Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Social Stigma of a Childless Housewife

After my first month as a housewife, I am taking the opportunity to reflect on what has been the most challenging part of my new job: social stigmas of childless housewives including resentment, confusion, and judgment.

The first major misconception of childless housewives is that I have a lot of free time. I'm pretty sure an hour a day isn't "a lot" for most people. I actually have about the same amount of free time now as I did when I was working full time, partly because I choose to keep busy most days. Without a proper income, my financial contribution is by finding ways to save money or do things myself instead of paying someone else. Yesterday was a "light" work day, and I didn't sit down until 3:00pm. That's when I started into my French lessons (on Duolingo--love!), had a quick snack, and found yet another project to keep me busy until The Man got home. Once dinner was done and his lunch was made for the next day, I was "off" at 6:30pm. 

The second major misconception is that I'm enabled to stay home because my husband and I are "wealthy." If wealthy is monetary riches, we aren't close to that. We lived on my paltry salary through our first year of marriage, and squeezing dimes out of nickels isn't new to us. Being disciplined with our budget actually makes us better savers and shoppers, and we both like to be frugal. It is only by frugality and my desire to DIY all the things that we have a fighting chance for me to work at home. If wealthy is being able to live within our means, having lots of amazing people around us, and loving our jobs, then yeah, I guess we are "wealthy."

The third misconception is that I'm now part of an "apron revolution" or that we are scary conservative people, that I'm repressed or "backward thinking."  I'm not part of any movements, we are not wacko conservatives, and I'm not at all repressed. People can throw labels at me all day long, but very few of them are accurate. My husband doesn't "make" me stay home, and he doesn't rule over me. We mutually benefit from me being at home every day: he doesn't have to do chores he hates, and I get to do the things I enjoy.

[After consideration, you know what? It's really not fun to have to clean bread flour out of blue jeans. Aprons, revolution or not, are incredibly smart. They're like big, jeans-saving tool belts in the kitchen. I need to find a pattern so I can make one for myself!]

The fourth, and most frustrating misconception or stereotype, is that I don't have a job now. My job is being a homemaker, a housewife. Not having an employer doesn't mean I don't work my butt off most days. Making a house a home is work. The only difference between my job now and my job when I was employed full-time is that I don't have to do two jobs, that of Office Specialist and housewife. 

My education, a B.S. in General Science, isn't going anywhere--at least, it isn't going anywhere beyond where it was when I was pushing paper around all day. My degree is more than book learning, and the skills and knowledge I gained in my college years (budgeting! time management! chemistry!) all come in useful on a daily basis. I'm probably using my degree more now than I was when I was employed. Those skills are anything but wasting. Additionally, in my free time, I like to learn new things. Whether I'm challenging myself with a craft, volunteering my time and publishing skills, or taking classes or lessons online (so many free options now), I'm always learning. 

The Man and I had talked long ago about me staying home when we have kids. Starting as a housewife now before kids allows me the wonderful opportunity to learn this job well, to make sure I like being at home, to plan and find ways to save money, to have time to research products and make wise purchases, and to practice living on one income.

However, I wish more people could get over the stigmatization of childless housewives, as if suddenly popping out a kid would legitimize my position. Whether I have children or not, my job is keeping the house and being the best helpmate I can be.

Being a housewife is not an easy job, and it isn't for everyone. The pay sucks, the hours are long, there is no chance for a promotion, society looks down on us, and we have to be incredibly self-motivated. But the benefits... a clean house, home-cooked meals, a happier husband, a much more flexible schedule, more free time to socialize on the weekends... I love my job.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to address this stigma society has placed on being a homemaker. My husband and I just had this discussion recently, due to the attitudes we have received from most people we encounter when they find out that I'm "just a housewife". People generally assume that because I'm unemployed that I am lazy and a moocher, especially when they learn we are childless. It is disheartening to recive such negative criticism of my God given duty to take care of and provide for my husband and family. Despite this, I know that I'm doing what is best for myself and my family.

the hippie revival said...

I recently came into the homemaker role after being in the workforce for most of my life. My husband and I don't want kids so the attitudes and looks I get when I tell people that I'm stay at home mom with no kids (ha) are pretty judgemental, to say the least. Thank you for addressing this and pointing out the valuable role that this is. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post! I have been reading up about the role of the housewife and how convoluted the stigma has become around the term. I too have chosen to become a childless housewife and have faced the same judgement by society. Funny enough when I looked for articles and posts online I mostly found material on stay-at-home-moms and not much on childless housewives. You are so so very right. Sadly I must admit I was one of the judgemental individuals and it took flipping over to the other side to realize my own shortcomings. Reality is that society should simply respect any choices a woman wants to make for her own life. Feminism is about freedom of choice, not a new social norm we are forced to conform to. The more I ignore what other people think the happier I tend to be. Thanks once again!!