The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding.
When I clean, cook, or wear an apron, I feel like a housewife. Probably if you have done these activities, you have felt domestic as well (or else harassed by somebody feeling domestic). And despite all the respect I hold for housewives everywhere, I instinctively recoil at the thought of a friend or stranger labeling me “housewife.” I deny it vehemently, like Peter on the night Jesus was betrayed—three times I say, “I know no such label.” Call me student, call me nerd, call me academic, call me outdoorsy, call me overly diligent, call me perfectionist, call me friend, daughter, sister, obsessed, overachiever, writer, blogger, even lazy, lackadaisical, loony. Just don’t call me a housewife, don’t think of my bathroom-scrubbing activities as domestic, don’t look at my love of baking as sweetly feminine. I can’t stomach the idea of being a housewife; never could, not from the first time Eric Mill told me two years ago that by decorating the apartment with crepe paper I was behaving “like a housewife.”
Yet what have housewives (or househusbands, not to leave those diligent dads out) done to deserve this stigmatization? What heinous, Hitleresque crime demands I to wash my hands of the title? And I must answer “None,” for housewives have done no worse than anybody else in the world, and possibly have done more good than many people. They have devoted their lives to family, to sacrificing self for others, to volunteering time and energy for commendable causes, to staying up with a vomiting five-year-old, to listening to made-up dreams at the breakfast table, to sopping up spilled milkshakes from the car’s carpet, to agonizing over a hurting teen’s silence, to driving rush-hour traffic for after-school carpool, to a thousand and one other valuable things. What in that list repels me so?—aside from the idea of staying up half the night with vomitous offspring, of course. If I could aspire to propagate great good in my life, I should be honored to accept the title “housewife.”
Perhaps the stigma comes from overeducated feminist propaganda that has seeped into our society, saying that men and women have equal rights to slog off at 7:00 am and spend eight hours out of every 24 breadwinning. Call me crazy, but bread-baking sounds significantly more appealing to me than having two weeks of vacation a year, commuting for goodness-only-knows how many hours, and sitting at a desk to bask in more monitor-glow. In fact, one might argue that a housewife’s lot is luxurious; she spends her time essentially as she pleases, with not so many plaguing demands, and her husband supports her totally. Even having acknowledged this possibility (and I also acknowledge that housewives often are at least as run off their feet as the husbands who “work” all day), still the idea of being labeled “housewife” causes me to cringe.
Perhaps it’s my education—that I’ve spent over $100,000 over four years to learn Technical, Scientific and Professional Communications, and by George, I’m going to get my money’s worth out of that degree! I’m going to make money with that degree, in fact. Wave it in employers’ faces and say, “Hey, look, I’ve got a 3.9 GPA in TSPC. Hire me! Make me feel useful!” What kind of waste would I propagate by staying at home, keeping the apartment decently neat (I abhor a mess, although you mightn’t guess it, as nature abhors a vacuum), and volunteering for an environmental nonprofit organization?
Perhaps it’s the belief that if you don’t get a salary, your job doesn’t mean as much. But that denigrates unfairly the work of thousands, even millions, of devoted volunteers around the world. Who’s to say volunteering is less worthy than a job? Money’s the difference; the value of a job is measured in its salary, benefits packages, what-have-you. How does one place value on a volunteer’s job, quantify the benefit of a parent staying at home with children? Economic concerns aside, what’s the difference between volunteering and working?
Clearly, housewivery has more going for it than a person might credit it. As my esteemed mother said, “It’s the opportunity to sit around, watch soaps, and eat bon-bons.” And in all honesty, who wouldn’t want that?
…For those of you who made it that far, don’t forget to change the link for my blog to the new URL: http://kf.rainydaycommunications.net/journal/