Sunday, February 14, 2016

The 1950's Housewife Experiment

I have one small issue with being a full-time mom/housewife. That issue is judgmental strangers. I cannot tell you how many cashiers have been so bold to ask me why I stay at home. More insulting questions follow, "How old are you? Did you go to college? Your husband must make good money!" My other favorite was when I ran one errand without my children during a random vacation day for my husband. Two older and obviously retired women began complaining loudly behind me, "can you believe these lines? I don't think anyone works anymore. Why should they when they can live off of the government?" While the last comment may not have been directly referring to me it still bothered me that a line of women at a store would lead to such an observation. And every time a colleague of my husband's finds out that I stay home the first question is, "why?" The second is, "she is going back to work when the kids start school, right?"

To answer the prodding questions: I am in my thirties. I did attend college. My husband does not make fantastic money. We are not poor but we are also not upper middle class. I take absolutely NOTHING from our government and we pay all of our taxes and bills ourselves. We have learned to cut many corners to allow me to do something that called to me. And that was to stay at home to care for our children and house. We cut cable bills, we used what I lovingly referred to as "dumb" phones, and we have not been on a vacation since our honeymoon. We take what we like to call "staycations". We are creative with our lifestyle in order to make our arrangement work for us. I chose to stay home because I grew up with a stay at home mother and I absolutely loved having her as a constant in my life. And to answer the very last question, I am not sure that I will be rushing back to work so quickly.

As much as I would like to say that these comments did not bother me they did. I have found that the last 5 years of being a homemaker have left me feeling very devalued in society. Because I wasn't out earning money I was basically worthless. And suddenly I was questioning my enjoyment of my chosen career. Was there something wrong with me enjoying my stay at home life?

Which leads me to being up at 1 in the morning reading a post on a blog called, "Jen But Never Jenn" about her 1950's Housewife experiment. How interesting to start thinking of a time when women staying home was the norm. Where you wouldn't be grilled about what you do all day and people wouldn't assume you were just lounging around the house watching reality TV shows. And what an interesting era. We look back at it with a small bit of nostalgia but also a great deal of judgement, a time when families were a little more tight-knit but women were also denied so many opportunities. Could this era be the cause of some of the judgement? Do people think that women staying at home is too subservient? Or is it just all about earning and consuming? I don't have the answer to this. But I suddenly found myself reading all 14 days of Jen's posts.

And at 2 a.m. I decided I was going to give this experiment a go. A little bit because it sounded like a fun adventure, a little bit because I could see how horribly I upkeep my house in comparison to the 50's housewife, and a little bit because, as my husband says, I am crazy like that. But mostly, because I was interested in how changing a few values might change the dynamic of our family. I decided to be a bit extra crazy and try the experiment for all of lent . . . so this will be a 39 day experiment.

Side note: I have absolutely no judgement of mother's who go back into the work force. I admire my girl friends who have amazing careers and wonderful families! I love living in an era where women have a choice in how they want to pursue career and family. If I have any issues with this era, it is only the fact that some women are not given a fair choice by either being forced to stay home due to high costs of daycare or who are forced into the work force due to the extreme difficulties of living on a single salary. This experiment is simply my attempt to find empowerment in the choice that I got to make as well as feeling the value of the work I do within the home. Oh, and to have some fun in the gloom of winter!

1 comment:

  1. I never planned on being a stay at home mom until I lost my job while pregnant with my first child. After a short while, hubby and I both decided that I needed to stay home. I did try to work, part time, a couple of times, but, always came back home. The only time working part time worked well for all of us, was when both my boys were in school, and I was director of a part time preschool, that was only open during their school hours. I still drove them to school and picked them up. Yes, at times you feel unimportant, but, always remember that those kids are the most important thing. Do find something that you can do for yourself, like your sewing, that will make you feel more important to yourself. Teach your kids that having a stay at home mom is very special, and that most kids don't have that. 'Things' don't matter as much as your time with the kids. My grown sons are both still happy that I stayed home.