Oh I don’t work, I am just a housewife!
An oft spoken and heard expression it has for as far as we remember meant that a housewife really is a married woman who sits at home doing nothing much but enjoying her married life. What is even more alarming is the fact that the term ‘housewife’ has offensive overtones for most people.
Somewhere till the 20th Century, in the early 1900s, women were expected to stay at home, and those who wanted to work were often stigmatized. Today it’s mostly the other way round. Across the developed world, women who stay home are increasingly seen as old-fashioned and an economic burden to society. Though there are husbands especially in India who look forward to a warm meal and a comfortable house when they reach back home from work, more and more of them feel that housewives are well ‘just housewives’, a community which is a big burden on society and is at best ignored.
With so many confusing inputs I felt I really needed to delve into the very depths of the heart of “the housewife”.
Who really is a housewife? According to the dictionary, “a married woman who manages her own household, especially as her principal occupation, is a housewife”.
Most of us have forgotten that a housewife as mentioned above is principally a manager who manages her home, her family and the lives of all the people around her. However, the role of a housewife is not termed as work, her contribution to the family and the society in general is considered to be nil.
And here I believe is the biggest misconception of all times. A housewife or homemaker may not be drawing a salary, or have work regulations or even get felicitated for her work at home but nonetheless her contributions cannot be sidelined. A woman as a housewife contributes to society directly by providing a sound foundation for a well-knit family unit and a stable society and indirectly in development of the society by giving it confident, encouraged and responsible young citizens. She inculcates positive qualities in children, which once imbibed, inevitably become part of their nature and provide guidelines for their wholesome behaviour pattern.
A housewife generates in each and every member of family a feeling of being wanted and loved. She provides to her spouse a tension-free atmosphere to develop his personality in full and prosper in life. He gets enough time, energy and purpose to pursue/progress in his career without any hassle. To elders she provides a desirable shelter and comfort. She is, in true sense, a trainer of a child from the child’s infancy. All these jobs require lots of patience, tolerance and sense of responsibility.
It is essential to bring out here that The Supreme Court has upheld the economic role of a housewife also. According to the law it is possible to apply opportunity cost in valuing a housewife’s services. For instance, the monetary value of cooking for family members could be assessed in terms of what it would cost to hire a cook or to purchase ready cooked food, or by assessing how much money could be earned if the food cooked for the family were to be sold in the locality.
Alternatively, the time taken for housewives to produce these services could be compared with the time that is taken to produce goods and services that are commercially viable.
The non-financial benefits of housewives are the time spent in attending to children, family members, and the emotional-quotient, of traditional parenting and so on, which cannot be precisely measured.
The Supreme Court finally documented that services rendered by women in the household sustain a supply of labour to the economy and keep human societies going. If their contribution is taken for granted, this may escalate unforeseen costs, in terms of deterioration of human capabilities and the social fabric. This lack of recognition plays a role in women's high rate of poverty and social oppression.
The Court opines that, "[o]ne cannot ignore or forget that the homemaker, by applying herself to the tasks at home, liberates her spouse to devote his energy and time and attention to tasks that augment his income and generate property for the family."
Housewives are thus an invaluable unpaid resource and their contribution to society is invaluable. A multitasker, a manager, an HR person, a MIS and ERP specialist...
....a housewife and proud of it. Just a housewife, no more!