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.
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.
Dictionary.com has the following definition of a housewife:
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?