Labour of a housewife

Right In The Middle

How many people say, “I’m just a banker”, or “I’m just a lawyer”? It seems to be only housewives who denigrate themselves into an apology for not having a ‘proper’ job.
These people do not know the results of a British government study that: while full time employees put in a total weekday workload of 56 hours, housewives put in 76 hours, with no regular work timings, pay (let alone overtime), fringe benefits, pension or any of the other accoutrements others always strike for.

For many, the word ‘housewife’ has the overtones of second class citizens, with no opportunities for financial independence, intellectual stimulation or social interaction. That we multi-task better is admitted.

We are teachers in whose hands the intellectual, physical and emotional well-being of the next rulers of the world rests. We are medical experts who know when our family needs a soothing hand or a dash to the ER of the nearest hospital.

We need to know how to remove from a freshly cleaned floor two hours before a company party. We need to be counsellors to repair the fragile self-esteem of a face with a fresh crop of pimples before a date.

We are diplomats who need to broker peace with the finesse of a tightrope walker, culinary experts putting together a hearty midnight snack for six starving teenagers, social secretaries who juggle the impossible diaries of two teenagers and their frustrated father.

Today there are gadgets to take the tedium of chores away. Also opportunities for stimulation are endless — music lessons, classes of all kinds, gyms sprouting up at every street corner, volunteering choices. I know of jewellery designers, seamstresses, potters, counsellors, writers, all working from home and enjoying it.

Some actually make that choice with full awareness. Our older daughter gave up her highflying career to become a mother. But she took care of herself by becoming a classical pianist, an avid gardener, tennis player and volunteer on boards with meaningful programmes. The glow of satisfaction on her face when she sees her two contented well-rounded children is priceless. She is paying a price financially, but there is no discontent.

Nigella Lawson is supposed to have coined the word ‘domestic goddess’ for housewives. However, I’d be happy removing the word ‘just’ when describing ourselves — housewives, homemakers, mothers, wives — and be proud of that.

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