Thursday, June 9, 2011

From Housewife to Homemaker

I've heard more than one person say, "I could never be a stay-at-home mom.  I would go crazy from boredom!" Go crazy? Maybe.  From Boredom? Definitely not.

Before I go on, I think it's good to keep in mind the classic aphorism, different strokes for different folks.  I'm sure domestic life is better suited for some than for others.  In my case, it helps that many of my favorite hobbies - cooking, home organization, gardening and reading - sort of naturally align with the home.  I suppose if you love rock-climbing, heavy metal concerts, clubbing and dining out, you might not like being a stay-at-home mom, particularly not in my town, where Publix grocery is about as cosmopolitan as we get!

I believe that the role of the the wife and mother is an extremely important one that our culture largely devalues.  A lot of today's anti-stay-at-home-mom bias comes from the way popular culture depicts our demographic, e.g., Desperate Housewives.  But I think the terminology we use to describe women who decide to forgo a full-time career in favor of staying home is also very problematic.  Perhaps it's time for a change.  Let's look at some examples.


This term, commonly abbreviated as SAHM, is the one I see and hear most these days.  I'm just going to be honest and say that I strongly dislike this term, and, from now on, I'm going to banish it from my mental lexicon.  There are several problems it.  First, it underscores what the woman is not doing - i.e., she's not climbing the corporate ladder, she's not going out, she not jet-setting - instead of what she is doing.  Consider when someone asks you if you are going out tonight, and you reply, usually with a sigh or a hand gesture of complete resignation, "Naw, I'm just gonna stay at home." It sounds lame, doesn't it?  So, why would we want to apply it to our trade?  In addition, the emphasis is put solely on mothering and not on wifedom.  As a Christian, I affirm the belief that I am first a wife to my husband and then a mother to my child.  This doesn't discount my love for my child; rather, it emphasizes the unique "one flesh" union I have with my husband and no one else.  And, lastly, the SAHMs that I know are hardly spending all their waking hours at home!   Let's collectively decide to ban this term!

Housewife: This one sounds too much like "horsefly" for my liking, and, like SAHM, it restricts the woman's influence to the confines of four walls. Also, it makes no mention of mothering.  And, it just sounds boring.  No wonder the housewives are desperate!

Full-time Mom:  Like SAHM, this term says nothing of a woman's responsibility to her husband.  It also excludes women who have forgone full-time work in favor of staying home, but who work part-time or from home. Also, I feel like every mother, whether she works full-time or not, is a full-time mom, so, in that sense, the term is meaningless.

Domestic Diva: This one might work for some, but I am simply not "glam" enough to pull it off.

Homemaker: Now, this is a term I can get on board with!  Notice how, unlike the term "stay at home mom," the emphasis is on what the woman is doing, that is, she is making a home. It may sound a bit old-fashioned, but I think it captures the spirit of what we strive to do as wives and mothers: transform a house into a home.  I don't think this means that you must be a gourmet chef or that your home must be picturesque at all times.  I've been married less than a decade and have only very recently become a mother, so I'm still figuring out exactly what it means.  But what I do know is that home is a place that is safe, warm and inviting - a place where all members of the family want to be.  And, let's just be realistic for a moment: it takes copious amounts of time and energy to pull off. This is what my own mom created for our family and what I hope to create for my own.  And, lastly, unlike some of the others, this term is very inclusive, welcoming any woman who values the art of making a home, whether she has children, or not, and whether she works outside of the home, or not.

So, in the spirit of dispelling the Dodo Conway fallacy and taking pride in what we do, I propose we ditch the tired out terminology and adopt the term homemaker!

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree that our society devalues "stay at home moms". People give lip service to them and say that being a mother is the most important job in the world, but clearly really feel it's the mom who works full-time, makes partner at her law firm and puts their children in 10 sports that deserves the real praise. Not to say they don't but I think all types of moms are heroes! (I feel similarly about teachers. It's cool to say that teachers have a crucial role to play but then complain when they want a pay raise, bash unions or are unforgiving when they give their child anything lower than a "B'.)

    I agree that homemaker is a great way of phrasing the job! So many of those phrases make it sound boring and confining. Watch an episode of Mad Men and you'd think staying at home was the dullest job in the world, devoid of any meaning or mental stimulation. I would imagine shows like "The Real Housewives of ..." are the same deal. But then again, watching a loving, caring mother be a homemaker wouldn't exactly make for good television :)