When I was born in 1970 most women were housewives, but from as early as I can remember being a housewife was under attack. Housewives were frivolous, they didn't pull their weight, they were a burden to society, especially to their poor husbands who had to provide for them. So young women were encouraged to build careers, not families and many women answered that call. Then a new problem arose, women wanted husbands and they wanted children, so in the late seventies stories started to appear saying "women can have everything!". They can have a job, a husband, children, an exciting powerful life, all they needed to do was not become housewives.
Here was an inversion of what being a housewife once was. A housewife wasn't frivolous or a burden, she was instead a valuable member of a partnership. Someone who wasn't unemployed or unemployable as she has sometimes been portrayed. No, she was an expert, it was her job to turn a house, whether it was a shack or a Palace, into a home, it still is. It was her job to provide nourishment for her family, to look after from day to day of child, home and any other family member who needed care. She wasn't frivolous and she certainly wasn't a burden. She was a vital and needed member of her family and if she left or died it was not uncommon for the family to fall apart.
It was also a reversal of past Feminist practice. In the past Feminists(as well as many others) had supported and Campaigned for a "living wage", that a man should be paid enough to support himself, his wife and his children. Its one thing we should be grateful to them for. It was the dismantling of this policy in the 1960's and 70's for "equal pay for equal work" that pushed the next wave of Feminism into power. Because it made the lives of husbands and wives harder, it encouraged people to see the problems of marriage and not the virtues.
There are still housewives, I link to two The Thinking Housewife and Adventures in Keeping House, but it is harder to be one than it used to be. Not only is it less fashionable than it once was but it's harder to live on one wage than it was when men were paid a "living wage". This is often portrayed as a good thing, something that grew the economy, but allow me to put a spanner in the works and show a different view.
To best illustrate this let us imagine an island, in essence a closed economy, and on that island are 100 men and 100 women, every man is a husband with one wife. Every man works in paid employment and every women is a housewife. And every man gets paid the same, in real life of course that wouldn't be the case, there would at least be one foreman who would get paid more, but to illustrate this better we will keep it simple. 100 families with one husband employed and one housewife in every family and every family bringing in the same amount of money, people would have a very similar standard of living.
Now lets have one wife start in paid employment, that family has an enormous financial advantage over every other family. Now lets say ten wives are in paid employment, what effect does that have? It has two, first these families will still all get an enormous financial benefit and it will encourage more wives into the workforce.
But when 20 wives are in paid employment the economics start to change, now two things start to happen. First business starts to notice that there is alot more money out there and families can afford more than they used to, so from now on prices start to go up. Secondly the next generation starts to find it harder to obtain employment.
When between 30 and 40% of the wives are employed then prices rise quite high, particularly in housing and other family expenses. It now becomes expected that women will be employed or can be employed if they wish to be employed. When only a few wives were employed it was a great boost to those families, but now they are trapped, they have to work to get the things they have come to expect. Things that only a few short years ago they didn't have and probably didn't need. Sadly not only are they trapped, but it now pushes more wives into paid employment just to meet expenses.
From this point on there are no economic benefits at all to be gained, from this point on all the gains are negative. There is no such thing as infinity jobs, there are instead a very finite amount of jobs, that number may go up or it may go down but it is never unlimited. So wives in paid employment contribute to unemployment, particularly for the young. Mothers are in effect taking their childrens jobs.
Men without paid employment do not have either wealth or prestige with which to attract a women and remain unmarried. This means that both men and women, for different reasons, are now lonely.
Not only does all of this have economic costs but it also leads to problems within the family. Children still need care, but if their mothers are not at home what happens? Children are sometimes expected to look after themselves without adult supervision. Children are sometimes given to older family members to look after, an option their daughters are unlikely to have available to them. Children are sometimes put into childcare, which costs money and is very rarely cheap. But in all of these options the parents are not raising their own children, the purpose of working for money is not the family but instead becomes luxuries. Things the family doesn't need are in abundance, but the things they do need are absent.
Nourishment, one of the basic jobs of a housewife has been neglected. In its place, fast food and processed food has taken the place of proper home cooked meals. Fast food and processed foods have their place, but that place is not in the wholesale replacement of fresh food. But as time is precious, as parents must rush from place to place it is fresh food that has been pushed out of family meals. If you want to seriously stop obesity in the Western world then housewives are the answer. Housewives who have the time to cook real meals from real ingredients.
The absence of housewives is also evident in making society more lonely, women are not at home, making it hard to connect with neighbours. Anti-crime programs have been dropped because housewives aren't in the home to even look out for anything unusual. Many tasks once done by housewives are now done for money, childcare, looking after the elderly or sick relatives or neighbours, schools now pay people to provide lunches for students instead of mothers doing it. Charities which once relied on housewives to run shops, sort deliveries, visit the sick or elderly, must now pay people to do these tasks. Wonder no more about why you get called by charities so much.
Finally, but certainly not least is the effect of trying to be all things to all people and what it does to women. Time is the first casualty, there just isn't enough, not for a husband, children, parents or the women herself. Sleep often suffers and with that come testiness, short tempers and frustration. Is there a single marriage that has ever benefited from these things?
I know a women who recently stopped working to look after a new addition to the family. She was amazed at how much her personality changed, she wasn't yelling at her children as much, she was calmer and more relaxed, she had more time to look after her home, her family and to do those extra things that she never had time for before. She isn't bored, she's lucky, and she knows it.
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