Being a stay-at-home mum is nothing new. Similarly, being a housewife is nothing new - but a ‘traditional’ housewife and brazenly calling yourself so? The reason it’s news in 2020 is because we’ve been forced underground for so long, downtrodden and quietened by social shaming, but I want to help build a ladder on which we climb back out, and reclaim our celebrated place in the community…
Oh, I’m “just” a housewife. It’s meaningless really.
Born in west London, 1985, my early childhood was conventional. Traditional if you will, with my mother staying at home, while my dad worked double shifts as a postman in order to keep food on the table. Weekends were spent at either grandparents’ house enjoying home cooked meals. An especially fond memory is of watching my paternal grandmother, Joyce, ice elaborate ‘frou-frou’ wedding cakes, three circular tiers, white-on-white, as was the fashion back in the late ‘80s.
Joyce was an ex-nurse, married to Eddie, with three gigantic sons (and I mean, gigantic - my dad is 6"7), whom she fed three square meals, and dusted around during the day. Eddie relaxing in his easy chair in his stay-press trousers, slippers, and pullover watching darts, and rolling cigarettes while Joyce ‘kept house’. To my little eyes, they seemed very content and in love - enjoying themselves at the weekends down the social club dancing the meanest quick-step you’d ever see. What I realise now is that despite Joyce appearing to be ‘just’ a housewife, she also had a side-hustle. A skill that added to the family coffers (or might have afforded her pocket-money for a perm or two), but she was always, first and foremost, a traditional housewife.
My maternal grandmother Jytte (pron: You-tah) had a job. She worked as an administrator at a respite/day-care centre for children with disabilities, and as a child, this is where I spent long summers. Larking about on slides and swings, or playing with face paint and modelling clay when it rained. She worked, but she was there. Present in my life as I followed her from home to work, and back again. At her home, the balance of housework and domestic duties fell slightly more equally than at Joyce’s, but that worked - because she did.
Our own home, once my parents separated, was sadly not filled with many fond memories - because we only really slept there. That feeling of “home” wasn’t at that address - it was where the matriarchs were. You see, my mum had to go back out to work - and this shaped my future more than she, or I, could ever know. I pined for my dad and made the decision deep in my heart at that very point in my life that I would have a stable, traditional, family unit, and I would fight for it. However, modern narrative had plans to suppress me.
Born in the wrong era.
Up until the age of 10 I revelled in playing with my Barbie dream house. Every drawing was of pretty houses with picket fences and apple trees, or ‘portraits’ of my future wedding day and family. Old shoe boxes were transformed into ‘rooms’ that I happily decorated with tissue paper and scraps of fabric. At night my mum would let me fall asleep listening to Doris Day, and the world surrounding me was really rather pink. My biggest dream was to get married. Unambitious you may think, but my friends, having the kind of marriage I wanted takes work, as does being a good wife! Note the fact I wasn’t focused necessarily on “the wedding”, it was the promise and lifelong ‘occupation’ that came with it!
But crashing towards 1996 when The Spice Girls stormed on the scene, suddenly ‘growing up’ and embracing GIRL POWER meant having to leave all my girlish dreams behind. Apparently 11 years old is when girls need to leave everything they love behind to don a crop-top and a pout. Not because they wanted to, but because it’s no longer ‘cool’, or accepted. These girls are also expected to become aggressive and ‘take on the boys’. Not doing so is weak and gives boys some mythical ‘power’ that we don’t want them to have. Yet boys are still left to enjoy their cars, football, and letting mummy look after them.
I’m not sure life has changed all that much for boys or girls since then. Our young girls are growing up so fast, and innocence being lost earlier than ever. Miniature ‘bras’ are on sale, midriffs are bare, and sexy songs are sung in the playground. It seems as if girls are laying aside their dolls even earlier than my generation did, and replacing them with unwholesome things - things that steal innocence and dreams rather than nurture and encourage them. Modern influencers and influences aren’t much better, teaching them passive aggressive remarks, and using personality traits typical of your gender isn’t cool - just watch modern shows for kids on Netflix to see for yourself.
I needn’t rehash the statistics that girls now want to grow up to be pop stars, influencers, or Kardashians… What happened to nurses, doctors, teachers, and yes, even entrepreneurs, CEO’s, or housewives?
In truth, being a female CEO and a Housewife are one and the same - one may have less subordinates, and wear an apron instead of a power suit, but their team tends to throw more tantrums, demand snacks 24/7, and wet themselves at the most inconvenient times. I may or may not be talking about husbands.
Meanwhile, life for boys (and men) still features cars, football, tools, outdoor adventures, and perhaps a video game or two. Becoming a man happens later, well into their twenties in some cases, and they’ve not had to sacrifice what made them happy in childhood.
With that in mind, how many men do you know that had to set aside their childhood hobbies for fear of being picked on? Or one who doesn’t like being spoiled by their mum on occasion no matter how old they are? This balance is unfair, I believe girls deep down still want to be cherished by a masculine figure. Why do romance novels sell so well?
Instead, the attention we receive and expect becomes sexualised. We have to fight against men in the workplace, and on the flip side, fight for their attention at the local wine bar… Meanwhile the boys are still unashamedly “who they are”.
It was painful, but I slowly realised there was no room in the social narrative for girls who wanted to stay home and have babies anymore. There was no room for delicate femininity, or ‘traditionally feminine’ pursuits. It just wasn’t cool. As if I didn’t already feel like an alien in my growing body and single-family dynamic, growing through my teen years and early twenties really made me feel like an outsider. Mizz, Just 17, and later Cosmopolitan magazines told me to be aggressive, a career woman, and learn how to be a sex goddess. School turned up the ‘career’ pressure, and every well-meaning question from then on enquired about what I wanted to BE. I felt like I was drowning in a culture that I didn’t belong to. I loved sewing and cooking, but couldn’t care less about learning how to solder something - I had no future plans for that!
I’m thankful that school gave me a taste for everything, and I had the ‘right’ and access to help me figure out what I enjoyed doing and might want a ‘career in’. Truth be told, with domestic sciences well and truly off the menu they actually failed me in some way. I can’t help but feel there are other girls (and grown women out there) who may just feel the same way.
There might not be many of us, but our feelings and ‘ambitions’ to be wives and mothers are valid too.
In truth, I never wanted to be anything other than a doting wife, a mum, and the best darn housewife in the street! Yet I pretended the opposite a while*, as the world told me to get a career—Encouraged me to break glass ceilings, and watch I didn’t catch an STI from that “catch” at the office Christmas party, and learn how to get over it when he never called me back. #livingmybestlife
*PS: sorry to all the employers I lied to before when I said I wanted to work for you.
“Be anything you want to be - except for that.”
Don’t get me wrong, I am forever grateful for feminism and the courageous women who went before me, to win the vote for me, to win choices for me. However in the wake of all that, it doesn’t give them the permission to tell me I can be anything I want to be, but it’s simply ‘not enough’ to want to stay at home and raise my children, take care of my husband, and my home.
Women of my kind, “ladies like us”, have been told time and time again that we should earn our own money. That we are doing a disservice to other women, and that we should be thoroughly ashamed to support the patriarchy.
Last time I checked, I was in support of loving marriages where each partner flourished according to what made them happy, but o-kay. Just because I’m at home and I ‘serve’ my husband doesn’t mean I do so unwillingly, that he controls me, or that in doing so it threatens someone else’s very existence.
Women supporting women? Apparently not…
I still fail to hear comments from men who are ‘up in arms’ over my choices. What is it that makes women so angry about the fact ladies just like me want to stay home? I’m not forcing anyone to do it, or even suggesting they do. Yet I’m here for them if they want to! I’m also here to share how wonderful it feels, when you wholeheartedly embrace it.
Some just fear the unknown I guess.
We are all smart women. Smart enough to make lifestyle choices for our families that keep us all happy.
So what does being ‘traditional’ really mean?
In our family dynamic it means that my husband is the “head of the household” (digest *that* phrase 2020). He takes care of the larger details (such as earning money, making house payments, dealing with major finances, car maintenance, insurances, legalities, and so on). In return, I take care of the finer details of running the home, such as cooking, cleaning, childcare, and making sure there is a sense of harmony in our “haven”. In layman’s terms…
Him = protect and provide.
Me = nurture, nourish, and feather the nest.
Some like to do that in a 50:50 split. But he hates laundry and I hate the rat race. This dynamic works for us. Marital bliss, no more arguing about who’s going to cook dinner, or in fact - pay for dinner.
Oh and I have the luxury that when the dishwasher is loaded, the slow cooker is on, and the washing machine whirs away I can sit down and indulge my passion of writing!
I’m happy to serve my husband if that’s the trade! It swings in my favour nine times out of ten. I’m doing something I LOVE to do, and in a roundabout way, I’m getting paid to do it! Smart…
It’s not as if I am some brain-dead Stepford Wife who is thoroughly dependent on her husband to make every decision for her. Running a home, and running a home well takes brains, and determination, not to mention commitment! Some days I just don’t want to clean the toilets, but if I don’t, I suffer too.
The art of being a housewife is actually hard work and requires much skill. We balance budgets, we multi-task, we crisis manage, we support people emotionally, we have time to volunteer and reach out to our communities. We make sacrifices that count.
I’d rather sacrifice my time for my family than some boss who doesn’t pay me nearly enough, sees me as a number, and who only cares about profit margins. I’d rather take care of my own profit and loss accounts, thanks. If my husband wants to ‘pay me’ to stay at home doing the things I need to do to make sure my child and I survive, and all I have to do is lay out one extra plate and make sure his underpants are clean - that’s a trade I’m more than happy with!
To thank him for doing everything he does, I’ll more than happily tell him to put his feet up while I fix him a drink. I was thirsty anyway. Oh and I might pop a bit of lipstick on and brush my hair, because you know what? I want my husband to fancy me, and not look elsewhere! Tracksuits and greasy hair looks good on no-one, ever. Not even your spouse.
But it’s more than that shallow view of it really, we have a deep appreciation of the other spouse’s skills and talents. We are thankful for what we do for each other and the balanced and harmonious dynamic it creates for our family. Taking care of one-another has really deepened our marriage, our commitment, and made us closer than ever before. The best part of it all is that we are living our truth. Our love story. He’s better at making money and slaying dragons, and I’m a better cook, making small talk in the playground, and I actually enjoy the ironing - it’s a win-win.
Plus, I adore that man! Why wouldn’t I want to spoil him? It’s time that women faced the fact that it doesn’t require being successful, or sexy to win and keep a (happy) man who wants to cherish and provide for you and your babies without complaint - it requires care-taking of him!
If you want to be cherished as a wife and a woman, you have to respect, be tender, tend to, and take care of your husband! You can’t expect him to make you happy, but give nothing in return.
Submission doesn’t mean control.
I’ve been ‘at home’ for eight years. Before that, I spent a year at home as a ‘stay at home girlfriend’ too. It was a decision the Mr and I came to together, he supported me while I figured out what I wanted to do after a particularly awful time at work… What a gift that was, and little did I know the answer was staring us both in the face.
What I realise now as I write this, is that my husband and I no longer argue over who is the most tired, or most stressed at work. We’re not nagging each other to go to the supermarket, or fighting over whose turn it is to cook, or do the washing up.
Our laundry is always done, the fridge is always full, dinner is always on the table - and each of us know where we stand. He ‘submits’ the decisions concerning the finer details to me, and trusts that I will complete them to the best of my ability.
Equally, I submit to him the larger details which concern the decisions which impact our family on a larger scale. We always discuss things together of course, and my voice is heard - I’m not a dimwit. Sometimes the decision we reach is one ‘decided’ by me, but I submit to the fact that my husband is always in the immediate firing line for anything that happens to our family. The buck stops with him at the end of the day, and I’m happy for the “rescue” from some of life’s tougher things (if you want to put it into Disney speak). I respect him and take care of him and our home, and he cherishes, provides for, and protects me. I’m capable of rescue myself of course, I’m a tough cookie. I’d just rather not break a nail.
If being a ‘traditional housewife” means cooking, cleaning, doing the school run, and being there (and being attentive) towards him when he gets home, then doing ‘just’ that or being defined as ‘submissive’ is fine by me.
Those things are MY job, I chose to do this with my time - and his job is to pay for everything (Joking. Kind of). Honestly, I wouldn’t want to work his long hours, deal with his business associates, pay the bills, or take the stinky rubbish out on a Monday for all the money or ‘empowerment’ in the world. I am empowered, by being true to myself.
It’s incredibly liberating no longer having to do the things I really didn’t enjoy, and trusting my husband to sort them on our behalf. Equally he hates laundry, but I love it! Just because the division of housework falls on my lap, doesn’t mean he doesn’t work hard for us too! I love being at home and taking care of my family. There is nothing wrong with that in our eyes. Alena Kate Pettitt
Whose money is it anyway?
Arguments about money are one of the leading causes of divorce and it would be remiss of me not to mention it. Most women are scared to give up work because it makes them feel powerless. Having your “own money” in your union does not equal power or security, a trusting marriage with healthy communication does*. You can afford all the things you want if you make your “own”, but for many households that comes at the cost of time, harmony and contentment. The money that comes into our household is ours, to steward sensibly in a way that benefits and supports us all.
(*I realise not everyone is lucky enough to stay home because of financial pressure. The point I’m making is directed to those who think the wife not contributing financially is a reason as to why this ‘traditional model’ is flawed).
Like Grandma Joyce making her cakes, I ‘make my own money’ too through book sales, and I even ‘earn more than that’ by helping the Mr make business decisions when he needs to bounce ideas off someone. I had a career in marketing before this change of lifestyle, and those skills didn’t just evaporate as soon as I put a pair of rubber gloves on my hands. If the book sales dried up, or I chose not to pursue making a little extra, that’s ok too! We have budgeted carefully enough to live on one income, and I’m of no less value to our family unit.
Sometimes the fear surrounding the loss of income for the wife is less about the money, and more about the lack of trust or sense of unfairness between both parties. Couples who are drawn to this lifestyle may have to decide if they are willing to make financial sacrifices in order to feel richer in other areas - such as their home life.
In a traditional household the pay-check belongs to both of you, no matter who ‘earned it’.
We have our fair share of critics too.
Despite us being quite different to our peers behind closed doors, Mr Darling likes this cosy little set-up we have going, and shockingly, if you hadn’t already guessed… so do I! Even my own mother found it quite odd when I’d say to her “I’ll ask my husband”, but she’s used to it now, because she sees how well we take care of each other, and she knows that the ‘asking’ is really just consideration and making sure that what I do won’t impact us negatively.
Because yes, without checking first, an immediate RSVP to a hen party the same weekend my husband has a big deadline, and my son has three birthday parties to attend, my not being there will impact us. Similarly, spending £100 on a pair of shoes I didn’t really need which was set aside for insurance renewals impacts us too.
Seeking my husband’s “permission” really just means weighing up what decisions will benefit us as a whole - not me as an individual. We all know that being a parent requires sacrifice, being a spouse does too! “Submitting” to him means trusting the decisions he makes are for the best, and he has our best interests at heart. He’s not a tyrant, he actually loves us and wants to see us flourish as a family. These simple truths and ideals haven’t changed since 1950, or ever.
I’m not saying this lifestyle is right for everyone, and that’s ok! I just wanted to explain it better from our point of view.
As my husband says…
You don’t have to like my ice cream, it’s MY ice cream. Mr Darling
The naysayers will call me lazy.
Yet I work from dawn until dusk, and my work is never done. I’m my own boss, and I do my ‘job’ pretty darn well, thank you.
They say I’m a slave to my husband.
If a “slave” gets foot rubs, cuddles, fancy dinners and Chanel handbags out of the blue… plus the luxury to stay home and avoid the rat-race so long as she does a bit of housekeeping (which she was going to do anyway), then you call me whatever you want!
Tell me to earn my “own” money.
I do, thanks. However we have a family kitty, and I’m sensible with my portion and household budget, just as he is. If I didn’t ‘earn’ money in the traditional sense (as I hadn’t for the first four years), it wouldn’t make a much difference, because we are grown married adults - we know how to share, and budget!
They’ll say I’ll find myself in a pickle if “he leaves”.
Sorry, we took our wedding vows seriously, and life insurance covers other eventualities - for both of us.
They say I’m living in a fantasy.
Yes, it is a dream. One that has come true! I hope yours does too, whatever it may be.
Thank you for leaving us to our own happiness, and being pleased for those who find happiness in this model of marriage too - no matter how archaic you might think it is.
Inside our cosy little homes we are content. We are fine as we are, and know this is 2020, not 1959. We now have the luxury of equality within marriage, and to cherry-pick the best parts of a traditional lifestyle as it suits! If other women want to be a traditional stay-at-home wife, tend house, take care of fine husbands and babies, we should all be in full support of that.
I’ll stand here in my superhero cape shaped like an apron and defend the fact it should be a celebrated choice to be a traditional housewife and homemaker for as long as I live. Defending it for the little ones, and the grown ones alike.
Let no woman be shamed for wanting to be “just” a traditional housewife. Alena Kate Pettitt
If you want to debate it, just let me know when you’re coming and I’ll bake a cake!
A modern Stepford Wife
Learning to be better housewives, together.
The Darling Academy is here to stay, and here in support for women (and their husbands) who want to make the lifestyle choice we have. I wish to support you in your journey and show you that it’s ok to want to be a good wife.
It’s ok to want to make your husband happy, and it’s definitely ok to stand up and preserve the sanctity of marriage.
1809, 1909, 1959, 2020 - it’s all the same. Women haven’t changed - society’s narrative has, but they too often spin lies to make us feel bad about living ‘differently’ from the norm.
Stand firm ladies, we’re an apron-clad army, and a force to be reckoned with! Considering we are supporting fine men that contribute to the economy, and are raising future politicians and decision makers that will influence the standard of living and social landscape for our retirement years, I’d say that the work we do really counts…