Today, the term housewife holds a negative connotation. It either implies that the woman is wealthy--staying at home because she can afford to do so, and hiring a maid to help clean, a nanny to help care for her children and a gardener to help beautify her house--or else the woman is incredible old-fashioned and dominated by her husband--spending her days doing servants work. She is lazy, spending her days shopping and spending her husband’s money, or she is co-dependent and oppressed, lavishing over her husband who gives her nothing in return. Either way she is far too dependent on her husband for her own good.
To women who stay at home, these stereotypes are understandably hurtful and even outraging. A new term, one without the stereotypic undertones, was needed and the Stay-at-home wife/mom was born. The stay-at-home-wife, or SAHW stays at home so she can focus on her home, leaving more time for both parties to focus on their hobbies. She gardens, loves to cook, and keeps up on the household chores. She has time for friends and family. She is an active and charitable member of the community. The stay-at-home mom, or SAHM put her career on hold to raise her children. She’ll go back to work when the time is right, but meanwhile the family will do with less so the children can have a parent at home. Her entire focus is the children, chauffeuring them to a multitude of activities, and ensuring that their education readies them for their college career.
It all sounds quite complicated and very political--and in fact it is-- but it wasn’t always so. In the 1920-early 50’s, a housewife referred to a married woman who, rather than focusing on a career, fully took on the task of running her home--keeping both the home and her family organized and making sure that their- her husband her own and their children’s--nutritional, physical, and emotional needs were being met. She was important--invaluable even--to both her children and her husband. She did the shopping, and made every meal. She was frugal and ensured that the family lived within their means. If it was necessary, she worked, either doing odd jobs for others, making goods to sell, or even working outside her home, but still her family came first. She was working for her family, not working and having a family.
We’ve come a long way since then, and gained much--thanks to the feminist movement--but by I've begun to wonder if it was all really worth it. Sixty-eight percent of adults in this country are overweight or obese. Violence and sexual immoralities have exploded. The divorce rate lingers at 50%, and the number of single mothers is continually on the rise. Our children are growing up to be undereducated, selfish, indulgent, and entitled, while as a society we tell them that they deserve to have the best of everything and force them to accept an array of immoralities.
Take a look at the latest generation to reach adulthood. My peers are living at home because it is convenient, "Goodbye, living expenses; hello, life." They are paying off--or worse, avoiding--massive debts for the loans the took out to pay for degrees they either never obtained or do not intend on using (we went to college because it was next logical step, not because we had a career in mind). They are bankrupting themselves with credit cards that they have maxed-out bar-hopping, spring-breaking and looking trendy. They are putting off marriage and children, focusing instead on careers, friends, and fun. Those that struggle enough financially receive wel-fare checks and food stamps while chatting on their Iphones, surfing the internet on their laptops, and watching cable on their LCD 52” television sets.
Women, who swear by contraceptives and ridicule Natural family planning, end up single parents or worse, having an abortion--a baby would ruin their lives. The single mother works full time, struggling to provide for her children while their father is off pursuing the life he is entitled to. This one mistake shouldn't ruin his life. Still young, and deserving to have a normal life of relaxing, dating and having fun, some parents leave their children in the care of others so they can go out on the weekends and have fun with their friends. Husbands routinely leave their wives and children at home while they spend time with friends at the local bar. Then they wonder why their marriage seems to be falling apart.
Many women I know say they want to stay-at-home with their children, but can not afford to do so. The life they have always been told they ought to have comes with a hefty price tag. Other women say they want husbands and children eventually, but are not ready to give up their career and life to take care of them. Some men, having grown up with two working parents, can not begin to understand the benefits of a housewife, believing instead that they are lazy, gold digging and (gasp) not contributing members of the household.
I was a member of this mindset. I went to college and obtained a degree that I have no intention of using. I wanted the corner office, the big house full of new furniture in an up-and-coming neighborhood. I maxed-out credit cards living the typical college life. I quit things when I got bored with them. I took out extra college loans so that I could work less and party more. I ignored the bible verses that spoke about wives submitting to their husbands--they didn't apply to today, and laughed at the 1950’s Good Housekeeping housewife articles (they were ridiculous and sexist!), and then, I saw the light. I let go of my feminista ego--(an ongoing process), and began to understand what the bible was really saying.
In 80 years I will be gone and the career I could have had in event planning will not have been remembered. The nicer cars I could now be driving would be in a dump somewhere. But the daily impact I have on my husband and children through my sacrifice will live on in my children and my children's children. In light of eternity, the successful careers we may have during our 80-year life don't seem so important. It's the souls of our husbands, our children, and our children's children that matter.
What are you working for?