Thursday, July 27, 2006

It is wonderful to be a housewife!

It is no secret that I love being a housewife, but yesterday was one of those days when I was truly grateful to be one. My husband, G, was driving down to London for business, and offered my son, A, and I a ride. London was our home for five years and I always find it strange going back as a tourist. My relationship with London has always been a special one. When I was a child it was a place with mythical significance, a magical place I always wanted to go. My earliest books were about London and included rhymes about the “rosy cheeks of the little children”. When I finally visited London for the first time in 1985 I fell head over heels in love with it. A return visit in 1987 cemented my ardour, and when I immigrated to England in 1989 I determined that London was definitely the place to live. For five years I called it home.

Anyway, back to why I was so grateful to be a housewife yesterday. Because G had offered A and I a ride, we were able to go and be tourists for the day. Of course, there is an advantage to being a tourist that knows the underground like the back of her hand, with a son who has a pretty good handle on it as well. It was wonderful. If I had not been a housewife I would most likely not have been able to drop everything and just go. As it was, I did, and we had a fantastic day. There is nothing like being your own boss, able to do as you will. Okay, there are often restrictions, schedules and obligations, but when you are in charge and just a little bit organised, there is little that cannot be juggled to allow you a blissful day out.

Our first stop was the Victoria and Albert Museum, which, I’m ashamed to say, I had not visited since 1987. A had visited two years ago with school, and took great delight in showing me around the place. It was incredible. I particularly enjoyed the exhibits of fashion through the ages, and Princess Diana’s lovely dress with all the seed pearls on it took my breath away. The multi-coloured blown glass chandelier in the entry way wasn’t bad either! We then walked to Hyde Park and made our way to Kensington Palace. It was a long hot walk, but well worth it. This time, it was my turn to show A around. Things had changed a lot since my last visit though and there was so much more to see. It was absolutely super, if a bit mind-bendingly hot. The odd strategically placed fan did help matters, but I felt terribly sorry for the stewards who could not look forward to getting outside as soon as we could. The photographs of Diana, Princess of Wales by Mario Testino were incredible. I had seen them in Vogue when they were first published all those years ago, but seeing them framed and life-size was just amazing. Being allowed to walk through Princess Margaret’s apartments was a bit strange. They are almost empty and one had the feeling of perhaps being somewhere one ought not to be. It was almost as if she might walk back in at any moment and ask what on earth you were doing. It was a strange feeling, but it was really nice to be allowed to walk through them.

Of course, for A and I, a visit to London is rarely complete without a trip to Harrods for one of their most marvellous ice creams in the Georgian Restaurant. Harrods was (blissfully) air conditioned which was so welcome after our long walks. A spot of shopping and it was time to join G for dinner at Pizza Express. A super end to a lovely day.

I really am grateful for the flexibility that being a housewife allows me. I think it is this flexibility that we as 21st Century Housewives have to embrace. So often we allow ourselves to feel swamped by obligations and schedules. It is so easy to become rigid and trapped in a prison of our own making. This is silly. A little flexibility can go an awfully long way, and allows you to grab some fantastic experiences with both hands. There is a lot to be said for spontaneity and yesterday really taught me a lesson. When I found out today G was scheduled to be in London one day next week, I juggled our diaries round and A and I are going with him again. Another adventure awaits the 21st Century Housewife!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Who is the 21st Century Housewife?

I’ve had a website www.21stcenturyhousewife.com for years with a blog within in, but I’ve never had a blog quite like this before.

I am the 21st Century Housewife. I love being a housewife and I am good at it. I am not “good at it” in the sense that my house is spotless and there is a cake baking in the oven (I should be so lucky!) However, I am good at it in the sense that I enjoy making a home for myself and my family, and they enjoy the fact that I do that for them. Like many housewives today, I know what it is like to juggle the demands of family, career and home. It is stressful sometimes, but I love it.

I believe housewifery is as much a career as any other profession. Those of us who are housewives, and society as a whole, need to recognise that. There are always exceptions to every rule, but in general in this century it is very rare for housewifery to be a career that is imposed on someone, it is most often a choice. Yet even though we have chosen this path, many housewives today feel they are somehow less than “enough” and that they are not fulfilling their true potential. Part of the reason for this is that society very rarely gives credit where credit is due in the case of housewives. They are more prone to belittle women who have chosen this path. However, I believe it is possible to fulfil one’s true potential through the craft of housewifery, and that rather than considering ourselves to be “just housewives” we ought to feel quite proud of what we do. In this post-modern culture, where the home is becoming even more central and important to our society, housewives still have an important role to play.

What has been lost is not only an honouring of the craft that homemakers pursue. If that sounds old-fashioned I do not mean it to be, nor do I espouse some frighteningly dated vision of the ‘perfect’ stereotypical 1950’s housewife wearing a twin set and pearls. Nor do I believe that every woman should be a housewife. No one should let anyone else choose their career for them. It is important to point out however that most housewives are, in most cases, well-educated and independent women who have worked outside the home as well as in it.

The thing that drives me absolutely mad is when housewives describe themselves as “just a housewife”. No one is “just” an anything. Our career requires us to be on call twenty-four hours a day every single day of the year. It requires a skill set so varied and constantly changing that it would reduce most high-flying executives to tears. In any given day I have been required to be a project manager, diplomat, child care worker, nurse, psychologist, chef, chauffeur, interior designer, party planner, financial manager, social secretary, electrician, repair person and change management expert, often all before lunchtime. How can anyone but a professional do that? I truly believe we should describe ourselves as Professional Housewives. This would go a long way towards eliminating the two most dreaded questions that often follow someone describing themselves as a housewife I’m referring of course to the ever popular “Aren’t you bored?” and “What on earth do you do all day?” questions. I believe these are extremely rude and indicate a complete ignorance of the craft that housewives pursue. Very few people ever ask me these questions anymore, as I am in the habit of telling them exactly what I do do all day (see above!) and suggesting that if they could be bored doing all of those things they must be quite strange people indeed!

I believe that once housewives start to honour themselves and their craft, that society as a whole will follow suit. Of course, you will always get the odd ignoramus, but that is unavoidable. In the meantime though, it is important for housewives themselves to honour themselves and their craft, and take every opportunity possible to develop within it. Heaven knows, there are lots of them!