Is there a stigma to being a housewife?

Jezebel sez yes.

Personally, I’ve always thought “housewife” is a dumb word. I mean, the wife isn’t precisely married to the house, now, is she? Just as “house husband” doesn’t mean the husband is in a legally-recognized union with a dwelling. But the point is well-taken, because the sentence “I’m a housewife” often includes the word “just.” Or someone who’s staying home adds quickly that while the children are young, while the degree is gained…why do we feel we have to qualify that, I wonder?

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33 responses to “Is there a stigma to being a housewife?

  1. There is. One of the first questions people ask when they meet you is: “What do you do?”
    “Clean up baby barf” or “Breastfeed my baby” or “Run my kids all over town after school” aren’t answers that the asker usually wants to hear.

    Some people see value in “Stay-at-home-Mom” as a reply and some look at you like you probably have nothing of value to say about the “real” world. I’d say there is a stigma.

    • But isn’t the movement about choice? That women (and men) have the choice to stay home and do what they will?

      • Mr Jac and I had equal jobs/careers going before the first baby was on it’s way. In fact, we worked for the same company, in the same office. I think my salary that last full year may have been more actually. But the first, I was pregnant and, obviously, he was not. I had the maternity leave and he did not. Although I went back to work until our second was born, I was the primary parent. Maybe I took that on or maybe there were assumptions made in our marriage, or maybe both. However, when I looked around, I saw no SAH Dads – only SAH Moms. I know of one Stay-At-Home-Dad, a friend who lives out of state and was my first cube-mate in my first big girl job. I guess there is choice, in theory. I don’t know why more women stay at home, but it is what happens. Maybe it has something to do with maternity leave for the mom and not the dad. ?? I guess there is choice to go back to work or not if you can swing it financially. If it’s decided a parent will stay home to raise the kids, I think the choice is about whether mom is willing to do that.

        • The First Mr. DJ stayed home with our son for a variety of reasons. He hated his job, I was making more (and loved my job) and he wanted to paint and that would give him time, or so he thought. Obviously, once he was home he saw how much time it takes to raise a child and he wasn’t able to paint as much as he’d hoped, but he had and has a really good (from my perspective, anyway) relationship with his son and I think it has a lot to do with that early time he spent at home with him.

          • That made sense to do it that way. Did he find any other stay at home dads? SAHMs network and I bet it’s more difficult for dads that stay home to find support.

            • He did not. I think that must have made it very very hard and it’s been a looong time ago, but I remember him being a committed and caring father during that time (other times, too).

              • It might be different in areas that have a larger “counter-culture,” like Northampton etc.

                • True.

                  • Back to your original question about qualifying time spent at home with the kids…it’s not earning money and that in some way devalues the work involved. It shouldn’t, but that’s the sense I got. What do you think?

                    • datingjesus

                      That sounds right, that if you’re not bringing in a paycheck, the work somehow doesn’t count. That feeds all kinds of dynamics, too. If you ARE out in the work force, but you’re not bringing in a BIG paycheck, that counts against you, too. Better that work is considered work, regardless.

  2. Mario Saccoccio

    Men and woman look at work differently. Most men seem to define themselves by their jobs, while most woman look at a job as just something that they do. Being a stay at home Mom today also takes on a new meaning as many women can work from home. But that means that they can potentially have two jobs, if hubby won’t help with the job of running a home. If that’s the case, some women who work at home are divorce attorneys.
    Raising children in your home is a noble and satisfying endeavor for many folks, but whatever you choose, there will always be a stigma.
    Hey, that’s what some people do…stigma-tize us!

  3. “…while most woman look at a job as just something that they do.”

    Laydeez, whaddya think? Does this describe your attitude about your job or no?

    • Not me, but I just may be weird.

    • Nope, not me. I’ve always defined myself to a large degree by my job. Sometimes maybe too much so. My first full-time job out of college, my whole life revolved around work, even my social life. If anyone asked me what I “was,” I’d have said ‘engineer.’ Now I’d say ‘librarian.’ I’m aware that my life has other dimensions, but in the tension between ‘being’ and ‘doing,’ ‘doing’ has usually won out. One of these days, Real Soon Now, I’m going to devote more time to just ‘being.’

  4. I like how you used the word “just” in the opening of this string. Nobody ever says “I just practice medicine, or I am just a lawyer…or I just write.”

    One of my favorite classes to teach is interviewing. Since most of my students are 18-25 years old I often catch them saying “Oh my background is just fast food, or just retail.” Luckily these are mock interviews and we can work on improving their answers. Besides, fast food and retail are both very tough and demanding jobs at times-you don’t make a lot of money and you must work hard each day.

    There is dignity in all work.

    • Amen to that. I don’t care if you’re pumping gas or flipping burgers, you’re doing something important. And you’re not just doing something so the important people can do their important stuff, either. I bet you can get in there and change attitudes, Todd, and rock on.

  5. I hope you have a rocking birthday and Mr. DJ takes you to your favorite restaurant and the whole wait staff sings Happy Birthday to you!

    Have lots of cake and ice cream!

    • Oh, boy. I really hope my restaurant visit doesn’t involve getting sung to.

      • I think I’d rather have a root canal and spinal tap performed on me at the same time rather to be sung to on my birthday in a public place.

        • Same here. I truly hate it. I never know where to look.

          • Is truly is an eye contact thing…it’s like when you are walking down the street (or into your local Stop and Shop) with only a couple of bucks in your pocket and you are in serious need of a cup of coffee…then you are asked for money by a stranger (some cause or guy looking to score)…once you make eye-contact…you are cooked.

            • Yep. Better just to hand it over. Sometimes, they give you a story for the money and that’s well worth it.

  6. Housewives or househusbands do get to take breaks in their workday…perhaps some caught this episode of The View:

    http://snarkandboobs.wordpress.com/2010/07/28/obama-and-a-moronic-room-with-a-view/

  7. Difficult topic for me. I was raised to be a Christian “helpmeet” (housewife for a Godly man and his children). The mantra was: Women don’t work. They serve God by making a house into a home.

    Bucking this upbringing and going to college and later having real jobs (even, at times, while being a mother) was both difficult and liberating.

    Now I’m a SAHM due to the pressures of everyday life, small children, the reality of the job market vs. the cost of day care, etc. and most days deeply unhappy, as Vegas knows from some of our emails.

    I never know what to say when people ask me what I do. I think I give a different answer every time, and none of them feel satisfactory.

    I HATE when I answer “SAHM” and the person replies “Good for you!” The tone is so condescending – they are one step away from saying, “Good girl!”

    • As much as I love time with my kids, I think I k now what you mean. I got to a point when it hit me that I was an enabler in that I enabled the other people in my family to be out in the real world. The stigma is self-imposed, too, when you expected more from yourself.

    • I have a friend who was a SAHM and you know how she answered “So what do you do?” She said, “I am raising citizens.” That shut ’em up, or that thrilled them. I’ve seen the conversation go both says, but the thing is, she was doing something incredibly important. I know that I hadn’t the patience (or the indefinable thing you need to lead children all day) to stay at home. I could say we needed the money, but friends of mine stayed home (male and female, including my own first Mr. DJ who, looking back, really needed a break from the work-world). I, on the other hand, wanted to be a journalist, and I never felt too guilty about that. Maybe I’m lying to myself, but my work enhances me as a person, as does being a mother, and I had a job I made into something flexible so I was there more than you might imagine. I don’t know how my sons feel about that. My oldest is married to a SAHM and it works for them.

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