Housewife versus homemaker

May be because I’m old school and see words as words. May be I don’t see how a job changes if the job description doesn’t change. May be because when I was growing up my parents constantly made me aware of how people would say one thing to make something “sound” nicer but ultimately it would still be a word that would mean exactly the same. May be this is why I don’t get why housewives find less glory in being called a “housewife” and automatically feel elevated when someone addresses them as a “homemaker”. And please don’t even get me started on the newest variation of this word i.e. Stay At Home Mom (SAHM).

But the bigger question is why do women care about being put in a box, being defined by a word? Why is there a constant struggle to get the bigger chunk out of the famous pie that we all lovingly call “super mom”, or “super wife” or “boss babe”. Please continue to add your own hashtag that you use for yourself to this list of some commonly used descriptors for today’s married woman.

Another question is why are women being judged and described based on their choices? If I go out to work, you can call it a choice, a need, a desire, a calling, forced labor. But what you shouldn’t call me is a working mom. I hate that term. I use it because it’s part of our urban dictionary now but I hate it. It somehow implies (and purely due to its usage) that there are other species of moms, and I belong to the species that gave birth and then went to work. That comes home and goes to bed. That has a distant and disconnected relationship with her kids. Working moms is a description for privileged women. Of course, house help, the woman loading a tractor trailer by the side of the road as part of a larger group of manual labor, policewomen, seamstresses, chimney sweeps, our kids’ school bus drivers don’t make the cut for being called “working mom” and I’ll tell you why. And if you’re being honest you’ll agree because this is after years of being pitted against a bunch of housewives by family members and some well-meaning friends.

You see “working mom” is seen as someone who gets up in the morning with a head that doesn’t look like bed head at all. She wakes up like that. She has every hair in place. She then takes a leisurely shower or sits in her jacuzzi for a good thirty minutes with a shower cap on her head, then steps out gingerly right into a dress that her super efficient, 24/7 available maid has already laid out for her and that hugs all the right curves seductively. She then carefully puts her make-up on (according to some people, these particular moms have so much time on their hands that they spend a good amount of it along with their hard-earned money on all the latest skincare so they don’t even need so much makeup), touches up her hair a bit and then saunters down the staircase into her breakfast room where two nicely groomed kids are already sitting on the table, sipping at their apple juice and voraciously eating toast and jam. Her husband peers at her from behind his newspaper and makes a tasteful compliment which she takes with the usual haughtiness that comes to mind when thinking of working moms. She then sits down and drinks her green juice, freshly made by her awesome husband (because husbands of working moms are seen as another species too and don’t see any objection in being their wives’ equal domestic partners and in fact are more than happy to always chip in). This wealthy-appearing lady then leaves all her work to her housekeeper who is so in tune with her employer’s wavelength and frequency that she just gets what’s required of her and that’s it. “Say no more, dear Baji! I got it”.

When this woman gets to work she has a good two hours before any office work will start anyway. So what does she do? She drinks coffee with a witty friend, the kind they show in The Devil Wears Prada (Emily Blunt and Gisele) and they share a catty conversation but are really sisters at heart. They they sit down to rifle through some papers, sort a huge problem or two before lunch and then at lunchtime, because all these jobs are happening at extremely upscale business neighborhoods where there is no dearth of amazing eateries and coffee shops, they soon find themselves at a very posh sandwich delicatessen and sit down to gossip for another two hours.

Finally the day ends. And just as poised as she left, she comes back home. She gets out of her car in her designer clothing and sashays into her home, while a SAHM is wrestling with her toddler in the middle of the street trying to convince him that the trike is for him and not the dog.

Working mom enters home. Kids are already being helped with homework by an amazing tutor. This tutor is so on point that her kids never have bad grades. They just succeed at everything that the tutor helps them with. Also, they go to the best schools so of course they don’t need much help. The househelp/nanny/soul sister of this working mom brings forth a basin of lukewarm water that the mom now soaks her feet in. Husband comes home, they have dinner, and then everyone transports themselves into a blissful sleep. I’m a mom who works so I can tell you this isn’t what really happens.

But we aren’t talking about working moms, are we? (Even though I wrote several paragraphs for them, haha). We are talking about why housewives are looking for a legitimate word to describe them.

This is totally my theory and disagree if you like, doesn’t change my opinion because this comes out of some research. Housewives have been made to feel inadequate. All their lives they’re pitted against women who bring a paycheck while looking after their families. Most housewives think that working women don’t care for their kids like they do. The truth is that working women take care of their kids just as well as housewives because they’re mothers first and their kids are their priority. They need help for it so they hire help.

But working women didn’t make housewives look for another job title. Working women don’t make housewives feel inadequate. And working women envy many aspects of a housewife’s life. The feeling of being unappreciated that housewives get and their subsequent despondency over it isn’t caused by a woman who goes out to work. This is created by their significant others and their own children and their own families. Their own support system has done this to them. Their own people have been giving them a title after title to placate them. Frankly this is patronizing. This shouldn’t make us feel good. This should make us feel dishonored. Why isn’t being a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a financial partner (yes housewives are financial partners too) and being the keeper of our houses enough for us? Why does every descriptor come with a qualifier like “you’re not a wife, you’re a super wife”. What the hell does that even mean? It’s pandering.

I’m a mom without a qualifier, a wife, a daughter and a sister. I don’t need a superlative attached to my already well-received title to make me more acceptable. I’m not a marketing campaign that you change my name every few years and bring me out with the hope of catching more customers. I’m also not yours to define or describe. I know what defines me and it’s not just one thing. I know that you calling me a homemaker does nothing to my self-esteem if you continue to dishonor me by subliminal attacks on my womanhood and my motherhood. I’m okay with being a housewife if you can respect that. The fact that you needed to coin a word to make me feel better in the twenty-first century makes me suspicious of your motives. This new name is new in its sound but really it’s my old job with the same salary, the same requirements and the same desk. Really nothing has changed. And because nothing really changed, I won’t let you fake me into thinking something changed.

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