8 Feb 2007

"But many women go out to work and the home is still looked after, the children cared for, and the meals prepared; so who needs a stay-at-home manager? Perhaps this is why people don't regard home management as a job, in that it seems the duties of a housewife are done irrespective of whether the woman stays home full-time or not.... The main benefit of a full-time home manager is to remove some of the hassles of everyday living for her family, while still maintaining her own identity and developing as an individual. She can provide emotional support, a more relaxed lifestyle for her family, and spend more time on relationships. Her job is not essential , but it is a wonderful luxury that an extra income cannot necessarily provide. She can give time, which is perhaps one of today's most precious commodities."

"How To Be A Professional Housewife" by Louise Brazenor 1987

This is from a little book I found today at the library. It seems quite a sensible book , its main theme is that if you are going to stay home full-time then you need to really own your job, accept the responsibilities that go with the job and give your self guidelines so you know what is expected both by you and your partner. She gives suggestions to make sure you are leading a well rounded life and not being a household drudge.

This was a strange contrast to a couple of little books I found yesterday that we studied in Social Psychology back in the early 70s. The focus of these books was the breakdown of old stereotypes and the infinite possibilities if we allow ourselves to go down these new paths. The books seemed to be especially negative about the life of the full-time homemaker, almost a fate worse than death.

I don't remember what I thought when we were studying these things. I think perhaps as a 15 year old I was so far removed from the idea of marriage and babies that I didn't think about it too much. I was too busy thinking about how to get a boy to like me to worry about fighting for women's rights.

When you read the 70s feminist articles, and read books like "The Female Eunuch" and "The Women's Room" it's easy to think that they were a bit over the top but it is often necessary to go a long way in one direction in order to achieve small changes. As a woman who came of age in the late 70s I had all the benefits of a good education and I was lead to believe the world was there to be taken as long as I didn't choose the mummy path.

As women we can make all kinds of choices about how we live our lives. Many years ago the only real choice was house wife and that choice was respected. Over the past few decades the choice which gained the most respect was any job as long as it was out of the home and paid work. Hopefully we are entering a time of maturity when both choices can be respected and when real choice is available. We pass through many phases in our lives, many of us will move in and out of the work force several times. Our main aim should be to do our best for our partners and children as well as ourselves.

6 Responses to “ ”

  1. When I was a teenager I found it immmensly necessary to fight for women´s rights, having babies and a husband and staying at home was so very far away (as you´ve said) that at first I wanted to study and get a good job and earn a lot of money, the same way men are planning their lives - but I think every girl at this time had this kind of self-realization in mind. The bad thing was not to be a staying-at-home-mum, the bad thing was that housewives were often very worldly innocent. It was enough to make a good jam, to have a clean living room and proper borders in the garden. No music, no art, no books, no interest in politics. But it wasn´t their fault, it was the way the world and men wanted them to be. And if they were working, they gained a much lesser wage for the same work as men, and the whole housekeeping layed on their shoulders, too. So the feminists were so right to waken up the whole world. Even the men changed and now a lot of them are doing housework together with their wives.
    Now we nearly have our rights, and we can choose whether to go to work or stay at home. But our houses and keeping them tidy and nice is not so much work anymore than it was for our mothers and grandmothers. We have machines everywhere, a lot of ready-made-meals are available and the kids have computers and the TV to enjoy themselves. This is not my way but a lot of families are living it. So it is no wonder that also a lot of people are thinking being a housewife is the easiest and most
    laizy job. And beside growing up the children, which is the most important reason for staying at home, don´t we have the best job in the world? No boss behind us, nearly no time limits, a lot of time for knitting and sewing and blogging. Who else can say on a sunny day "the housework can also wait till tomorrow, today I will just sit in the sun and watch the butterflies"?

  2. I believe the ultimate feminist ideal is to be able to do as one desires, rather than be pigeonholed to work if you don't want to, or indeed stay at home if you want to work. As women we should all have the chance to make a choice. Many women do lead happy working and home lives, but there is also a place for men, in this day and age, to run a household too. A fabulous book called Ironing John: The Houseworm's Tale is a true story about a man who gives up his job to become the House-husband (or as he calls it "houseworm") ~ very good and very funny!

    In the end it is all about what makes you happy.

  3. Jenny, I typed a really long response to this post but thought it unfair to hog the comment section. I've distilled it down for your reading pleasure!He, he, he.

    The political, eduational and career opportunities that women have today were hard fought and are a blessing and I would never debate that.

    However, the major failings of the 20th centuray feminist movement are thus.

    First, it was largely a middle class movement; working class women aligned themselves with the suffragist and the early socialist movement rather than the suffragettes, some of whom did not want the vote to go to working class women. In the 1960 and 1970s feminists were concerned with attaining parity within academia and the prefessions. Working class women have always worked and the work has always been really crappy. Too few feminist past and present have addressed this issue properly. The role of SAHM was seen as an ideal for many of working class women, yet that was the role middle class feminists so demonised.

    Secondly, the feminist movement never really addressed womens' natural role as mother. Motherhood was too often seen as a shackle by the movement or to be conveniently avoided by the creation of centralised and excellent creches and nurseries. The bottom line is, for most women leaving your child in the care of another (poorly paid) woman at the age of six months is a heartbreaking and terrible process. This issue has never been properly addressed. Interestingly, middle classs women have always given their children to nannies and put them in boarding school...again the early feminists forgot about the rest of us!

    Thirdly, I don't think many women have the choice to stay at home nowadays. Work is thrust upon us as a necessity. Consumer spending rules! You're downright unpatriotic if you don't earn enough to spend, spend, spend!!! Ironically, an egalitarian and liberal movement best serves capitalism (at the moment).

    So, if an average woman, with an average earning partner, wants to SAH and take care of her kids it takes a moumental life change. It takes moving against the prevailing zeitgeist where material goods do not define you! Wow! That is not an easy choice and no woman's choice has ever been easy.


    Your dear blogchum P&S (class warrior turned eco-worrier)

  4. Krawuggl, I agree we have the best job in the world and perhaps we can really appreciate it because we have been able and willing to make this choice rather than following along with the majority.

    Vintage Pretty, my husband and I spent some time with me as the bread winner and he was at home. We also had a time when we both worked part time and shared the homemaking role. Basically we did what ever we had to so that our children didn't have to spend time in childcare. The both working part time scenario was what we decided we wanted before we were married because of our feminist education and our sense of equality and justice. In my heart of hearts once I became a mother I always wanted to be the one who stayed home and I resented having to work and then felt guilty that I wasn't living up to our ideals.

    P&S,Great comment. I agree with so much you have written. Ofcourse even the concept of having a choice is a middle class preoccupation but I know many working class women who have their lives pretty well sorted. These particular women have jobs that don't require much more than physical effort and a cheery disposition and certainly don't demand lots of out of hours work or planning. They do their work and then forget about it and go home to their families.They often have quite diverse interests and work is just a small part of what they do. I'm not talking about the working poor, just women with basic highschool education married to men with a similar background who I would think of as working class.

  5. My mother worked SIX days a week in a very physical job in a printing factory before I was born (she was 38) while my dad only worked a 5 day work in an office. Guess who had higher education? My dad of course. I have a degree and a post-grad diploma, and my husband just has a degree but he has his own business, while I've stayed home sime the kids were born (7 years now). And LOVE it. Financially it is tight at times, but if I have an urge to spend I just take $10 to the local op shop -) The children do not lack for anything and are happy and well-adjusted. I'm rarely rushed or stressed, and if my son and I want to take an hour to walk the 1 km home from school to look at every beetle in our path we do so. I'm so glad there are other people out there who feel the same, even though I do know a couple of women who are at home, they are planning to work when their kids are at school, and I can see myself being thought of as rather odd :-)

  6. Totally agree with you. I grew up in a home where both parents worked 50+ hours per week. Work is highly valued in my parents' house. And of course I now work full time as a single woman. But I have dreams of having a family and raising my children as my full-time job. Someday!


Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I don't always have time to reply but I do read every message you leave.