There was this recent letter to the newspaper that really got my goat. It’s titled “What’s wrong with being a housewife?” and of course, is written by a bloke. In case it gets taken down or paywalled, here’s a screengrab.
Unlike the letter writer, I actually tried being a housewife, insofar as I quit my job last year when I was pregnant with my first (and currently, only) child. Spoiler alert: it didn’t go that well.
I loved cooking when I was an undergrad and thought it might be a good time to rediscover my inner domestic goddess. But a broke 20 year old living in Australia has very different motivations from a somewhat less broke 30 year old living in Singapore. It didn’t take long to realise that my inclination to cook was only ever present in the face of few affordable options.
Same with the housework. My two housemates and I kept a spotless household back in the day. But my weekly cleaning lady was so good. And so affordable. And how could I deprive her of the income just so I’d have the satisfaction of doing all my own scrubbing? And of course, I had the baby. Caring for Katy is a huge-ass job in and of itself. So huge that if I didn’t have her grandmother for constant support, I might have lost it a long time ago. I now also employ a domestic helper. Because a baby creates a lot of laundry and other mess, and I see no joy in either tackling it myself or devolving it upon any other members of my family.
I’m just not cut out for full-time domestic work, partly because of my personality and partly because of my life experiences to date. There, I said it. Which is why I’ve been working on creating a middle-ground that works for everyone, which is to freelance from home. I get to spend time with my child and be present for the big and small moments of each day, but also stay relevant and productive so that I’ll still have had one foot in the workforce if and when I choose to go back to full-time work.
That said, I’m very aware that this is a privilege that not everyone has – to stay at home and still afford domestic help – and I’m very grateful. I’m a spoilt rotten first-world middle class woman, but I at least try to be somewhat self-aware about it. And I have a lot of respect for my peers who set aside their careers in favour of being a SAHM, because I know first-hand that I couldn’t hack it myself.
Yet all the time, people still ask me when I’m going back to work, why I’m not going back work, etc. “But you have your mother in law to look after the kid!” Apparently because there is reliable childcare in my life, the expectation is that not “going back to work” (i.e. full-time) makes me a malingerer. While at the same time, other people spout the rhetoric that working full-time would make me irresponsible and absent as a mother.
QED, since I can’t please everyone, I’m just going to continue doing what works for me and my family.