More to the housewife job than meets the eye

Harefield Gazette - - OPINION -

AS I’VE al­ways gone out to work, I’ve never de­scribed my­self on a form as a housewife. Even when I took five years out to be at home with Fisher Ju­nior. I didn’t marry a house and I’ve never felt wed­ded to chores.

Ac­cord­ing to the Ox­ford English dic­tio­nary, a housewife is a ‘mar­ried woman whose main oc­cu­pa­tion is car­ing for her fam­ily, man­ag­ing house­hold af­fairs and do­ing house­work: the tra­di­tional di­vi­sion of labour be­tween the hus­band as bread­win­ner and wife as housewife’.

Two thirds of women ques­tioned by Mother­care who had given up work said they de­tested the term, while a third of the 2,000 moth­ers thought it in­sult­ing and pre­ferred the ti­tle ‘stay-at-home mum’.

The con­ven­tional roles have, of course, been turned up­side down with changes like civil part­ner­ships and par­ents work­ing from home. The re­search re­minded us that a stay-ath­ome par­ent who is car­ing for a fam­ily will not just be dust­ing shelves or shin­ing win­dows but will be us­ing many skills, from ac­coun­tancy and driv­ing to cook­ing and nurs­ing.

A more mod­ern def­i­ni­tion in The Ur­ban Dic­tio­nary de­scribes a housewife as a ‘woman who stays home to take care of the house, the kids, the hus­band and the pets. She works up a sweat, has anx­i­ety at­tacks and bursts into tears when a two-year-old says no for the hun­dredth time that day, after hav­ing to pick up dog mess. She re­ceives no thanks from any­one and gets no pay cheque.’ Hmm.

I don’t think we should de­ride the role of what was for­merly called a ‘housewife’. We should big it up. It’s a huge job which re­quires pow­ers of diplo­macy, ne­go­ti­a­tion skills and most im­por­tantly, team work.

This would look good on any CV wouldn’t it?

Googling housewife for this piece was in it­self an ed­u­ca­tion. My search threw up a va­ri­ety of op­tions such as ‘housewife hot­tie’. By con­trast, a ‘housewife’ is ap­par­ently also the name of a small case for nee­dles, thread, and other small sewing items. Oh dear…

Bad news for Mr F – HP sauce sales are on the de­cline. He con­sid­ers him­self a bit of a taste toff, but he’s long been a fan of what one com­men­ta­tor de­scribes as ‘an un­holy trin­ity of bru­tal sweet­ness, acrid spici­ness and a vine­gary twang’. A bit like him re­ally!

Email me at bmail­bar­bara@gmail. com or catch up at www. getwest­lon­don.co.uk/au­thors/ bar­bara-fisher/.

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