A long while back now, I wrote a post about why I do what I do- referring to being a Homemaker and Stay at Home Wife. That post was written in response to a young lady (who has since deleted her blog) who had an almost terrifying vehemence towards Housewives that I am all too familiar with, having been that exact type of person with those exact views in the past.
I’ve long since removed those posts from A Sweet and Delicate Thing because, in retrospect, I could have handled that situation much better. But also because I wanted to revisit the topic eventually. The call to revisit it came sooner than I thought, though- and it came in the form of an article here on WordPress (titled Homemaker: A Bored, Backwoods, Miserable Domestic Servant?) which references some of the same ideologies that I encountered, and which spurred the original posts… But where I failed in my eloquence, the author succeeds in leaps and bounds.
For a little background, I grew up impoverished. My Mother will likely deny it until the last gasp of breath escapes her body… But I do remember times where we were on Food Stamps (SNAP) and even went without certain utilities for periods. But we were never, ever hungry (even if it was Shit on a Shingle) or without a roof over our head (even if it leaked). They made sure of that… And they made sure of it by working outside of the home for the majority of my life.
Yet unlike one woman writes is likely of younger Women returning to Traditional roles, I don’t consider this time traumatizing (if I was traumatized by anything it was the abuse of my Mother- something which is a very different matter entirely). And unlike a lady of Australia who lent her voice to an interview about turning to traditionalism? I never felt cheated out of my time with them. My Parents made all the appropriate efforts to be active in my life as I grew, and they did so while still working
I recognized my parent’s sacrifice for exactly what it was: A sacrifice; my mother worked days and my father nights- both of them sacrificing time with one another to ensure both that my Sister and I always had access to our Parents, and that we had at least some semblance of the income our modern society demands for a four person household.
Don’t get me wrong… My parents have their faults; my Mother is an abusive person and my father lets her get away with it far too often, far too easily- and both of them, honestly, should have gotten divorced well before my Sister and I ever came of age (growing up with an abundance of parental fighting- and regularly hearing that the only reason they’re still together is “for you kids”- is far more traumatizing than an amicable divorce, I promise). But despite all of their faults, they were there. They were there, and they encouraged us to be educated, resourceful, and independent Women capable of taking the World by storm if we chose to.
I didn’t choose to… Not because I’m not smart- I am; not because I think Women’s place is in the home- I don’t any more than I think it’s outside of it; and not because I thought Housework was easy- I knew it wasn’t… But because I could; because my Parents empowered me to make the choices that were best for my own life and happiness; because I tried the other routes and hated both them and myself.
Unfortunately, it’s not an overstatement to say that when my Husband and I made the decision together that- for a number of practical and logical reasons (including my disability)- I would stay at home and look after the house… I got no end of flack for it.
I heard it so frequently as a Newlywed; on one hand were questions like “What about college? Why don’t you do something with yourself?”- and ironically (because I was on the verge of my 25th Birthday when we married) “Who on Earth should be worrying about marriage at your age?“. On the other, “Oh look, puppy love! But don’t worry, it won’t last. Eventually you’ll wake up and you’ll fight. Eventually you’ll get tired of being the one to do everything around the house. Eventually you’ll resent it all, and in 3 or 5 years you’ll hate your marriage“; at one point while we were working together, it was even my own Mother (a bitter, angry Wife if I have ever met one) leading the charge against us.
That was less than two years ago, and I still can’t believe that anyone would dare to ask those questions- nor the bitter, cynical certainty with which people spoke about the future of my Marriage; the way in which they thought they knew better because their own marriages had failed (whether because they were simply poorly matched, or other reasons).
Other people, particularly self professed Feminists, harp that being a Homemaker “isn’t a real job” and have no end of words about how I’m a disgrace to Females, and contributing to our oppression, and so on and so forth. Quite possible the most offensive as a survivor of Domestic Violence, though, are the ones who (despite my statements to the contrary) insist that my Husband has somehow managed to chain me to the kitchen under threat of violence and abuse.
In the years since we made this decision together, I’ve only heard more of it from strangers; people who genuinely believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they somehow know what is better for my Husband and I better than we do ourselves. It baffles me. And it baffles me because, despite their insistence otherwise, I am happy.
We like to talk a lot about finding your dream job; about pursuing our dreams and doing what makes us happy. But when it comes down to it, the reality is that only a few choices are ever really acceptable choices for us to make on a social level. Homemaking is, unfortunately one that remains stigmatized.
Modern Feminism cannot, for some reason, accept that there are people who do not want to pursue higher education, enter the workforce, and become corporate power players. In fact, a lot of the narrative against traditionally feminine fields, dress, and behavior largely remains focused around the idea that these things hold us back; they limit us from reaching our truest and fullest potential in society by redirecting our attention away from what really matters: Social power and affluence, and work- specifically of the variety that earns a tangible monetary income… But as The Remedial Homemaker wrote:
Using all my same education, skill, time, and talent for a corporation so I can get a paycheck wouldn’t be more fulfilling, or carry more significance […] More money, yes, but more money isn’t the same as more happiness.
Yes, being a Housewife is limiting in a number of ways; I have no job security, and if I ever decided to return to the job market I’d be hard pressed to find employment. Yes, it is demanding- both emotionally and physically. And yes, it is sometimes more than I can carry on my own two shoulders; sometimes I get frustrated, and angry, and downtrodden at the lot that’s been handed to me alongside the dustrag and bucket I was consigned to when we made the decision together… But as The Remedial Homemaker once again writes: “I can emphatically say: it’s so worth it“. And it’s so worth it to me because despite all the failures and struggles- of which nothing on this Earth is free- I emphatically enjoy it.
As I’ve pointed out time and time again, The Good Wife’s Guid the– the document that hundreds of people look to as a factual showcase of 1950’s Domesticity (though better ones do exist)- is a blatant falsity; It wasn’t the reality. Instead, it is a snapshot of a fictitious history that never existed… A lie largely perpetuated by those who think it’s easier to laugh at a bygone era than reach out for genuine understanding of it. And yet even though I recognize them as being false representations? I would be a liar if I said that it didn’t make me genuinely happy to, to some extent, do the things set out within its pages.
I enjoy being awake during the night and morning to console him when he has a nightmare, make our coffee, cook our breakfast, make his lunch, and see him safely off to (and arriving at) work each morning; I enjoy being there for my Husband every time he comes home from a grueling and laborious job- one he frequently admits that he hates, but powers through anyways because he wants the best that he can give me; I enjoy that when he comes home the house is clean and I’m prettily turned out- all so that the first sight he sees of home each day is one of beauty; I enjoy the fact that we get to spend so much time together because I am always here when he is; I enjoy being his ear and shoulder, both when things are good and when they are bad; I enjoy cooking the both of us delicious and healthy meals that give us the strength to face our respective tasks- and I enjoy making sure that the presentation of those meals are nice, because it’s emotionally uplifting. More than that, I enjoy the hearty mm‘s and ahh‘s and “Oh fuck that’s good” that he utters when digging into the dishes I create; I enjoy it all.
“Barefoot and in the Kitchen” is where I belong… Not because that is where all Women belong, but because that is the space that gives me the most joy; because being a Helpmeet, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it what fulfills my life and the life of my Husband in all the ways that we consider to matter most. And I wouldn’t change it for all of the money in the world (though I might be convinced- and have been in the past- to step outside of the Kitchen for an income when circumstance necessitates it).
As for the education or experiences that so many people point to? I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything in the greater world. I don’t have to be in a School or Work environment to continue learning, either; one of the things I genuinely love the most about being a Housewife is that even from home I can still continue my education and pursue my interests- and I can do so on my own terms and at my own pace, at any point that it suits me to do so.
That education isn’t going to waste, either… No education, in my eyes, is ever wasted; both the education I have received and that which has been self determined has, like my parents, have empowered me to be as capable as I can be in this role- just as it no doubt has empowered people to be capable outside of it.
The fact of the matter is that I didn’t, as a person, feel more fulfilled by pursuing higher education. I felt fulfilled taking care of others. And while I could do that in several fields of employment? I know in my bones that I would never feel fulfilled by it (except, maybe, if it were Teaching); I wanted a family to take care of, and I wanted to devote my time to them- not to Capitalism and everything else that post-Feminist society says that we should dedicate our time to.
I would ask that you reconsider the cultural narrative of the last 60 years and include us. Include us women who are educated and capable, and still choose to embrace home as our sphere of influence, and are experiencing growing fulfillment. I’m not saying you need to make this choice–it would be stupid to dictate this to all women–but I am saying that our experience proves that home isn’t antithetical to female thriving, nor are traditional gender roles in marriage, or children (even lots of them).
This sort of a life isn’t for everyone. I understand that; being a Housewife- let alone a Stay at Home Mother- is not any easier than being the courageous, glass ceiling breaking, working Women that our current culture ultimately trains us up to become (to the point, even, where many of us look down on the Woman who chooses not to). Nor is being one of those Women any easier than being a Housewife.
They both come with their ups and their downs, and we’re only Human to prefer one or the other (or “have our cake and eat it too”, if you’re inclined to and capable of doing so) for whatever reasons that we may have… And while we have to own those decisions and whatever they bring to our lives (whether happiness or sorrow)? We don’t have to justify those reasons to anyone; a working Woman is not beholden to Housewives to explain why they think working is the best path for them and their families. But neither are Housewives beholden to working Women to explain themselves.
Yet maybe- just maybe– we can put aside our differences of opinion and belief; our rhetoric and our biases; our own hurt and anger and fear and frustration; for a moment… Just long enough to realize that we do not have to be frightened, or scared, or judgmental, or even covetous of another’s path. Because these paths that we take- while different for every Woman even in light of their similarities at times- all still lead to joy… And we are all, in one way or another, simply trying to get there.
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