Occupation: Housewife?

This ad is by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Someone there is really in touch with the conflicting feelings a woman goes through when becoming a mother, except that I would say EVERY mother, not just those still working, experiences a similar struggle within themselves.

Now, a little over two years into motherhood, I’ve come to terms with who I may have let down by leaving the world of the working girl. I’m confident that work will be there in five to seven years once my child(ren) are in school and I find I have more time on my hands. In fact, I’ve been amazed at the opportunities for work that have fallen into my lap while I “sit” here at home with my daughter.

Still on the few occasions since becoming a mother where I’ve had to fill out any sort of application requesting my occupation and/or income, I am still finding it a struggle to write the word housewife. I grapple with the fact that “housewife” doesn’t seem to let the world know that I have a Bachelor’s degree. Which I worked hard for. Or that I worked as a systems auditing consultant for PwC and a software selection consultant for SoftResources or as a substitute teacher in the Highline District or with special ed children there as well. I’m diverse, man.

The term housewife severely downplays the fact that there is a serious amount of work involved, both mental and physical, in taking on occupation:housewife. It suggests that no income is necessary because it is not a job worth being compensated for monetarily when the child you are raising is your own. Will work for – free. Not even for food or a beer. (Hey, don’t get me wrong. I don’t need you to pay me to raise my own child, but I do want to establish the fact that it is work. Work that those in the business of childcare are getting paid upwards of $10-$20 an hour to do, so society does deem it “work” that has some monetary value in it.)

Housewife just has that old fashioned patina to it, being associated with tradition and the idea that “the woman’s place is in the home.” Although, in truth, I don’t think any of these are bad things. My mother was a stay at home mom and I’m so thankful that she was. I never looked down on her for it or thought that there was any reason she couldn’t have had her own successful career had she chosen to do so. It is because my parents raised me on the idea that I could be anything I wanted and there was no reason I couldn’t be out there working to pay the bills and buy a house and put food on the table, etc., that to choose not do so for a time, even if to raise my child, made me initially question my new found status as NON-contributor to society in the classic sense.

I don’t think woman who either must or choose to go back to work after having children have it much easier in the emotional struggle department, but sometimes, from where I sit (at home), the term working mother seems to connotate to the world that their is a woman whose got it together, who can both better herself and do for society, as well live in the traditional role of mother. Occupation:Working Mother suggests that this woman still has interests outside her child and that she’s not suddenly lost herself in poopy diapers and breastfeeding, not being able to converse about anything else. Housewife makes people wonder what in the world you do all day.

I guess the real question I should have asked myself goes back to the first word in the PwC ad – Who. Who, exactly, is “the world” that I worried so about misunderstanding me in that first year of motherhood? I think any other mother who chose to leave work for any amount of time probably realizes that housewife doesn’t begin to tell the whole story for any woman. I would say it also excludes the family, the husband and wife, who made the decision together that one partner should forgo an income to raise the children. Nor does it include any mother (or father) who does not have the luxury of forgoing their income. They may understand all the nuances of that term housewife better than anyone.

I guess the who are the me’s before motherhood, working women (and men) who’ve not crossed over into the world of raising children – yet. Now that I have become more comfortable in my role as “housewife”, I’m not sure why I felt so strongly the need to justify my decision to anyone. I suppose it was a lack of confidence in myself in the new role of mother and maybe not wanting to let go, entirely, of that old world of life before children when you are only really beholden to yourself.

Leave a Reply