Why I Will Never Be a Housewife

One of the most difficult things for me to get my head around when I moved abroad was becoming ‘dependent’ on my husband. Before we moved I had a profession and, although I enjoyed it, I was ready to give it up and move abroad. I didn’t mind the fact that I no longer had to work, or the fact that I would no longer have my own earnings. What I really disliked was the label that came with such a decision.

It started when we arrived in Brunei and I had to fill out my details for my identity card.

Occupation: Housewife

Employer: Mr Smith

Every time I have to fill out ‘Housewife’ on a form I cringe. The word makes me think of every bad association known to female kind.

Image from www.dailymail.co.uk
Image from http://www.dailymail.co.uk

Dictionary.com has the following definition of a housewife:

a married woman who manages her own household, especially as her principal occupation.

I know that a housewife can be so much more than a cleaner – a mother, carer, provider… to name a few. But to me it is like stepping back in time to when women stayed at home and waited by the door with their husband’s slippers. To have my employer recorded as my husband was just a further insult!

But the truth is that this is how things work here for many wives. I am not allowed to open any accounts, I cannot access our joint credit card statements and I am not allowed to work. I should point out that this is not just the case for women – dependent male spouses can’t do any of these things either. And plenty of Bruneian women work, I’m just not allowed to because I’m on a dependent’s visa. But after being much more independent before we moved, it was a real shock to suddenly be told no you can’t do that, your husband has to.

I have grown more used to things now that we have been here a while. But when anyone asks me what I do, I still stumble over the word housewife. A full time mother and volunteer would better sum it up. And to add further insult to injury I am a truly terrible housewife!

I would love to hear your thoughts on what it means to be a housewife. Do you like the label? Would you avoid being classed as a housewife at any costs? Have you heard any ways to get around answering ‘housewife’ as an occupation? Or has the term evolved to mean something more than a woman who stays at home and looks after the house?

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19 thoughts on “Why I Will Never Be a Housewife

  1. I too hate that term. It feels like someone is saying to you look, your life as you know it is over, just accept that! Could you just write ‘none’ under occupation? Or ‘no PAID occupation’ to make the point? Or list all the things you do (writer, Blogger whatever) and then put (unpaid) at the end? Or is it all just not worth the hassle?

    1. Unfortunately it’s not worth the hassle, and I’ve had to change my responses on forms sometimes because having no occupation is not an accepted answer. Maybe the next place we move to will accept something different, but until then I will have to grin and bear it.

  2. It really is a terrible label to attach your name to. When I just moved to the US and hadn’t started working yet, I felt so odd not filling in anything in the occupation line. Where I’m from, everybody works and the women who don’t work are looked down upon, especially if they have no children. I’m sure there are proud and productive housewives out there, but there really is a stigma attached to saying you’re one. I’ll never be a housewife either.

  3. I think that if you’re happy enough in your own skin and fairly confident about your decisions, then what it says on a piece of paper shouldn’t be that much of an issue; it’s just another country’s custom, that’s all. You are happy in your decision not to go out to work, so it sounds as though it’s all working well for you, and it’s time to enjoy the freedom you wanted. Don’t sweat the small stuff!

  4. When asked, I usually say ‘stay at home mom’, but I don’t care much if I have to put housewife on a form. As was mentioned in a comment before, as long as you are happy, who gives a.. Who cares what it’s called and what other people might understand by this name? 🙂

    1. You’re right, I shouldn’t worry about it. After all, any label you give yourself doesn’t sum up much about the person. But when I said I was a teacher the conversation that followed was always more interesting than if I replied ‘housewife’.

  5. It really is an awful label and I’ve had to hate it too in the past. How about Domestic Technician – at least it will spark a conversation 🙂 and of course there’s always Nigella’s term of Domestic Goddess!

  6. I’m lucky because I’m currently in school so instead of saying housewife, I can say student. Even though I spend much more time keeping up my house, cooking, and caring for my husband than I do on schoolwork. I’m not sure why “housewife hate” is such a common trend. If you make good use of your unemployed time and enjoy your life, what’s wrong with that?

    Don’t let the word affect you; it’s just a word. Try to enjoy your free time, spend more time caring for your home and family and exploring those hobbies you’ve always wanted to try.

      1. After nine years of working 40-60 hour weeks through school, I was super excited to have time to focus solely on me and my studies!

        I’m glad to hear that! I’m hoping blogging will help me break through some of those “Am I being a productive person?” feelings I sometimes get being a housewife.

        I’ll be following your adventures!

  7. Hi,I’m a relatively new expat and have just started blogging.I too am a stay at home wife and I really don’t mind all the different terms used to describe us.it just doesn’t bother me, I’ve discovered that I really love being at home and ensuring we have a comfortable clean homely environment. I agree with the other readers who say life’s too short, as long as you’re happy with your life&your decisions that’s all that matters 🙂

    1. It’s definitely a topic that’s generated a lot of debate, but even though I’m happy to be a housewife I still don’t like the term. I have gone with ‘Mother’ now if anyone asks, as that’s my full time job at the moment. That should get me by for a few years!

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