Why do I feel so guilty and so old-fashioned admitting that my week as a stay-at-home wife was awesome? I felt healthy. I was able to cook my own meals, do yoga while I watched reality TV, go outside to garden, ride my bike to the store, and take dance class. I felt relaxed. I didn’t feel any outside pressure, no one was around (except for my two gigantic cats) to stress me out, and I was able to visit my mom more often, which made her and me happier. I was extremely productive. I had the luxury of undisturbed and uninterrupted time to do what I would do if making a living and receiving a steady paycheck were not a necessity. It was glorious! It was better than any expensive vacation I have ever taken, where oftentimes artificial relaxation is the only kind of relaxation achieved. So why was I hesitant to proclaim my love for housewifery?
My real life, not this housewife fantasy I had the luxury of living out this past week, is hard. As a woman in her thirties, I have had to become an expert at balancing three jobs: the day job, the dancing and the writing, all of which I need in order to pay my bills. I have a husband, no kids yet, but I do take care of my elderly parents (which is almost like having children), and I maintain a healthy social life. My current reality would in most circles be considered personal success in the work/life balance debate. I am conflicted and filled with guilt, but I have to admit that if the opportunity presented itself, I would abandon my job to become a housewife. I must come across like the anti-feminist, but is it not very feminist to be true to oneself and have the courage to do so regardless of societal criticism? For isn’t that what the early feminists had to do in order to start a movement?
Credit Image: wwootton on Flickr
I want to state that I have read Betty Friedman’s the Feminine Mystique as well as Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and everything else I could find along the way on the topic of women’s studies. I understand that if all educated women chose to leave the work force, there would be a brain drain in the world economy. I understand that there is still a battle to be fought for women’s equality in the work place regarding fair and equal pay, as well as in the home regarding the distribution of household labor and child rearing. But in modern American society, and I am generalizing here, becoming a housewife or a stay-at-home mom is a choice, a choice that only families with certain financial stability can afford to make.
So while I feel guilty admitting that I would become a housewife if our household finances permitted it, I am not alone. In my very unscientific study on the subject, and after interviewing women in my homogeneous social circle, (women in their thirties, balancing artistic careers with the steady paycheck job), the unanimous conclusion was that becoming a housewife is the dream.
As I stated earlier, my week as a housewife was glorious. I know that it was only one week. A week sprinkled with the glow of vacation. I am aware that my view of housewifery is most likely skewed, but as the week progressed, and the inevitable realization that going back to work was not just an option but a requirement, I started to get angry. No, I did not get angry when I noticed that I did not have that many interesting stories to share with my husband when he came home from work. No, I did not get angry when I noticed that I was putting my husband’s basic needs before my own. I did get angry as I was scrubbing the toilet and cleaning up cat diarrhea, but it was not anger at having to do these disgusting tasks.
I live in very expensive Los Angeles and I know very few one-income families with no children. As I was cleaning, I realized that my anger was directed at these housewives who I am not certain are aware how good they have it and instead waste time and energy complaining and harboring feelings of inadequacy. Women should not be made to feel guilty, inadequate or old-fashioned for choosing to become housewives, but they should feel guilty for not appreciating it. To the complaining housewife I say, get over it, embrace your fortune and do something productive with your time. To the old-fashioned housewife I say, it is anti-feminist what you are doing! A true feminist would never let herself be a victim, rather she would take the situation by the you-know-what and squeeze until she got exactly what she wanted out of it. Okay, so I got really angry one day…
I am a very independent woman. One of the best compliments I ever received was my father-in-law stating that I was the most self-sufficient woman he had ever met. I should be an advocate for the “women can have it all” camp, but in good consciousness, I cannot. I believe that women can have it all, and do it all, and be all to everyone in their lives all of the time. It is possible, it is sustainable for long periods, but is it healthy or the best possible quality of life for women and everyone they are being “all” to? No. I know that I am not as healthy or as happy when I am overextended and overworked and in turn, neither is everyone else who depends on me.
Call me old-fashioned (I’m fine with this label), but during my week as a housewife, I discovered that there is something comforting and familiar about traditional gender roles. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home where my mother had had a career prior to having children. She was then able to stay home until I was seven years old and in later life embarked on an entirely new career, in a new country. Once in a while, especially when my father was starting his own business, she was the sole provider for our household. Needless to say, she has been an excellent example of the vital need for women in the home and in the work place. But culture and tradition are deeply rooted and when I told her that I was going to stay home for the week instead of going to work because my husband had financed it, she was thrilled. I literally had to ask, “Why are you so excited by this?” I think the question embarrassed her as my admitting to her that I was a housewife for the week initially embarrassed me.
I have always said that I would make a very good rich person, and now I can add modern housewife to that list. Modern housewife because I have to believe that as women chose to leave the work force and return to the home they are doing so with a plan. The modern housewife is too interested in life to be bored or idle. She no longer wastes time feeling guilty or wondering if her feminist membership is about to be revoked, rather she treats housewifery as a scholarship. An opportunity to pursue long-abandoned goals, the opportunity to be the economist, investor and financial consultant for her family, the organic farmer and chef, the early childhood educator, home business owner, the philanthropist, the artist and anything else she might do if for cooking and cleaning, she was paid in time and peace of mind.
By: Wendy Castellanos-Wolf
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