somebody asks what I do. Nowadays I just say mutter "oh, I have just been at home lately". So people think that I am unemployed and usually ask no further questions.

    Problem is the finnish language. Finnish word for housewife is "kotirouva", which is more like "lady of the house" ("rouva" means actually Mrs., but in finnish it has sort of posh connotation. Or at least that's how I feel it.) So if I say I am a housewife people think that I am really weirdo, since housewifes just do not exist in Finland anymore. You can be stay-at-home mom, but without children -well, you just must be unemployed or very sick to stay at home. Now I wouldn't be able to work full-time even if I wanted to, but I don't look sick enough that people would kind of "excuse" me staying at home.

    I know, I shouldn't care what other people think of me. But we would all like some respect, wouldn't we? And I am also worried how it effects to my husband, what his friends and collegues think when his wife is crazy and calls herself housewife.

  13. Housewife from FinlandSeptember 25, 2015 at 9:03 AM

    I just read conversation, where some woman asked why housewifes are so despised in Finland, especially childfree. Answers were: "Because in Finland women have so good position, they can work, hence everybody MUST work and pay taxes and not to be lazy brats. And WHAT do housewifes do all day long? Isn't it boring?"

    I have always wondered what kind of a person would get bored in her own home and find nothing to do. We are not actually handcuffed to radiator all day long...

  14. I think your husband just should be proud he is such a good provider:) Nowadays, if someone asks me why I don't work, I just say; "I don't have to, my husband earns a good income." Here there are still enough middle class ladies who stop working when the first child arrives and never go back, and I met some childless housewives as well. They usually have a dog or two:)

  15. I'm a childless housewife and everyone is mean to me. I think they are jealous.

  16. "I don't have to, my husband earns a good income". Sanne, I love this line and cannot wait to use it.

    When I am with other home makers, and we discuss our routines or days, I can tell they are inwardly shocked when I say that I'm not always busy doing something, and that I take time to relax at home during the day. It's like women at home have this pressure to justify being at home; that they need to be doing something sun up to sundown.

  17. If people go around asking nosy questions, that's the answer they are going to get!!!

  18. Housewife from FinlandSeptember 26, 2015 at 6:05 AM

    This has been such a good conversation. But I cannot use Sanne's line; people here are so brainwashed with feminism that many actually think that housewife without children is nothing but a "kept woman", if you know what I mean.

    It is interesting that it is only women that seem to judge; my hubby's male friends seem to be totally ok with me staying at home(propably wishing their wifes would stay at home, too). So maybe the women are just jealous, just like Retro Homemaker said.

  19. "Kept women" used to be unmarried. It's a bit like living together, which is so popular nowadays by some reason, is called "concubinage" in French, or so I'm told:)

  20. 'I do it for diversity'. Diversity is a good thing, right? Or should homemaking be called 'multiculturalism' from now on? Multiculturalism must be a good thing, according to the news.

  21. Housewife from FinlandSeptember 27, 2015 at 8:00 AM

    Miriam, you are a genius. :)

    Maybe I should just but niqab on? Goverment would start paying me for staying home...

  22. I once heard someone say something about the puritan spirit, that it was said of them that if they thought something was bad, it should be forbidden, but if they thought it was good, it should be mandatory. ;)

    I think some of the same spirit is at work when we see keyboard warriors online castigating others for not doing as much as they are, trying to tell others exactly how they ought to live in all particulars, when it's none of their business (beyond broad traditionalist agreement overall).

    I find it sad and pathetic. And unfortunate, because it usually ends up a source of unnecessary division.

  23. Puritans among us are just upset that some people somewhere are enjoying themselves:)