In Defense of Housewifery

If I’m being completely honest then I will admit that being a stay-at-home mom was never on my list of things to do in this lifetime. My mom stayed at home while I was growing up and I could never figure out just what she was doing. My dad had a clear title and job and then there was the fact that he actually made money. Money equalled value. My parents raised me to be anything–teacher, lawyer, accountant, artist. They never mentioned housewife. As a military spouse I met women who didn’t bother getting jobs. Their husbands were moving around frequently and the pickings are pretty slim in many base towns. Again, I couldn’t figure out what the heck they did with their time.

Charlie and my brother on a trip to the zoo.

Even before Charlie was born, I wasn’t real keen on the idea of staying home with him. His birth changed things significantly, however, and I decided that nobody could teach and care for him better than I could–at least no business could. So, home I was, but a part of me hated that and felt that I’d wasn’t doing enough.

This past week opened my eyes a little.

Tuesday my mom called a friend of hers and told her, “my dad died last night–do you wanna go to lunch?” The friend of course went to lunch, and then she didn’t leave my mom’s side for the next three days. She went with her to the funeral home and helped with arrangements. She came over and ate pizza and just sat. She went with my mom to meet a Methodist minister. The day of the funeral mini-king cake pastries appeared in the kitchen and after the funeral she brought ham, cheese, rolls, and carrot cake for the people who gathered at the house. When everyone left, she cleaned up.

This is a woman who has never had a job. She has no resume and doesn’t even know how to write one. She’s a smart woman with a college degree in engineering, but she dedicated her life to her family. As long as I’ve known her, she’s volunteered at her children’s schools and with other civic organizations. She brings the perfect food for a party, throws many parties herself, and shuttles elderly relatives to and from their appointments. Her life is far from glamorous and isn’t even really a life that I would choose for myself.

I can’t deny that it has value, though. Many people have benefited from her generosity of spirit and her devotion to those around her. I’ve been short-sighted; there is value to caring for others, to keeping a home and a family. There’s no money in the deal, but at my advanced age I think it’s about time I realized that money and value aren’t necessarily one and the same.

So, I’m trying to change the way I look at my current situation. Rather than bemoaning the drudgery of housework, I’m going to try to look at it a little differently. I’m part of a great tradition, and maybe I should try to live up to that a little bit better.

A picture of my grandpa, his older brother, and his father in Galveston, Texas, in 1920. I love the outfits.

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Comments

  1. I am NOT being patronizing when I say that being a “stay at home” Mom is the HARDEST job on the planet.

    It’s really interesting to read your perspective, because I come from a bit of a different place. Both my grandmothers worked (one was a single mom with four kids in the FIFTIES), and my own mom worked. I work. All my sisters work. And frankly, there is something much less challenging about our choices. That that it’s EASY by any means, but it’s certainly not HARDER.

    Staying at home to take care of your child is the most exhausting, the most respectful, and the most rewarding job there is. I really think that.

  2. Nadine Hightower says:

    You’re learning.

    I love the outfits too.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    It’s all about perspective, isn’t it? A common theme I see these days, actually. :)

    The pictures of your grandfather are fantastic. Will you be posting more?

  4. therextras says:

    “at my advanced age”

    Ahem.
    Snigger.
    Oh, heck. LOL!

    Sooo many advantages to being older, as you have noticed.

    I am NOT matronizing you.

    You The Woman for sharing this, Bird. Makes mostly-SAHM-me feel pretty good, too.

    Thank you so much.
    Barbara

  5. This is beautifully written. SAHM was never on my list either :)

  6. Anonymous says:

    Katy:

    I think this is a wonderful post. Have you ever heard the expression “domestic engineer”? I think this label fits as well for any mother at home. By the way, you know the estimated value of a stay-at-home mom is about $130,000 a year.

  7. I loved this!! And, as you know, I can totally relate. Thank you for such a beautiful, honest post!

  8. lamaschida says:

    What a lovely post. I just love your voice and eloquence. Please receive my sincere condolences.
    -Lo

  9. terriblepalsy says:

    Hey Bird. I don’t want to get into an argument about whose life it tougher. I’ve seen both sides of the coin. I think it’s an individuals choice and what works for one doesn’t work for another. And it’s about life stages too.
    But this is a great post. I respect what your mum’s friend did for her. What a loving amazing person. Your mother is so lucky to have friends that are so amazing. I’m sorry to hear about your grandfather. Take care.

  10. Sounds like your mom has a great friend.

    Like terriblepalsy said, I too don’t want to get into arguments about who has it harder, that’s pointless, I think both are hard!!

  11. I never meant for this to be about harder–I just wanted to talk about making the best of the situation you’re in.

  12. Small Town Girl says:

    That’s a pretty important revalation to have, especially in your situation. What you are doing has a TON of value, even if you don’t feel appreciated or valuable all the time.

  13. What a wonderful post.

    I know it’s hard for many women to stay home because they have that desire to be out doing something big. For me though, I knew that staying home with my children would be my ‘big’ thing. And I am so grateful that we are able to live off of my husbands income to allow me that opportunity. Like you said, no body could raise my children the way I can or want to.

    LOVE the old pictures that you have been posting :)

  14. You are blessed. You have come into a role in life you are learning to love. Yes it is a learning curve, but you are going through the curves gracefully. Keep up the great work!

    And the photo is great!

  15. blairspage says:

    I would have to agree with Erin. It is hard being a stay at home Mom! Well, I guess maybe not hard, but definately BUSY! :) You are doing the right thing. I have to remind myself of this everyday! I never have regreted staying at home. I did 2 1/2 years of working with a baby/toddler and finally quit to see what it was all about. I had something pulling me to do it. Then, prego with Blair… her diagnosis and I knew it was meant to be!

    Of course no one else can take care of our children the way we do. It’s part of motherhood and it’s something I wish everyone could experience! I wouldn’t change a thing if I had to go back and make that decision again!

    My Mother worked… still works… my Sister has gone back and forth. My Mom always says she could of stayed home with us.

    Hugs – Tiff

  16. Great post! One of my favorite quotes is, “No amount of success can compensate for failure in the home.” by David O McKay

  17. I think I really needed to read this…too often I get all wound up thinking that I’m not doing enough, that I need “a title” and the paycheck that comes with it, but you’re right; we’re doing the most important work of all and the reward is way sweeter than anything money could buy. Wonderful post, great comments, too. Can I blog this on my blog?

  18. If I liked cleaning, cooking, and kids–or were good at any of them, I would totally be a housewife.

  19. thank you for this post. I found it very insightful. Robert and I are seriously considering cutting back our work hours (probably mine) so we can spend more time doing ABR with Paxson. But its funny because aside from the obvious financial impact, my husband does really get all the other issues. I’m a well educated professional, I’ve always worked. I’m afraid not working or working less will cause some kind of identity crisis. That being said I really appreciated your comments and the virtues of being dedicated to your family full-time should be the most rewarding opportunity. I’m feeling like its time for phase II…

  20. therextras says:

    Older-lady back again. Hope you don’t mind, Bird. Identity crisis is exactly how I described my feelings when I stayed home with a baby the first time. I was 34, had worked f/t and was finishing my PhD. A distinct memory from that time was the day when my whole pride surrounded having cleaned the toilet – desparate to share the fact with Hubby when he got home. Cognitively, I knew it was nuts, but it.was.how.I.felt. A big “who am I now?”

    I agree that there are really nice comments here. (Not complimenting myself ‘though.) You are drawing-out great stuff from others through your writing. Barbara

  21. Funny, I was just the opposite. I never had any real big career plans for my life. I just made sure I did my best in each situation I faced and all of a sudden I am in my mid to late twentys (obviously this was a few years ago) and working 60+ hours a week as an associate at one of the biggest law firms in Texas. And, not to toot my own horn, but if money equalled value, than I was damn valuable back then.

    Now, I guess I would be negative value by that scale, but I am much more fulfilled, and sane. As someone else commented, doesn’t perspective make all the difference?

    I, too, am glad that your mom has such a great friend.

  22. Hi there, just catching up on blog reading.
    What a good, thought-provoking post. My mom stayed at home to raise me and my sister. She was an amazing mom, but sometimes overly involved and when my sister and I were in high school we literally persuaded her to get some part-time work. She did programs for senior citizens at the local library, and loved it.

    I always knew I wanted a career growing up, although I also loved kids and used to think I wanted five. Up until I had Max, I was worried about whether I’d still want to have a job once I had a child, even though I loved my career. And then, Max had his stroke at birth, and I spent my maternity leave shuttling to and from therapies and worrying myself sick. I knew I needed to go back to work, I needed to have that to balance my life.

    As others have said, both at-home moms and working moms have their challenges. Somedays, I don’t know how my friends who are at home do it. Somedays, I don’t know how I do it! I am glad with my choice, and I have all the respect in the world for moms who have chosen to be at home with their kids.

  23. White Hot Magik says:

    I know what you mean, not really meaning to be here, but here I am, no real career of my own right now, so a housewife. I struggle with it all the time, mentally, feeling like if only… then there are those magical moments with the kids that make it seem worthwhile, until the next time it seems overwhelming. I love the pics of your family!

  24. Katy,
    Sorry to hear about your grandfather. Glad to read about how well Charlie seems to be doing. Thankful for the reminder that my “job” does have inherent value. I do try to remember to offer all the tasks I do each day as small sacrifces to God. Sometimes I even get through a day without too much grumbling.

    Be blessed!