Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when women can choose how to spend their own lives. Whether we are housewives or career women, we are sisters with more things in common than where we choose to spend our time and energy. There was a time when women did not work outside their homes after marriage; then World War II took the men to war and required the women to do the work ordinarily performed by men. Many women enjoyed the opportunity while many preferred to be home. Not many years later women who chose to stay home were looked down upon by those who had “careers.” Now the stay-at-home wives are being blamed for problems in the lives of career women. Can we stop the war on other women and pursue peace among ourselves?
I personally belief that every family needs someone to be at home, someone to “keep the home fires burning” and to keep the wheels of the family greased and turning. It is usually men who go to work to provide for the family and women who stay at home; those who are at home are called “housewives,” “house husbands” or “homemakers.” I prefer the term “homemaker” to “housewife” to “domestic engineer” but my favorite is “domestic goddess.” Some people believe that the stay-at-home wife lives a boring and unfulfilling life, but I do not agree with them. I have never had a dull or boring day - especially when my children were at home. I always had more tasks to perform that I could possibly get done – necessary tasks that were neither boring nor exciting – both inside the home and in the community. The only thing I missed as a stay-at-home wife was the pat on the back or the congratulations for a job well done because little children, self-centered teens, and tired husbands seldom think to say or do such things. The work of a stay-at-home wife is usually taken for granted – but missed greatly when it does not get done.
I always enjoy reading about how much my work as a homemaker is worth and thought I would share one such article. Porcshe Moran posted an article in answer to her own question “How much is a homemaker worth?” “The life of a homemaker is one that includes an endless amount of demands and to-dos. Depending on the size of the home and family, the position of homemaker can go well beyond the usual nine to five. We examined some of the tasks that a homemaker might do to find out how much his or her services would net as individual professional careers. We only take into consideration tasks which have monetary values and use the lowest value for each calculation.”
Moran then listed the following tasks performed by homemakers and the beginning salary of a career performing the same task: Private Chef: meal planning and cooking - $200-$500 per day; grocery delivery service fees: $5-$10. “Total cost for services: $1,005 per five day work week x 52 weeks = $52,260 per year.”
House Cleaner: Since “professional maids or house cleaning service providers will charge by the hour, number of rooms or square footage of the home,” there are different prices for different sizes of homes twice each week: 900-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment with five rooms - $59-$124; 1300 square-foot, single-story home with seven rooms - $79-$150; 2,200 two-story, three-bedroom home with nine rooms - $104-$180. There would be additional costs of $20-$25 to clean the oven or refrigerator or to dust the mini-blinds. “Total cost for services: $118 per week x 52 weeks = $6,136 per year.”
Child Care: “Homemakers provide full-time, live-in child care. This type of service from a professional provider would usually come with a host of perks including health insurance, paid vacation and sick days, federal holidays off, dental and vision coverage, and bonuses. The International Nanny Association’s 2011 survey found that nannies make $600 to $950 per week in gross wages, on average. Total cost for services: $600 a week plus perks/benefits x 52 weeks = $31,200 per year.”
Driver: An “elite membership” with a company “like Red Cap” would provide a “personal driver” to drive the client’s own car. This service would be provided “365 days of unlimited, round-trip service” for “$1,000 a year plus 33 cents - $2.03 per minute. Total cost for services: $1,000 per year + [(estimated miles driven 8,000 miles/50 MPH) x 60 min/hr x $0.33 per minute] = $4,168 total per year.”
Laundry Service: “Professional laundry services charge by the pound.” Example was given of a company “in Texas that charges 90 cents to $1.00 a pound to wash, dry, fold, hang and steam your clothes. Items that take longer to dry such as comforters, blankets, rugs and winter clothes are assessed at a price of $12-$15 each. Total cost for services: $0.90 per pound x 4 pounds of clothes per day x 5 days per week x 52 weeks = $936 total per year.”
Lawn Maintenance: Basic lawn and yard maintenance “cost about $30 a week on average. Total cost for services: $30 per week x 52 weeks = $1,560 total per year.” I assume that this cost is for those areas that require lawn mowing, watering, etc. all year. For those areas, like Alaska, it could also include snow removal.
When all these “salaries” are added together, the average homemaker is worth approximately $96,261 – just for these services. There are many other services performed by homemakers – such as nursing sick children, teaching or helping with homework, handling the family finances, coaching sports teams, serving in PTA, etc. - that were not factored into this price.
I also enjoy hearing or reading statements about the value of my work, and I was pleasantly surprised to see an article posted by Selwyn Duke entitled “The Most Interesting Career: Housewife.” His article consisted mainly of the following quote from G.K. Chesterton’s book What’s Wrong with the World, but I found it to be very profound and true.
“Women were not kept at home in order to keep them narrow; on the contrary, they were kept at home in order to keep them broad. The world outside the home was one mass of narrowness, a maze of cramped paths, a madhouse of monomaniacs. It was only by partly limiting and protecting the woman that she was enabled to play at five or six professions and so come almost as near to God as the child when he plays at a hundred trades.
“[…] When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give … up; I do not know what the words mean. To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.”
I searched for other information about stay-at-home wives and found a site where “Miss Crabcakes” asked men to answer the following question: “Do you prefer a stay-at-home wife?” The comments on the site illustrate the fact that the background of the commenter influenced their choice. I got the idea that some people consider housewives to be “ladies of leisure,” but others recognize the value of homemakers in the neighborhood during the work day. I was touched deeply by this comment: “I definitely prefer a stay at home spouse. My mom was a single mother who worked too much to ever watch over us. I was raised by a baby sitter which kind of sucks. To have a stay-at- home dad or mom would be ideal; however, this is only if you can afford it.”
This comment reminded me of a statement made by one of my own daughters when she was a sophomore in high school. I have been a stay-at-home wife and mother for most of the past forty years, but I did work outside my home for a couple of years after my youngest child started school full time. I took her to school, went to work, and was home again about the time the younger children got home from school; my teenage daughter came home to an empty house. One week I decided to take a couple of days off to clean my cabinets. My daughter told me that she was excited all day about coming home because she knew I would be there. Her comment made me stop and think about what I was doing to my children. If my working outside the home affected my teenager like that, what was it doing to my younger children? My job was eliminated a few weeks later, and I was home full time again.
Every career person could concentrate more on their jobs if they had a “wife” at home taking care of the home front and doing such things as buying groceries, cooking dinner, running errands, etc. In fact, there are people who claim that housewives are to blame for the plight of career women. “But new research from Harvard, NYU and the University of Utah, adds another layer to the debate over gender discrimination at work, and another (possibly just as important) person to blame: your boss’s stay-at-home wife.
“In the paper “Marriage Structure And The Gender Revolution In The Workplace,” researchers illustrate how employed men with stay-at-home wives tend to `exhibit attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that undermine the role of women in the workplace.’ Among other things, they have a negative view of the very presence of women in the office, large percentages of female employees and female leaders. But the most troubling finding was that men whose wives don’t work `deny, more frequently, qualified female employees opportunities for promotions.”
A successful businessman once told me that he preferred to hire men whose wives were not working outside the home. He said that such employees performed better on the job and were more dependable. Because their wives at home managing the family, the men could concentrate on the job of earning money.
Apparently, it is now a status symbol to have a stay-at-home wife. This site posted the following thoughts on the subject. “Add this to the list of decisions that women are now criticized for with regards to their life decisions. If it isn’t the Mommy Wars between the stay at home and working moms, then before that it was the women who chose to get an education and work for a living instead of choosing to settle down and get married with children. Today we have Stay At Home Wives. Ahhh, let the games begin….
“Why knock something that works for someone else? This isn’t 5 steps back for the feminist women movement as some have said outright; this is a choice, and we should be happy that more women have the choice to work, not work, work inside the home, work outside the home or … sit at home eating Bon Bons all day while curled up on the couch.
“Stay At Home Wives can get involved in volunteer projects, pursue hobbies, go on vacation, pursue interests they may not have been able to in the past all while running their homes like well-oiled machines….”
All women have value and perform essential tasks whether in the home or outside the home. We are sisters who should be supportive of each other in our life choices. We should understand that whatever we choose to do, we will do it to the best of our ability. As we take our places as responsible members of our families, communities, and nations, we will bring added strength to everyone around us.