Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Why I call myself a housewife

I'm not married to a house, yet I call myself a housewife. Why?

It's a term that has fallen out of favour, generally replaced by Stay At Home Mum.

While I am a technically SAHM, I consider myself a housewife first and foremost. My children are my number one responsibility. However, instead of building my world around only their needs and wants, I put the needs of the whole family unit first. This means that I will turn down a developmental activity for the girls if it means that I won't be able to get dinner on the table in time. It means that instead of playing ponies as soon as it's asked of me, I will prioritize the laundry. And it means that I try to put my relationship with Mr Accident absolutely first.

This may sound harsh, but I have sound reasoning. I believe children thrive in a safe, secure environment, surrounded by love and with a routine that they can rely upon. So making sure that dinner is on the table at six every single day is providing them that security. And doing all I can to make sure that Mr Accident and I have a solid, loving relationship not only models successful partnering, but also keeps our home calm and happy. I am trying to take a longer term view on the girl's needs.

Additionally, calling myself only a "stay at home mum" ignores the hard work I do to maintain the home and support the family apart from the work of raising the children. My grandmother used to say "a penny saved is a penny earned" and I work hard to earn my pennies! There are a thousand ways I save money for the family through my labour. (In my imagination, I actually hear a tiny slot machine "cha-ching!" every time I hang another cloth nappy on the line.) Besides childcare costs avoided by my staying home, there is the home made bread, yoghurt and laundry powder, having the time to use the washing line instead of the drier, being home to open and close the windows and blinds to make best use of our homes heating and cooling capacity, making Mr Accident lunch every day instead of him having to buy it... I could go on and on (and I think I just did!) I am the cook, laundress and cleaner. I am the planner, the driver, the personal shopper. And I do a bloody good job.

So, because I put the family needs over those of the kids, and because I am so much more than just a mother, I wear my slightly unfashionable "housewife" tag proudly. I earned it. Do you want to borrow it?


  1. I'm a SAHM too and love the way you outline how you save money!
    My husband would love me to work more so he can work less but when he can earn 3x what I can an hour , it doesn't make sense.
    Now I have some real ammunition to throw at him to justify my tiny participation in the workforce.
    I did the yoghurt( kids wouldn't have a bar of it!)
    So I should do the sourdough ....
    I am going to start saying ka- Ching too... When it's appropriate .
    Seriously though SAHM are taken for granted in terms of the way they can save families money and you outline this perfectly and very funnily Thanks

  2. Nah, I have one already...by the third child, I got it laminated as the edges were getting a bit tatty....I really should get an engraved one.....as I will need it for a few more years yet...!
    Sadly in my area I am a minority....child care around here is the bees knees....( I think it stinks, big time!) I watch mothers drop their kids off to child care, sorry, their babies...in their gym clothes when I am off to playgroup with my daughter....????...The other day I filled a form in at school as 'home manager'...as my occupation, I also had to tick a box that said 'no paid income'...that sucked big time as it made me feel like a loser........I liked your post very much...

  3. Suz,
    I hate the unrequired daycare bandwagon. It might be just what those mums need to be able to cope with their kids for the rest of the hours in the day, but it's just not for me. I put Peanut in care for ten months when I went back to work between kids, and it was horrendous. I couldn't imagine doing that out of choice!
    Mrs A

    You bring a massive amount of value to your family through your work at home! But the most valuable thing you can give to your family is your time. If you going back to work means that your kids need to go into care, then that seems to me like false economy.

    However, if it means you work more while your husband is at home with his family, that would be a wonderful gift to give him. Men love their children and want to spend quality time with them too! Either way, it's a tough decision, and I don't envy your position. Good luck!

    Mrs A

  4. Pardon my bluntness, BUT..... I fucking love this insight. Like, I read it twice, the second time out loud.
    I've been back at work F/T since Buddy was 9weeks old & it sucks BIG TIME! Every day I punish myself when I drop him off at preschool (he's now 3) for the financial DISposition we are in & how much I've missed - sorry, rephrase - we've missed out on through his upbringing, due to this.
    I applaude housewives with big huge cupped hand claps. You are all inspiring & when we are blessed with yet another Bud for Buddy, I hope to wear THAT position description with pride!!! Housewives everywhere UNITE! You should all be proud of everything you do & fight for a payrise - it only took the nurses 9months..... The government (& other institutions) should see it as a "real" job as it comes with a hell of a lot more resposibility, demands & challenges than any "paid income" I'm yet to come across.

  5. Y'all will love this article then:

  6. I was lucky to be able to stay at home with my babies when they were little but I never called myself a SAHM. The term should be 'Work From Home Mum' or 'Mothering At Home Mum'. It's tough!

    Parenting is the most important job we are given to do. My husband had our business to run so it was my job to keep the house and babies clean, nurture them and have a meal on the table at nights. I did my job. I was lucky to have many years home but eventually went back to work at our business.

    I take my hat off to all SAHM's!

    Cheers - Joolz

  7. Great post! I like to think of myself as a radical homemaker, and I'd like to write that on a form, but so far, only tick a box forms have come my way. We've come full circle as it seems, to be in the home again, but not in the same way as a "1950's housewife". We can relearn some of their skills, and leave the things that seem unnecessary (ironing underpants anyone? I don't iron many things at all). I've been making soap since I was 19, bread making for several years, gardening since I was a teenager. I take pride in my house, and I hand wash my dishes, but I air dry them, because life's too short to dry dishes in my opinion. I op shop, and have a ball doing it, knowing it saves resources, helps charities out, and helps our household budget. All of these thing are so satisfying to me, far more satisfying than working for the man. Oh, and I raise children too, 2 of them, little girls. One is now at school, in her op-shopped uniform. My nappy days have been over for about a year, but I found hanging nappies on the clothesline satisfying too, especially once they were being washed with the use of solar power, and dried in the sun. I will look back on these days with pride!

  8. All parenting books I've read say that you should put your marriage first - without a healthy marriage, how can you be a healthy parent? I totally agree and often find myself saying to my son, "That's my husband you are speaking to. Watch how you treat my husband." I think it's important that they know they are not the centre of the world, and that their mum and dad value their marriage (in the hope that they'll find wives who don't put them last!)
    Also, I work fulltime and have a high respect for housewives. The problem I face is that I still put dinner on the table, clean the house, discipline the kids, I'm just expected to do it in a couple of hours a day!! I know it's not an easy job, but make sure you appreciate your 'housewife' title - I hope I can borrow it one day :)

  9. I really want to thank you for this perspective on being a stay-at-home-mom! I live in Ukraine, and the predominant parenting philosophy here is to make the child the center of the universe. While I strongly object to this approach, at the same time, I can start to feel guilty that I don't drop everything every time one of my children wants something. On an instinctual level, I know that cooking nutritious meals from scratch, hanging and folding the laundry, and keeping the apartment reasonably clean are important activities, but I had never thought of them in terms of providing valuable stability for my children. Thank you for this refreshing perspective! (On a side note, though I sometimes feel guilty for the fact that my kids have to share me with the demands of being a housewife, I have never felt guilty that they have to share me with the demands of being a WIFE. My husband and I make it a point constantly to cultivate our marriage, even if that means that sometimes we have to tell the kids to look at a book quietly because Mommy and Daddy need some time alone. We know that in the long run, they'll thank us, because a happy marriage is the foundation of a happy home!)
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts,