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Who Wants To Trade Places With A Housewife?

Posted: October 19, 2013

Which is the most overworked yet unpaid job across the world? That of a housewife.

This, I have come to realise as I gradually settled into this role of a housewife after quitting my job. I do all the work expected of a housewife like cooking ,cleaning up and caring for my kid. I do engage a domestic helper and yet  at times, find the job of a housewife daunting – that is perhaps due to the fact that there is no appreciation of a job well done. Oops, sorry, I need to correct this – there is no acknowledgement even of a task and I am talking of appreciation!

Moreover, all at home take the housewife’s presence at home for granted – so she has no free time for herself. She is always at the mercy of others. She has to plead even when she wants to shop for groceries. When she is doing that, more often than not, there will be some urgent work which will recall her back home almost immediately. And mind you, this was not what you could call her free time – she was shopping for groceries.

Who wants to be a housewife?Eventually, the housewife tends to squeeze in time when all other members are at work, school etc for her jaunts like shopping, attending calls for repairs etc. After she has finished with all this, she will try to relax but does she? I feel that her job is the one with the maximum stress levels. This goes on for days together which turn into months and years without a break. And then, that remark ,“Oh, you are at home – so good. You can work at your speed without rushing through like us who are working.”

Actually,the word ‘working woman’ is anathema to me – is a housewife idle? The one nice thing about being a housewife is that there is no discrimination- the world over, it is the same story. In poor households as well as rich, from a home in America to a home in India, the condition of the housewife is the same.It cuts across barriers of caste,creed, colour.

I recall a friend settled abroad who told me, “I am a housewife now and the standards expected of the cleanliness, cooking, child’s behavior is quite different from that of a working woman. People comment, that as I am at home, the home should be squeaky clean, the kid well behaved, cooking varied and so on and on.For a working woman,there are concessions. The home need not be clean, the kid can be unruly, the cooking mundane -after all she is working !”

And why blame outsiders, when the members of your own household share the view that you as a housewife are just idle at home after the daily routine of cooking, cleaning, caring, attending calls,etc? The housewife should do at least this much -what else is she doing anyway? This will also keep her occupied and she will not get bored.

I am petrified of one more aspect of this job – caring for the elderly, the kids,the sick ones. In spite of my care and upbringing, if things go wrong,then who will take the blame? Suppose my child does not turn out well behaved, is bad at studies, unruly – who will be held responsible ? Obviously me – in spite of being a housewife, I failed. Of course, I can do better by being more considerate to the child – listening to the demands, correcting the behavior and so on, but then, am I to devote all my time for others without any time for myself ? Failures are intolerable especially if the housewife is the perpetrator.

If a contest is held to select the most suitable person for the position of a housewife, who do you guess will win hands down? Well, the answer is no one. Who would want to trade places with a housewife?

Actually, a homemaker gets depressed in later years when kids are in college and the husband is too busy (more busy than before ). Some families may have some elders or other invalid members to be cared for. In a majority of homes, the bored homemaker is a reality. Many have to seek counselling. Yoga is recommended as it helps to keep us happy. Even I have yoga classes thrice a week. It keeps me fit. I meet people in the class. We chat and giggle. It has made me a calmer and happier person. I have seen many of my friends go in for learning music, dance etc.I think this is a welcome move.

Earlier our mothers never needed such an option as times were not rushed. Today,it is not so.All are in their own world(s). We may refuse to admit but we are in a lonely world. So it is good to know that homemakers are seeking their own avenues and brightening up their mundane lives. Moreover, this, the home maker is doing purely for her self…she is seeking an identity for herself and that too, just for the sheer joy of it.

Pic credit: Flex (Used under a Creative Commons license)

I am a law graduate from Government Law College,Mumbai.I am a Fellow in

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  1. The terms homemaker/working woman/house wife are misleading. These words do not define the reality.

    Good to read that you are indulging in activities you find joy in.

  2. Sure house work is not only boring but endless and thankless. But the duties and contribution of a mother is more important and sacred than just penning it down in a limited way in a few words.Today’s world is devoid of the beautiful, gentle and charming world of feminity and affection and respect.

    You cannot put a price to the selfless service of a mother who waits for her child to return from school, lovingly feed her/him and teach them respect and correct way to live.

    What we now have is a dangerous society …..all rushing to earn more to spend more.Are we not witness to a society with more social evil, let us not kid ourselves , if children are brought up by people who themselves are at the lowest rungs of economic strata fraught with anger and problems what are they going to bring our kids up as…only a copy of themselves.

    In today’s times though additional income is more welcome than the contribution of a stay -at -home homemaker ( childrens’ safety and security , upbringing, endless chores ). The result is for everybody to see …more crimes, pent up anger in kids, lack of respect for women.Who will trade the place of a housewife?………is a good question though

    • Medha,

      Thank you for penning your thoughts.I agree that kids emulate adults & that’s why we have a society where crime is skyrocketing & social evils are rising their heads up like never before .Hence the need to appreciate the homemaker who though educated as equally as others chooses to be home ! Moreover ,we all should understand that money can buy us beds & not sleep.Of course ,money can buy us sleeping pills,no doubt !

  3. I am not writing to negate the difficulties faced by the “house-wife” but while we are highlighting her issues, we should not brush away the difficulties of a working woman.

    Agreed the work at home is tiring, monotonous and time-consuming. Absolutely. Now take away about 10 hours from the time available and do the same work. Add in the stress of trying to work in an office, in a competitive and constantly appraising environment. Then add the problem of having to interact with more people who come with their own idiosyncrasies just like us, the biased and demanding bosses. Dont forget the traffic, crowded buses, the haggling with the auto-drivers, rushing to be on time so as not to miss the bus/cab and the comments/teasing thrown in our way just because we are females.

    Now that would be a typical and a “good” day of a working woman. Most days are not.

    And I would like to politely dis-agree with the point about concessions to a working woman. No no no, the society isnt that kind. Working women too are, after all, the female species. So all we get is disdain and the comment isnt as kind as has been mentioned in this post, it actually takes the sarcastic tone, something similar to “the house is not clean?? the kids are not behaving?? anything else not to the liking?? huh, a working lady, what more can you expect?”

    I have to mention the biggest torture which every working woman has to undergo at some point of her life. Separation from her still-too-young baby. The WHO recommends that a baby be nursed for the first three years, but most organizations have a policy of a maternity break of just 3 months which is hardly sufficient for the mother to recover herself and adequately care for the baby. Ofcourse there are day care centers, grandmothers, baby sitters who try to help, but ask every mother and she would tell how heart rendering it is. A mother invariably believes and it is probably true, that no one else can take care of her baby as she can. But because of the “work” she is not able to. The stress and guilt that results out of this conflict are simply not measurable.

    Most of the working women, especially mothers, go to work only for economic reasons. To provide a better standard of living for their family. The power and lure of money is cruel. If there are no economic restrictions, every woman, atleast some like me would want to stay at the house and be with her children.

    • Maha,

      Thank you, for your views.I agree that many working women continue to work due to economic reasons.Yet there is a thin line between wants & needs.Some women may want to stay at home & are forced by others to go & work outside.

      Sarcastic & taunting comments are for all women….those working at home & those in offices & other places.Moreover,the competitive environment at office gives some scope for recognition.This recognition is missing at home….only when something goes wrong ( which is most of the time ) ,the blame/s are at the doorstep of the homemaker & no one else.The mother has to take all the blame.For this attitude to be toned down ,we all must understand that the woman alone is not the role model for the child ….there are so many others .The net has made the world a village & anyone can go astray,anytime.

      About the 3 month period,I have heard & read that many companies now are allowing mothers of newborns to work from home & flexi hours though how it works out is completely different for each woman.Some companies have six months period as well.

      Another thing ,a woman is at work at home even when she has retired from office.Also no retirement benefits accrue.

    • Vasudha,

      A working woman doesnt only come from the IT and other high-end sectors where there are talks about the Working-from-home options and flexibility are making rounds recently, but there is an entire section of working women belonging to the lower middle class category, who are employed as cooks/maids/support-staff/sales-girls and others where there is not a single whiff of these flexible options yet. Even in fields where flexibility is flaunted, the ground reality is far from what is being advertised.. we still need to go a long way to rest on those…

      Thanks much for your reply, I agree, the life of a woman whether working or not, is indeed unenviable and nothing can make the situation more evident than RAJUPILOT’s comments… “condemned” is an interesting word to describe our plight… 🙂

    • Maha,

      You put it rightly & even in IT & other sectors which allow work from home & flexi hours,it may not suit all.

      Yes,Rajupilot’s comments confirm( unfortunately ) , whatever I wrote.I hope & trust ,things will change soon.

    • Well wrt the word “condemned” used by a reader, though sarcastic I hope ;), connotes that the housewifely duties are a punishment .What needs to change is the attitude towards housemakers .If earning money is important then in our Indian way of life even the harmony at home front is equally important .There is no doubt that money is one of the important ingredient to make life happy, but what hurts is that society reduces work done by housewife as doing nothing .You can find people asking questions like…”are you working or a housewife?” most insensitively put question in my opinion by ignoramuses.

      Having been a “working” person and now a full time house manager since a decade I would add that both “jobs” have their advantages and disadvantages .In the house jobs you dont have a boss breathing under your neck , but all the tasks are necessary though mundane and are time bound.

      Whereas at work you have many interesting jobs not to mention the pay and the accolades at a job well completed ,which is totally missing in the housework (including the management of kids their studies etc) well done and is taken for granted .Another major plus is the co-workers who share the work and the stress and many there are daily or many events of joy – like coffeebreaks, lunch breaks, parties and gettogethers, training programmes etc .But the housewife goes throught the daily chores alone and generally kitties are frowned upon on the assumption that anyways these women do “nothing”.

      The similarity can be drawn in as much that if there is a bad worker then there is a bad housemanager, where both could do a sloppy job. To conclude I feel that job outside of home is as important as one at home and should be given the same importance

      .By “condemning ” or even remotely thinking housework being of less importance is only for the more moneyminded and the less enlightened ones.

    • Medha,

      You have put it so aptly that working women & homemakers should be treated as equals ! There are some plus points & some minus ones in both the cases.

      Mindsets need to change, to respect women for the contributions they make to homes as well as to the world outside their homes.

  4. rajupilot@rediffmail.com -

    increasingly men are being condemned to this job as well :-(… i really dunno who is supposed to do it after women quit, but pleasaaaaassssssssse not the househusbands


      Your comments confirm, that housework is the most boring & mundane job ever !

      When a woman can do it ,why not a man ? The least, any one can do, is acknowledge the work of the homemaker .Appreciating housework, would be, like asking for the moon !

  5. I can totally relate to this.. loved your post!!

  6. Very aptly put, Vasudha. Unfortunately, we live in societies (Indian as well as others) that classify home makers as the sole holders of the responsibility of perfectly behaved kids, perfectly cooked food, and perfectly kept houses! Whilst there isn’t any change in roles/responsibilities that I am certain you also expect, it is the overall perspective of people – to accept this role as an equally (if not more) challenging one – that needs to be addressed. Let’s hope the times to come also witness deeper realization and appreciation of what a home maker actually does, sacrifices and has to deal with.

    • Jyotika,

      Thank you ! Let’s hope & trust that societies will realise that even homemakers are less than perfect just like others.Moreover there are so many others who are role models for kids & teenagers.

      As roles change rapidly in this internet age,let us hope the world becomes a better place even for the homemakers …they get recognised & appreciated for the myriad roles they play & succeed at !

  7. Well said by the blogger. Though it might have been one of the common topics discussed I appreciate your expression which shows that there are many women who are sailing in the same boat (hey Noah of Ark pl built a bigger boat for us…as there are many women out here)

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  9. Life for women has always been difficult and challenging. Be it a MD of the company, if she is a female, she does undergo different challenges in both personal and professional life when compared to men of her designation. Do we call it a curse? Not sure what words to use. But, working woman goes through the tough situation as much as a housewife does. Working woman is also a housewife during her non-office hours which adds on to her schedule. Weekends are always tiring. Yet, she can’t decide to spend some funtime with her friends as she will be thrown humpteen number of questions as to whether there is a dire need for her to leave the home and kids even during weekends to meet her friends. This is just an example. There are lot more.

    Working women are seen by her housewife neighbours as lucky people as working women dress up well and walk with style to her office. This is how they are looked at. They don’t know what working women undergo in their professional life. On the other side, I have tried taking leave for a week and just be a housewife completely – wake up early, cook, do with the dishwashing, sweeping, washing clothes, try some new snacks for the kids and keep them ready by the time they come back from school, work goes on and on and on………. never ending. I hardly get any time for myself. I have never operated the TV remote simply because I don’t get time to watch my favourite channel/programmes. It is always either with the kids or hubby who constantly watch.

    Moral – there are some smart women who don’t bother to do much whether housewives or working women and there are the others who constantly end up slogging, taking care of the household and profession invariably.

  10. Very well penned Vasudha.

    But, I would also like to point out to the fact that being a working woman, I am not “absolved” of any household responsibilities. I have to take care for kids before and after office (elder one is in school during day, the younger goes to day care), help with their school work.. Ensure the maid & cook is turning up on time. If they are not, do the tasks assigned to them. Working women also have to work around their schedules for looking after sick kids (2, in my case) & repairmen. Weekends are marked for grocery shopping, and this is where online ordering really helps!
    And if this isn’t enough, you have to be nice to elders and youngsters- coz who wants a snappy DiL/ mommy?

    Ohh, and at work you are supposed to perform- you see there can not be a discrimination between men and women employees.

    The point i am trying to make is that the life of working women isn’t any easier because I am obligated to be responsible for both home and work. So, yeah, it is a LOT of work. It has always been so for women- irrespective of which part of the world you are in.

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