Like many women my age, I married later in life and had my first child after the age of 30. Although (or maybe because) I had spent a number of years in a fulfilling career, I had no problem relinquishing my job and staying at home full time. And I certainly had company. In my area, there were many other women who were able financially to give up their salaries and devote themselves to full-time motherhood. What I hadn’t bargained on was that, being the one at home every day, I would turn into a housewife.
That simple word “housewife” is weighed down with so much Fifties baggage that I found myself reluctant to call myself one. On various forms I needed to fill out, I would refer to myself as a “homemaker.” It just sounded so much more genteel. Even my husband would refer to me as a high school English teacher to his friends and colleagues despite the fact that I have not spent a day in the classroom since my first child was born a couple of decades ago. When acquaintances would ask the inevitable ice-breaker question, “What do you do?”, I would stammer apologetically about my decision to stay home with my children.
The funny thing is that I have never once regretted my choice to be a stay-at-home mom. I loved being there for every waking moment of my kids’ lives (and even more for their blessed sleeping ones!). I did sometimes worry whether I was a good role model for my girls, but since my older daughter is pursuing a career in business, I guess my being at home with her did no harm. I also had the occasional
fight conflict with my husband when he would not so innocently inquire, “What do you do all day?” or, worse, “What is there to eat around here?”
Over time, I have gotten over the label but not the job. For me, it has been a struggle to keep a good attitude about cooking, doing dishes and laundry, and completing the other myriad tasks required of a housewife. There is something so depressing about doing a job and then seeing it rapidly undone by messy children and a husband who cultivates clutter. It’s not a lot of fun to cook a meal and have the family complain that they don’t like it/ think it looks gross/won’t eat it. Let’s just say that being a housewife is not all “Oprah” and bonbons.
Yet there are some perks from this lifestyle. I plan my own schedule and can take breaks whenever I want them. I don’t have to wear high heels or makeup. My kids don’t really notice dirt, so I can often get away with letting the house go. And both when my kids were little and now that they are older, I have had the chance to spend time outside when the weather permits it.
All in all, I feel incredibly lucky to be spending my time tending the home fires. And as my kids leave the nest one by one, I know I will miss some of the chaos and the mess that has kept me one busy hausfrau.