In defence of Housewifery
Society has started to raise its eyebrows at me and go “So. When are you going back to work?” And after a great deal of thought, hours on seek.com and LinkedIn and many coffees with the girls, I’m just not. Have you seen the kinds of jobs offered to people like me? People who would like to work part time, with a bit of flexibility around swimming carnival time, who have been out of the workforce for fifteen years? I’ll tell you so you don’t have to find out for yourself. Admin, reception, maybe sales. Back when I had a real job I was an IT manager. I have a PhD in statistical mechanics. In my most recent volunteer position I’ve become an expert on the not for profit sector, including the various legal entities they can take on, GST obligations, super obligations, reporting obligations, their relationship with various government departments and different acts of parliament that govern their behaviour. Ah, but I wasn’t getting paid for that, was I. So it doesn’t really count. I can get a job opening the mail and doing the filing. Or making phone calls to sales prospects, the thought of which actually brings me out in a blotchy rash. The message is that if you want a real job, girly, you’ll need to do real hours and show real commitment. Well, up yours, workforce. I don’t need you.
Of course it’s easy for me to say that, because I happen to have a workaholic husband with a brain the size of a planet, so we’re fairly tidily off financially. I’d be going back to work so I could have conversations with adults and have performance assessments and be useful to people I haven’t actually grown in my own body. It turns out that the easiest way to achieve those things is to get into volunteer work. Nudge up against anyone in a committee and they’ll grab you with both hands and before you know it you’ll be booking the Town Hall for a Verdi extravaganza, hiring a sixty piece orchestra and organising public liability insurance. Just speaking from my own experience there. Seriously, I have found that being on school and community committees has been extremely nourishing to my soul, exercised the atrophying brain and made me a lot of friends in many walks of life. So that’s taken care of.
The actual housework stuff isn’t so bad either. We got a cleaner very early on in our marriage, it saved us many a futile argument and I recommend it to anyone who doesn’t have OCD. So all I do is shop for food almost every day, wash clothes, go on quests for obscure musical instrument parts, prepare food and sew capes. The kids never take processed food to school except for bread, and I’m working on that. I also have the time to drive the kids to and from school when their timetables don’t clash and I highly recommend it. You have them captive for twenty minutes and there’s a lot you can learn in that time. I believe I’m the only mother of my acquaintance that has an almost fourteen year old son that still gives me a full and frank report of what he’s been up to at school every day. I can also go to school assemblies when an offspring is singing a song about a cloud or receiving a piece of paper for not biting anyone on the leg this week and sports carnivals, even though that isn’t my favourite thing in the world. Then when the kids are home I’ve done all my household administration and am free to shout at them for jumping on the lounge and answer difficult maths questions.
There’s nothing in the housewife book to say it is a female role. Or that it’s a role that must be present in each family. It works for us and I don’t think it makes me less of a modern woman. I just wish I didn’t blush when people ask me, inevitably, what I do and I answer straight up that I’m a housewife. I must work on that.