That’s what a friend once disdainfully called me. We were both young and recently married at the time, and unlike myself, she was frustrated with her efforts at home cooking. I don’t think she realized that what was intended as a pseudo-insult was, to me, a compliment. I’m quite content to be labeled Sally (or Suzy) Homemaker. In fact, I’ve aspired to it.
From childhood, I dreamed of being a wife, and a good one. So I learned to cook, clean, do laundry, and various other housekeeping tasks. Once I was married to the man of my dreams, I was serving up creamy homemade mashed potatoes, chicken parmigiana, various other homemade dishes, and learning how to make and perfect homemade pasta sauce, while standing by my resolve to never make anything from a box except StoveTop stuffing. I had all the basic kitchen gadgets, which I needed for my exploits in home cookery. My husband has never complained. To the contrary, after dinner every evening, he says, “Thank you. Dinner was very good.” What a darling man.
I do have a job outside the home, which, unfortunately, is necessary. Because of this, some evenings we eat leftovers, and our home is at times not completely up to my standards of neatness and cleanliness, though never a horror of disarray. I always say that if we did not need my income, I’d be a happy housewife, our home would be spotless, and dinner would be hot on the table at 5:30pm sharp. Some women are horrified by this idea. “Give up your career?!? What would you do all day? I’d go crazy.” Well, maybe you would go crazy, but I’d be in my glory.
The feminist movement, like many other human endeavors, started with benevolent intentions but has brought us to a sad state of affairs – we’ve simply exchanged old problems for new ones. The women of today have legal rights, can vote, own property, use birth control, and move to the top of the corporate ladder. But women working outside the home cannot raise their own children or spend as much time as they should with their families. They may find it necessary to hire outside help for housecleaning and childcare. Guilt sets in, because instead of healthy homecooked meals, they’re feeding their families take-out or Hamburger Helper because it is simply more convenient at the end of a long day. The babysitter knows the children better than the mother does. At a certain point, we went too far. Equal rights are one thing. Losing a quality family life and our identity as women is another.
When it comes down to it, have modern women truly achieved equal rights? Even when both spouses are working outside the home, often the woman is still expected – or expects herself – to be the primary caregiver for the children, as well as maintaining the rest of the housekeeping duties. Is that truly equal? I think not.
Then there are some who make the argument that because of the levels of education and career paths that are attainable for women today, a woman would be bored or wasting her time being “just a housewife.”
I’m sure the women who are fortunate enough to be in a position to choose the career of housewife would resent that deprecating term – “just a housewife.” I resent it. In our rapidly declining social structure, old-fashioned values are becoming a thing of the past, something to be repudiated in favor of new axioms. In this state of confusion, gender roles are beginning to reverse. More and more women are climbing the corporate ladder and men are becoming stay at home dads. Mom wears the pants, dad wears the apron. No wonder society is in a state of disorder!
Being a true housewife – not one of these dolts on a reality television show – requires skill, patience, and discipline. Keeping a home clean, organized and in good working order, cooking delectable nutritious meals, and raising clean, polite, educated, moral children constitute a full-time job. It is essential to the family’s well-being as a whole and is most definitely a métier that deserves appreciation, not belittling.
But unfortunately in today’s society, women seem to be hungry for corporate power, not for the time-honored position of wife, mother, and competent housekeeper. Search “June Cleaver” or “Donna Reed” on the Internet and you are sure to find plenty of disparaging remarks about both ideal housewives – the fictional TV character and the actress who portrayed a similar role.
I still proudly aspire to be Sally Homemaker. I still cook and bake from scratch. I clean my own home without the help of a maid or cleaning service. I am an avid knitter and enjoy many other “housewifely” crafts. I derive immense satisfaction from these accomplishments, even if others consider them menial. The career of housewife would provide fulfilment and validation for me, had I the circumstances to choose it. If finances were not the current matter of concern, I could easily turn my back on my current occupation, despite being quite proficient at it. I take pride in my skills as a homemaker, and embrace my full potential in a vital traditional role. I salute the women who choose this role full-time, thereby preserving at least a semblance of abiding family values.