The myth of the housewife finds its roots in the bourgeoisie of the XIXth century to finally reach its apogee in popular culture during the 1950s. Today, the phenomenon is very different and comes to question more globally the status of parents and care for young children in our societies. So what happened to housewives, and what are the issues for mothers today?
Housewives; myth and reality
10 years ago, in 2011, a statistic institute in France put a figure on the phenomenon, estimating the number of housewives at 2.1 million. Aged between 20 and 59, and not student, their status meant that they received no salary or unemployment. Yet 80% of them had previously held a job. A phenomenon that was already on the decline compared to 1991, thanks to the rise in female employment and the emancipation of women in society.
Although marginal, the image of the housewife has nevertheless created a myth and marked the spirits, so that some still take on this role, sometimes even in an assumed way like the 'trade wives' who praise their way of life on the social networks. "The idealization of the stay-at-home mother is a current that seems to last and to settle down." So recalls the historian Anne Rothenbühler, a specialist in female work and gender; mentioning a new attraction to this way of life centered on the homemaking possible a healthier life and an improvement in the development and educational support of children.
If we go back a little in time, in the post-war years, the housewife's role was then considered a profession, the woman's place being related to the domestic tasks, stewardship of the house, or the education and management of children. Before their emancipation, women were, therefore, mainly involved in running the home, a vision with strong impacts that was transcribed into the very concepts developed by certain architects of the time. This is the case with Le Corbusier, who, in his ideal of Cité Radieuse, imagines a "corset" kitchen of 4.8 m². Narrow, it is designed for women and practical, but like a symbol, it encircles the woman and surrounds her movements so that she cannot share her tasks.
What is being a housewife?
This is a woman who does not exercise a professional activity and therefore is not paid. It can be a life choice, a way to fully develop as a mom, but not all stay-at-home moms are by choice. And many are those who see this experience as a parenthesis, allowing them to fully enjoy their children before returning to a professional activity.
All desperate stay-at-home moms? At a time when women, daughters of their feminist mothers, are more and more active in the professional sphere, it seems complicated to conceive that some are choosing - or not - to stay in the bosom of the household to take care of their children. Integrating that being a stay-at-home mom does not automatically rhyme with a dominated woman is a challenge that is experienced day by day for many of them.
A life choice more complex than it seems
A qualified stay-at-home mother and entrepreneur housewives only for a time, in reality, the phenomenon is now much more diffuse and disparate than one might imagine, with very diverse cases. Fathers also sometimes choose to be at home, which upsets stereotypes. But despite the reforms to paternity leave encouraging this practice, men taking leave to take care of their children remain a very small minority. However, for all, this choice brings a degraded image in society. A lack of recognition reflects the invisibility of their daily work, yet rich in tasks and activities, which sometimes involves an investment that goes beyond conventional working hours and a lot of mental work. Not having professional activities, we demand everything of them.
Today's housewives highlight their difficulties: fatigue, loneliness, mental strain, their daily life is much less simple than it seems. A taboo that continues and also burdens them, that of the guilt of sometimes being at the end of the line, even when they are not employed. Recently, this observation has also been made during confinements, where parents and children have found themselves living together. The daily management of the home and the children has sometimes been painful.
The housewife also remains without status. Whether it is social protection, remuneration, or retirement, she does not benefit from any of these recognitions and is therefore exposed to difficulties in the event of the break-up, divorce, or death of their spouse. Some are also obligated, or sometimes assume it in precariousness, which adds to their fragile situation. Many therefore plead for their skills to be finally recognized, in the same way as professional activities, so that their status is no longer imbued with clichés and prejudices. Difficulties that sometimes affect women at some point in their lives, with temporary work stoppages, or more permanently, opting for part-time work in order to take care of the household. An impact that forces them to stop their professional careers, becoming an obstacle to obtaining positions of responsibility.
Some advantages and disadvantages of being a housewife
. You will always be next to your children
This is the main reason why a wife and mother choose the path of staying at home. It has the advantage that as a mother, you stay at home, and you will always be by your son's side when he needs you. But that has the downside of always being next to your kids can make you feel trapped. You might love being a stay-at-home mom, but there will be times when you wish you could steal moments for yourself.
To have a balance, it is essential that you have time for yourself, for your personal and mental care. Your physical and mental health depends on: getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, and having time to relax.
. You are never alone
You will always be close to your children. It has the advantage that your children will be with you almost every hour of the day; you will be there in everything; their first steps, their first words, their first falls ... But this has the disadvantage that you will never be alone, that is, you will literally NEVER be alone ... You can hardly go to the bathroom alone.
To find balance, You will need to establish personal boundaries; it is not bad, but you have to do it for your sanity.
. You don't work outside the home
Thanks to not working outside the home, you can devote 100% of your time and energy to your children because you don't worry about work deadlines, traffic jams, or a boss torturing you. This has the downside of losing interaction with other adults, losing the sense of doing a good job, earning a salary, and even dressing well to go to the office.
To find balance, you can achieve that satisfaction and connect with other adults if you volunteer at your children's school, social organizations in your community. You can also have a small income if you find a part-time job at home or if you do some type of freelance work like doing crafts or making recipes to sell later.
. You raise your children
You will be intimately focused on your child's development, and really, it doesn't come with money. However, it has the advantage that your children will be with you most of the time and that it will not be someone else raising your children because you have to be away from home. You determine what they eat, their schedules, and the values they learn. You are absolutely responsible for their lives as they grow up. The downside is that you can create a bubble almost without realizing it and isolate yourself from the world, and also isolate your kids without realizing it.
To find balance, it is better that every now and then you meet your friends, organize play nights for your children and their friends at home ... so that you can all expose yourself in a healthy way to social environments while you are raising your children.