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!

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