the unhealthy pressure to be a housewife

Also on the topic of housework, I think you may come from a different perspective here, not being Christian, but for us, housework is just another way to show those that we love how much we care about them. We’re keepers of the home, and take pride in taking care of our homes well. I know that might make no sense to someone who doesn’t value homemaking and child-rearing as a profession, but for me, this is my job right now. (Dragonfly)

There seems to be some confusion in Christian circles about what ‘traditional Christian values’ are when it comes to the organisation of a family unit. All too often there is an unhealthy pressure for women in a marriage to abandon any paid work they might have doing, in order to exclusively take care of the home and children. This is unhealthy.

Think about how women would have lived in the majority of human societies. Family groupings in close communities; smaller generation gaps and intergenerational living; a mix of community and home based daily tasks e.g. food gathering and preparation, maintenance of common and home areas. People spent a lot of time outside, tasks were very physical and shared with others, children were exploring the world together, under the supervision of a network of adult relatives and friends when young. This is natural, this is what any traditional Christian community would have looked like.

Now think about women today in this artificial ‘housewife’ role. One lone female adult for most the day inside a block of wood and concrete doing physically simple tasks and caring for one to several young children often indoors. To add to the bored, under-stimulated children, a tired male enters the home at the end of the day with expectations of comfort and peace. Given that he doesn’t to take responsibility for ensuring this comfort and peace on a regular basis (and if he does on occasion, he has the fresh enthusiasm of role-playing on his side) he has no idea what this entails on a day-in and day-out basis. Home is a place of relaxation for him, he’s done his bit. The role of the housewife has no fixed hours but grinds on for most of the female’s adult life, often with declining levels of discernible appreciation from either the growing children or the ‘busy’ husband.

Human society is not likely to return to the natural community model any time soon. There are too many disadvantages in terms of privacy, wasted time and general comfort. The most sensible way to deal with the changed living conditions of modern society is to consider how to balance life for everyone in a nuclear family.

One parent staying at home with young children is not natural, it’s often not pleasant, and it’s certainly not approaching the range of social contact and interaction that all human beings need on a daily basis. Of course, in some family situations there are no other options and everyone just had to get on with it. But to sell this isolated and limiting set up like it’s beneficial to anyone, like it’s something to aspire to, is to sell everyone short: women are limited in their scope and all too often reduced to the proverbial doormat; children are deprived of the necessary range of adult input and child socialisation; men have a tendency to become pampered queens prancing about like the ‘important’ person in the house.

So, let’s knock this ‘Christian’ lie on the head. If you’re desperate enough to look for role models from ancient cultures, even the Good Wife in Proverbs generated her own income and conducted business transactions:

She looks over a field and buys it, then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden. (Proverbs 31)