I have always enjoyed home-making, even when I worked full-time before we had children. I don’t mind cleaning, and I love cooking, baking, gardening, canning, and decorating. After we had children and I went down to working very part-time, one of the things I most enjoyed was having more time to devote to home-making activities. Now that all the children are in school and no one is currently being home-schooled, I asked my husband if he would like me to go back to work full-time, but he was quite opposed to it. He appreciates the work I do at home for our family and prefers for me to continue in that role. He got no argument from me.
So, it was with interest that I read a series of posts from other lady bloggers recently explaining what a day in the life of an average housewife is like. You can find their posts here:
Stingray: A Day in the Life
Margery: Day in the Life
Lady Sigyn: A Day in King’s Haven
Their days look a lot like mine except that I work part-time, and I’m not home-schooling this year. For those of you who work full-time but are interested in housewifery, you may enjoy reading Mary Ellen’s blog:
We lady bloggers use our down time to work on our blogs but for much of the day we are busy with mothering and home-keeping. There is, however, another kind of housewife that doesn’t often get talked about: the lazy housewife.
I was thinking about the lazy housewife recently when I was reading a sad story about a man who had gone through a divorce after supporting his home-maker wife for many years. He described what a terrible housewife she had been; the children and home were not cared for at all, but he couldn’t force her to work. His story reminded me of a girl named Beth whom I met in graduate school when I was working on my Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology.
Beth told me that she was trying to use the speech therapy techniques we were learning with her two young nieces, both of whom were very language delayed. She told me that her brother’s wife, who was a stay-at-home mother, did basically nothing to care for the children. From the time they were babies, she would drop them in their playpen with a bottle or an open package of crackers and leave them there all day, every day. The house was a mess, she didn’t cook, she didn’t exercise, and the children were unkempt and under-stimulated. Beth said that the youngest one was about to start school and that her sister-in-law was panicking because Beth’s brother wanted her to get a job; she began pressuring him to get her pregnant again, even though she didn’t really want any more children, just so that she would have an excuse to continue to sit on her lazy bum at home all day.
I thought about that sad story a few years later when I had an acquaintance whom we’ll call Sue who was a housewife but confided in me that she hated housework and was bad at it. She was very obese but always looked clean enough, and her two school-aged children appeared to be cared for. Sue and her husband were going through a nasty divorce, and she told me that one of his reasons for leaving was because she wouldn’t take care of herself or the house but also refused to go back to work. She had a lot of excuses as to why she couldn’t keep her home or have a job, none of them particularly valid.
One day she called me and another friend and asked us for help. Her husband had filed a petition to be granted sole physical custody of the children and the court had ordered some kind of home-check, which would happen the next day. She asked if we could come over and help her clean up the house, and we agreed to do so. I had never been to her home before, and when she let us in the front door, this is similar to what we saw (this is not her actual home):
I did not want to be rude to Sue, but I just looked at her and wondered, “What do you do all day? You don’t cook, you don’t clean, you don’t exercise, your children are in school, and you don’t have a job!”
What is to be done about lazy housewives? They give all of us a bad name, and they do their families no favors. If a lazy and rebellious woman is refusing to keep her home, ought she not to get a job and use the money to pay someone to keep the home for her?
The problem is that in both of my anecdotes above, the husbands did get tired of their wives refusing to keep the home and tried to get them to return to the paid workforce, but the women refused. What can a man in this situation do? When we lived in a time when men were not hogtied by our legal system and could actually enforce some consequences to maintain an orderly household, a husband could send such a wife back to her father or even threaten to turn her out. But now? He’s stuck with her. If he divorces her, she is going to collect child-support, which was the motivation Sue had to get her house cleaned up; she simply couldn’t lose custody of those kids because otherwise she’d lose out on child support and have to get a job.
Once a man is in this situation, he’s basically stuck. Therefore, one of the things men should vet for ahead of time in a potential wife is home-keeping skills. He ought to view her apartment, including stopping by unannounced. If she lives with her parents, he ought to expect to see her room. If it’s messy, that is a bad sign; if she can’t keep a room or apartment clean when it’s just her, how will she manage when she has an entire family and a larger home to manage? No matter how pretty a girl is, she’s just not wife material if she can’t keep a tidy, organized home.
Because it is Friday, let us end on a pleasant note by encouraging one another to be useful keepers of the home, whether we work or not. Is there an area of mothering or home-keeping that you aren’t doing well at? Share it in the comment thread and let us exhort one another to improve. Also, if you have a favorite home-keeping skill or tip or a favorite recipe, share it in the comment thread. Even the men can participate if they’d like. One final thing I would ask the men to comment on is what kinds of things men appreciate having their wives do so that the rest of us can check ourselves and make sure we’re taking care of business properly.
And now, here is a perfect recipe for this time of year, when cold viruses are making the rounds and a nice, hot homemade soup is just what is needed:
Sweet Garlic Soup from Meals that Heal by Eileen Behan
- 10 large garlic cloves, peeled, sliced thin (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 small onion, peeled and sliced into thin rings
- 2 T butter
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 1 T. fresh lemon juice
In a heavy soup pot, saute the garlic and onions for two minutes until soft, but do not let them brown. Add the chicken stock and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Puree in a food processor or blender; return to heat. Stir in the lemon juice, cover, and simmer for another 60 minutes. Serve warm with a few croutons or fresh herbs on top if desired.