Not long ago, a friend of mine was marveling that her grandmother raised nine kids and was still able to keep a clean house, cook three ginormous meals a day, and do other grandmotherly things like mending stuff. It made me think of my own grandma; she only raised two kids, but from as far back as I can remember, she's been at it like a workhorse from pre-dawn until dusk. Cleaning, sewing, gardening, canning, and cooking - massive, hearty meals, even at breakfast, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. And though she may be shiny with sweat or covered by garden gloves and a sun hat, she is always dressed from the time she gets out of bed. My grandpa has been gone for almost three years now, so her daily demands have lessened considerably - but Grandma still moves around the house and yard with purpose, just as she has for nearly her entire life.

This really got me thinking. I see these women, my predecessors, as almost superhuman in their freakish capacity to get stuff done. I feel triumphant if I catch up on the laundry (for like two hours, until the hamper miraculously refills itself). My grandma hung hers out on the line and still had it caught up every day. I have a dishwasher, but there are times when the dishes still pile up in my sink. Grandma never had a dishwasher, but it's rare to find more than a dirty glass and a fork in her sink. I think all of our "convenient" technology has kinda made us lazy, but there's another reason - and I just put my finger on it last night - why I can't seem to get it all together like Grandma.

I'm not as proud of it as she is.

Think about it. A housewife was once something that most little girls wanted to be - and what they were encouraged to be. They weren't looked down on for that choice. As the women of that school of thought ran their Hoover attachments over the curtains and cooled pies on the window sill, they didn't feel like they were wasting their lives, that there was some other, higher calling they should be pursuing. They didn't need to aspire to more, because they already felt that they were in a perfectly honorable profession. So they took more pride in it. They got more done. They didn't slouch around in their sweats, avoiding the mounting laundry pile like the plague, too overwhelmed to know where to start. Why do we start neglecting things? Because we aren't proud of them anymore.

When people ask me what I do, I say, "I'm a writer." Yes, that's true - I do write and I do make a pittance an income with it. But I spend far more time mothering my kids and taking care of my home than I do writing, so really, my primary job is housewife. (Yes, that's an archaic term, but I like it better than "stay-at-home-mom," so that's what I use.) I do not readily admit this, hiding instead behind the title of my part-time job.

It's just because people so harshly misjudge women that choose to stay home. They're seen as bonbon-eating, soap opera-watching, mooching-off-their-husbands leeches. Either that, or as too stupid or lazy or unambitious to "make their own way" in the world. And that's part of the reason I get less done, I think - because in this day and age, it's hard to be proud of yourself for doing something that many people think is "beneath you" or easy. Besides that (or perhaps because of that?) it's pretty thankless. There's very little recognition or praise: no boss patting you on the back for a job well done, no promotions or commissions or award ceremonies for your hard work. Whatever the reason, when you don't feel good about what you do, you tend to half-ass it, no matter what profession you're in. Apathy is the enemy of productivity.

The more I think about it, the more it pisses me off. Why should I - or any other housewife, or SAHM or whatever you want to call it - be ashamed? I can honestly say that I was born for this, that it's what I always wanted to do. Some people want to be doctors. Some people want to be scientists, teachers, or athletes. They show interest in their profession from childhood, and I was no different. I wanted to be a wife and a mom; when I played, I wore high heels and pretended to cook and clean and cuddle babies and kiss my imaginary husband when he returned from work. I threw my heart into the dream that someday, this wonderful play world would be my reality. Then I was made to feel bad about it by the well-meaning "encouragement" of teachers and authority figures to go out and get an advanced degree ... pursue some lofty ambition ... anything but turn in my brain for an apron. Heaven forbid I "waste" one ounce of potential.

After high school I went to a women's college where feminism was highly praised, and felt isolated by the girls around me. They couldn't wait to hold elevated positions and public offices and own companies and win Nobel prizes ... and I couldn't wait to marry my boyfriend (who is now my husband) and establish a home. I was sure there was something wrong with me, that my lack of career focus was a critical flaw. I didn't stop to think that I indeed had a focus - it was just much more personal than professional.

Does this mean I'm suggesting that all women should aspire to this? No way. Not even. This isn't the fifties. There's no such thing as "a woman's place" any more; a woman should be doing whatever she damn well wants to do with her life, whether it's raising babies or creating software or lobbying for foreign policy reform. I'm not saying anybody should take on a subservient role and time her casserole to be done at the precise moment she finishes rubbing her husband's feet and fetching him his slippers and the evening paper. (Barf.) I'm just saying that women who have a proclivity toward all things domestic shouldn't be made to feel "less than" because of it.

Nothing makes me feel better than to transform my home into a warm, inviting haven for the people I love. And that's a full-time job, and it's hard, and it's nothing to be ashamed of. I may not be changing the world, but I'm enriching the lives of the most important people in my world, and that in turn makes my life more satisfying. I'm not missing out on a thing. That's the point.

Anyway, starting right now, I'm going to remember that my status is something to be proud of ... that the massive responsibility of keeping up a home and a family, when done properly, is hard work. That "I stay at home" isn't a statement that needs to be hastily followed up with, "but I'll probably be getting a job within the next couple of years." There is no apology necessary for striving to be the best wife, the best mother, that I can be - or for wanting my family's surroundings to be cozy and secure and wonderful. And once I realize that, I think it'll be a whole hell of a lot easier to give it my all.


  1. You can say that again! (Or maybe just paraphrase) ;)
    You know, I actually always wanted to be a housewife, too. My second choice was to be a secretary. I wrote about it in 6th grade and Mr. Okruch told me I was too smart to be a housewife or secretary, so I gave it up right then and there. Honestly, I would rather be one of those things right now than a high school counselor.
    I love everything you said in this blog and I'll have to let my grandma know what a great "housewife" you are...and proud of it!

  2. Thanks Jenn! You know, I keep thinking about this topic. It really got under my skin. Why is America so hostile to housewives sometimes? What about it is so much less honorable than any other profession? I can understand that there ARE indeed women who do it solely because they're too lazy to work or something like that - but there are negligent doctors and incompetant lawyers, too, yet their whole profession isn't colored by that stereotype.

    To anyone else, I'd love to hear alternate opinions! Please feel free to chime in, even if you disagree!

  3. I have to commend you on doing what seems as the toughest job out there! And i fully agree that people, be it woman or man, that stay home to take care of their families are shunned by society. i'm barely working part time now and people give me shit for it. but i'm at home playing "wife" and getting things done that used to stay on the back burner when we both worked full time. i don't see why people would rather both parents work full time and have someone else raising their children. i understand that finances play a huge part but sometimes if people wouldn't care so much about lavish ammenities, new tvs & cars and care more about their family & quality time with them, this country wouldn't have it's head so far up its ass. just saying;)

  4. LOL! I couldn't have said it better myself, Amy!

  5. You are your mother's daughter, for sure! All I ever wanted to do was raise a family and keep house. And I was fortunate enough to be able to do that when you kids were young.

    Yes, I'm proud of my college degree. Graduating was an accomplishment I needed, just to prove to myself I wasn't stupid. (But that's another story!) But that degree has never, ever brought me the same satisfaction as reading to a child or grandchild, or the smell of a clean house or a good meal.

    And you ARE changing the world. You're preparing your children to be responsible citizens and good human beings, just as I did. Watching all you kids become loving parents has been my greatest reward, and I'm so proud of you and your siblings! Well done!

  6. Yep, you were one of those housewives I always wanted to be. I blame you for this! ;)

  7. YES, I completely agree that it is completely ridiculous for society to shun housewives who have the most important job as stated above (and I will restate it because I feel very strongly about it), raising good human beings and instilling good values in them, not placing focus on material objects and money!

  8. P.S. that is not to say that a working mother cannot instill good values but I think it is a tough job either way.

  9. You should be proud of it....many people in my family were housewives & there isn't anything to be ashamed of....I wanted to be that growing up too but darn it, I'm missing a husband & child??? lol therefore I have to work - believe me what you do is far more fullfilling than what I do.

  10. Yes, I'm a bit behind in replying but this blog got me thinking. I believe you've hit the nail on the head so to speak. You may remember what a total and utter slob I was, (with 30 years experience mind you). But I had an epiphany at the beginning of this year. Long story short. I began to take pride in my home and my role in it. My house has been "company ready" EVERY SINGLE day since. Its a shocker I know, some folks even think I was abducted and altered by aliens. I've even removed my "call first or you aren't coming in rule" /GASP

  11. I know this is post is so old that you may not even be aware that you are getting a new comment but I could not pass up thanking you for posting this. I have been a housewife and stay at home mom for the entire 10 years that my son has been in existence (from pregnancy on) and have been doing my best to take on other noble tasks (writing, in-home daycare, night classes etc.) so that when people ask what I do I can say something other than "stay at home mom or housewife" all due to the looks I get from people that think I should be more. I am tired of being ashamed of myself for taking damn good care of my family. I may have 75 college credits but I don't have a degree in anything because I've always put my family first knowing that when my son is older, or I am older and my husband makes enough money that my tiny income of babysitting isn't needed as much I can focus on a career and do something special for myself only to prove to myself that I'm not an idiot and I didn't make a poor choice getting married young (21) and following my husband 6 yr Navy stint...pretty sure that was the longest run-on sentence I've ever wrote but you have stated what I have wanted to put into words for so long. Why am I so ashamed that I take care of my family and make $4,000 a year when it is ultimately what I've always wanted to do? Because all of my friends have Masters degrees and are making between $90,000-$250,000 and they act as if I'm needing a "career". I have never expressed these feelings of resentment to anyone; I'm sorry to have unloaded on you. I just wanted to thank you for helping me figure out why I am the way I am and why I feel like I do everything half*ssed and am never truly able to be myself. Because I'm not proud. I've been told (through looks or small comments) that I should strive to be "more". With your permission I would like to reference your post with a link in an upcoming post I intend to do. Thanks again.

  12. We have so much in common. I'm about to have my second child and I am a stay-at-home mom with a part time job. Everything you said rings true and it was something I needed to hear! We gain so much more, to be home with our children.

  13. Yes! Yes! Yes! I always wanted to be a housewife too. And I was, for a while, but now that I work, I still consider it my most important job. Your dream scenario is mine. Made up, well dressed, sparkly house and a hot, nutritious aroma-to-knock-you-dead meal served to the two people I love more than anything! Yes, housewifery shouldn't be looked down on any more than any other job, and who said it doesn't take brain power?

  14. Loved reading this! Especially the part about taking pride in what you do and this:
    I may not be changing the world, but I'm enriching the lives of the most important people in my world, and that in turn makes my life more satisfying.

  15. Sorry, I wasn't done. My app froze or something. I was gonna say that by giving your kids a great childhood you are changing the world on many more levels than by doing some BS job that comes with a nice title and a company car.
    In case you're wondering... I work part-time. Best of both worlds. Or not able to committ and dedicate myself fully to one? Haha!


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