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Is "Housewife" A Bad Word?

When it comes to “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” or “Desperate Housewives,” being a housewife isn’t so bad. But outside of TV, nobody wants to be called a  “housewife” these days.

The New York Times recently featured a column by Katrin Bennhold about “The Stigma of Being a Housewife.” Bennhold writes about how in Sweden and Norway, housewives are just about extinct. I’d say the same is true in North America. Just try calling a stay-at-home mom a “housewife” and see how she reacts. And most stay-at-home moms these days feel they must justify their existence by volunteering, taking classes, or taking a job they can do from home. Paradoxically, while “housewives” get no respect, moms who decide to work are equally vilified. It seems sometimes that moms just can’t win.

 As Bennhold says:

Across the developed world, women who stay home are increasingly seen as old-fashioned and an economic burden to society. If their husbands are rich, they are frequently berated for being lazy; if they are immigrants, for keeping children from learning the language and ways of their host country.

Isn’t it time we stop judging women for their choices and instead, supported their decisions? That means longer maternity leaves, better childcare, more flexible work situations, and subsidies for women who choose to stay home with their kids.

Historically, housework has been defined as “women’s work,” which partially explains why it has been undervalued. Hélène Périvier, an economist at the Institut d’Études Politiques in Paris, proposes that nations should “formally recognize the contribution housewives make to the economy.” Once there’s a monetary value attached to all that they do, then perhaps they’d be appreciated.

As Bennert points out, whether they’re working in an office or at home, women still end up doing the bulk of the cooking and cleaning. Maybe if there’s an economic value placed on housework, more men will chip in.

Do you consider yourself a housewife?

Photo: flickr/Deluxx

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