Desperate Housewives

There is a feeling currently that as women, we should have (and want) it all. That we should all have high-flying careers AND the perfect home lives. Which puts intense pressure on all of us who just can’t live up to this media-led portrayal of the perfect life. And very often that means that women sacrifice the quality of home life, to have the career. And other times, the woman chooses to stay at home, and sacrifice their career. Which is fine, right?  Except apparently not.
On Claire from Cakes and Bunting’s fabulous In Her Own Words post about Choices a few weeks ago, Lottie from Lottie Really Loves made a comment which really struck a chord with me.  She was talking about her choice to stay at home rather than go out to work, and was saying how judged she felt when admitting this to people, particularly other women. Apparrently Lottie faces criticism and judgement, even from her own friends for this choice, and this part of her comment  made me stop and think:
“Sometimes women force other women to feel bad about their choices and judge them for it and force their ideals and their decisions on other women. Surely we should unite together so we can all make the choices that work for us and support each other in those instead of judging each other and making each others’ lives more difficult?”
I then pretty much begged Lottie to write about her decision, because she’s right. There is a culture now where women feel the right to deride other women’s choices just because they are not what THEY would choose, and maybe by knowing a little bit more about WHY women make their decisions, it will stop people making those snap decisions.
Before I hand over to Lottie, I’ll leave you with my over-riding thought on this subject.
Fifty years ago women were judged for wanting a career. Now women are judged for not wanting one. How is that progress?
Hello. My name is Lottie and I want to be a housewife.
 
Cue: gasps; screams of anti-feminist; items being thrown; bras being burnt and general disappointment.

This is why I haven’t told anyone about my secret desire to be a housewife. Add to that the fact I am in my early to mid twenties and have no children and the uproar would be even greater. I know it sounds a bit OTT and unrealistic but that is how I feel when I think about telling people the choice I have made about my future career.

As a child I was told I could be whatever I wanted to be, and I thought big! At the age of six, when most little girls want to be ballerinas, I wanted to be a barrister or a judge; I was quite a serious child! When I was older I thought about becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon, I aimed high! And then it was back to a lawyer. I just wanted to be a successful career woman, as my mum used to say: wanting to be a mummy wasn’t a career. Then as I grew up and started to make decisions for myself I started thinking about the reality of my life and what I really wanted out of it. And what I wanted was a loving caring family that I supported. I wanted to be at all my kids’ school plays and all their sports days; I wanted to be there picking them up from school at the normal time; I wanted to spend time helping them with their homework and making them realise they can do whatever they want; I wanted to be there for my husband and support his career as I never really knew what I wanted to do. It is all these things that I want now and which have guided me to make the choice I have.
And although I am comfortable with this decision I find it hard to be honest with people because I know they will judge and doubt my decision and decide it is wrong. I have mentioned it to friends and family and the response I get is laughing and being told how funny and ironic I am, and I laugh along because I don’t know how to say actually I am being real. Or they laugh and then say: “But really what are you going to do?” Then I quickly reel off a list of jobs I am uninterested in or a list of excuses of why I am finding it difficult to find my perfect job.
It is easier to do that than say the truth because of all the statements and judgements that will be made. I feel tremendously guilty about my decision all the time and when someone second guesses you, it isn’t exactly helpful.
 
I feel like when the words come out my mouth, I am letting women down generally. I am the anti-feminist, the woman that is preventing women getting true equality. My face will be put on wanted posters and feminists will be hunting me down. It feels like you are suddenly against feminism and instead of getting women greater equality you are shackling them back to the 1950s Housewife stereotype they have spent so long escaping from. In order to be promoting women’s rights you have to be permanently challenging the establishment; pushing on those glass ceilings; doing everything men do but better, heaven forbid you should prefer to stay at home looking after your children.
Add to that the fact that women seem to think you have been brain washed and do not know what you are doing. It cannot be an informed decision because why would she have chosen that? It must be her husband preventing her from getting her a job. And someone has actually put that comment to me; I was so shocked I didn’t know what to say.

Staying at home will also remove any identity I do have, but a job where you work 60+ hours a week won’t? How do you feel about not contributing to your household, it must make you feel uncomfortable? Because money is the only way we can contribute to our household, or it is the most important thing anyway?
 
Won’t you be bored? What would you do? Questions which often appear in a patronising voice, because I have become five again and my education and my university degree have suddenly disappeared into thin air? I don’t have an opinion anymore because I don’t have a job.

I thought the whole point of feminism was that women would have the same opportunities as men. That we would be free to make our own decisions based on what we wanted to do. But I feel like the choice I have made is not a recognised choice and therefore is one that is not respected but something that has been forced on me. I don’t judge women who work long hours and don’t have time to see their friends or family. I don’t judge women who stay with their partners despite adultery and a whole host of other things because it is their choice. Until women stop judging each but support each other in all areas of their lives women won’t get true equality. If this doesn’t happen then once again women won’t have a choice but are just trapped by a new group of stereotypes of women and feminism.
And when did everything become about money and work? There is so much more to life and so many other ways in which equality needs to be felt and fought for as well.
I told my husband about wanting to stay at home and he said that he just wants me to be happy and will support me 110% in whatever I want to do. With him by my side I will confidently stand by my decision with my head held high, because that is what women have fought for me to have, the choice. And hopefully those close to me will see that it is more important to understand, accept and support than to judge me according to their standards. Just because it isn’t what you would do, doesn’t mean it is a bad decision.
Categories: Money and Career, Our Favourite Posts, Politics and Feminism
10 interesting thoughts on this

9 Comments

  1. Katie
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Lottie, I agree with you. I have always wanted to be a homemaker too. I don’t share this information with real life friends.

    I worked in a corporate environment for five years after university, working long hours, but did not enjoy it. I would not sleep on a Sunday night for fretting about everything that needed to be done at work. I decided to become self-employed, to save my sanity.

    I have agreed with my fiancé that when we have children, I will have a 39 week maternity allowance paid to me the government, and will then go back to working for myself, and this can fit around children. I would love to be a full-time housewife, but finances will not allow. I am not too materialistic, and am hoping we can makes ends meet with me working part-time from home.

  2. Posted March 21, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    I have never ever wanted to be a homemaker, and I also do not share this with my real-life friends. I had a friend say, in response to my saying I only wanted two children, "oh, but you want to WORK." Like, "oh, but you want to EAT YOUR CHILDREN'S BRAINS." I spent three years in law school and I want to be a lawyer, dammit.

    But I meet more and more women who want to be housewives, and as I remember the sting of my friend's comment, I do my best to be supportive and say nice things to them and not say, "do you think you'll ever have a real job?" I do think that it is important to support other women, regardless of their choices, because the more I support them, the more they will support me. I have one friend who has recently quit her job and is due in April and she and I have been supporting each other through the difficulties of pregnancy and unemployment and finding identities apart from our careers. It's been a really good friendship and it's taught me a lot about who we are without "careers". (As has unemployment.)

    So go forth and make your family work, in whatever way is best for you. There is a lot that you can contribute to the world without making a salary or living a life of luxury (which is often more trouble than it's worth, if you ask me.)

  3. Posted March 21, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I love the blog world! Only here have I been truely able to find people who have the same ideas on this topic that I do.
    Lottie, like you, I'm a college educated woman, married, (and have a kid), but have chosen to be a stay at home wife/mom.
    Everything in the media (old and current!)and in our culture has shown housewives as care-free, beautifully kept, mindless women. Most of the reactions I get from people when I tell them I don't "have a job" are along the lines of "what do you do all day?" Or I get slight insinuations that I'm too lazy to get a job. They ask, "but you're looking right?" I've even been asked if I thought my college education was going to waste. Right. Because I don't use knowledge on a daily basis, it's only useful if you go to work.
    The choice for me to stay at home has been an ongoing choice. I periodically find myself asking "is the time right to start looking for a job?". My husband, thankfully, agrees with me 100%, and would support me if I wanted to find work at this point.
    I think it's important to note that our situation is unlike many others, and therefore, cannot compare to what other people think of as normal circumstances. It's taken me a while to get through the phase of feeling guilty about not holding a "real job", but I finally realised that concentrating on other people's expectations and judgements was getting me nowhere.
    And that's generally the answer I try to give other people when they make their inquiry. "In our current situation this set-up works perfectly for us." It may change in the future, near or far, but as of now, we're happy.

  4. Posted March 21, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    This was a great post, Lottie – thanks for sharing your situation with us.
    I feel a real internal tug-of-war when I think about having children – I think that as women we still very much feel that *something* has to be sacrificed for that, and I'm not sure that men necessarily feel the same way – or at least feel or worry about that to the same degree. And it is totally this thing of it being more acceptable to be a working mum now than a stay at home mum – and really we should be celebrating the fact that we can have the choice (well, not always financially but….) between the two. And also, I think people really need to acknowledge and realise that staying at home and looking after your children isn't a walk in the park – it's not just sitting around and playing games and kissing chubby cheeks all day long! My mum always says that looking after the three of us was the hardest job she's ever had – but ultimately the best one, because it was also the most rewarding. And personally, I'd love to be able to give my children the kind of childhood that my mum was able to give us by staying at home – I think that's such an amazing thing to be able to contribute to your children's lives.
    Personally, for me it is a bit different – I do a job that I love, which I would want to continue when I have children, but hopefully freelance, so that I can hopefully strike some kind of balance between being with our children and working. But then there's also the issue that, as a travel writer, I could be judged for going away from home for long stretches without them…..It really can feel like a lose-lose situation sometimes. Also, I know my husband would love to be a stay at home dad – and that in itself throws up a whole load of other issues when it comes to people judging you….Sigh.

    Sorry, this has turned into a very long comment! I know it's horrible to feel judged, especially unfairly so, for your decisions, but stick to your guns, and be proud of what you have chosen – you have every right to be happy with it, and as long as you and your husband (and eventual family) are happy, then that's all that matters. Sod everyone else.

  5. Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Lottie, thanks for posting this. It helps to hear in my current struggle with my non-work identity.

    I'm going to add fuel to the fire: what if I am a stay-at-home wife with NO CHILDREN? What then? What kind of raised eyebrows and tongue-clucking will I endure then?

    I married late because I was immersed, nay SUBMERGED in my career. I spent close to 20 years building a stable career only to be downsized and replaced with cheaper. In the last 4 years I've been with my now-husband, I was able to assist him in getting financially stable (he still has law school loans) and out of a horrible cycle of debt. Because of my financial security, my job loss has not been the financial trauma it could have been had we chosen to live beyond our means. Now my husband is running a new and successful law practice. He was able to do that because of ME. PERIOD.

    I am now unemployed. I'm working hard on a my small business venture and half-heartedly looking at corporate jobs only because the salary/benefits would be nice.

    So far, I've been home to balance our budget, keep the house clean, manage annoying affairs that generally take one away from the office (car maintenance, etc), grocery shop and cook healthy meals. I'm planting a garden for further savings and health.

    It may not sound like much, but when I get all that crap done during the week, I get to spend evenings and weekends with my husband. We have a sit down at the table dinner every night. We get to sleep in and play on the weekends. We don't have a desire to have children, so what does that make me? Lazy? Incompetent? Crazy?

    My husband LIKES this arrangement. He'd be happy if I didn't go back to work becuase a)I'm not the freaked-out, traveling, stress monkey I was when I worked, B)He likes that I take care of the annoying tasks, C)He enjoys the extra free time we have together and D)He likes being the bread-winner now, he likes the role reversal.

    Does this revert me back to the 1950's? My working friends are watching me with a raised eyebrow and with expectation for my next corporate move. They might be waiting for a long damn time.

    Clare – sorry I Bogart-ed your blog. It happens sometimes when a post is REALLY GOOD! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Lottie, I totally get this and it's horrible that as modern educated women we should have to defend anything when we're supposed to be able to have anything we want…especially, if not exclusively, from the criticism of other women?! Where is the solidarity we claimed for ourselves over all these years. I fully support women who stay at home, with or without children, just as I am all for women to work.

    I personally think having it all, for me, is a myth – I don't know anyone who has it all, whether they are employed or they stay at home. I am reconciled with that…so I intend to make my own path in a way that works for me, just as we are all trying to do.

    I work but I would happily stop. I wonder if this is because I have seen my own mother stay at home? I don't know. But I know her life is full and enriched by her lifestyle choices. And that's what we all want, it's just how we choose to get there – whether with employment or not – but when we have made our choices we need to stand firm just like you, Lottie. Thank you for penning such an interesting piece, I really enjoyed it (and reading everyone else's thoughts too!) x

  7. Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for you lovely comments and wonderful support. It is good to know that others feel the same and we just need to stand firm like most of you said.

    To The Thirty-something Bride, if you are happy with your decision and your life then that is all that matters. You don't need children to validate yourself.

    I love writing on my blog and posts like this and it means a lot that in a litle way it has got people thinking and discussing.

    Lots of love

    xxx

  8. Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Lottie, thanks for sharing such a great post with us. I have often felt guilty because i regularly bemoan the fact that i wasn't born earlier so i could have been a housewife in the 50s without the raised eyebrows (that and the super glamourous fashion). Seriously though the whole point of equality is that women earned the right to choose whether to work or not. Nowadays i think there are fewer women who can afford not to work and unfortunately i am one of them.

    thirty something bride-i applaud you. If i could be in your position i would be. I don't have/want kids but don't think that should be the only thing that necessitates a woman running a home full time as you rightly point out all the other admin and things that we still have to find time for whether we work or not.

  9. Posted March 24, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I'd love to be a housewife too but sadly our financial circumstances mean it isn't possible. Great post!

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  • By Being A Woman on February 29, 2012 at 9:45 am

    [...] belittle her for it, support her in her choice. If a woman chooses to give up her career and stay at home and have children, be glad for her that she is able to make that choice.If a woman chooses to focus on her career and [...]

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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