The Mythical Susy the Homemaker

In the past most women stayed home and just took care of the house-keeping and babies, right? It would be most natural to mommies to stay home and take care kids now too? It depends how long past do you want to go and what kind of society do you want to dig in to. And especially it depends on the class.

(Please note:this is not blogging against homemakers or their choice of the lifestyle!)

Historical Notes

Now being a homemaker is only possible in the society whit large income differences. It is common among the middle class that makes just enough to mom to stay at home, but not enough to hire a nanny. That is surely the historical fact. In most of the societies in the past the working potential of parents were needed whether mother worked at the home farm milking cows or took part of the activities in their husbands shop.

Of course the home was not far from the work. In fact most farmers wives worked at their home and most shop-keepers and craftsmen lived above their shops. And it is well known fact that the children were usually babysat by their older sisters that usually did not go to school or if they did just for few hours. That way the mothers working from home are in fact filling the most traditional roles of women, and not the house-wives.

The social historians are well aware that the ideal homemaker or house-wife was born in the early 19th century post-industrial revolution Britain among the middle class and especially white collar labor. In the longer span of history one would consider it rather modern phenomenon. Especially as it was only in the mid 20th century, when it came available to larger masses. After the Second World War there were large campaigns to make women go home to make place for home returning soldier and that was when the myth of traditional homemaker was actually created.

About the Idea and My Experiences

It is strange that it would be considered somehow natural for women as a gender to be somehow adapt to just to live whit children whit-out the normal adult connections during the day time. This idealised mother does not necessary even make her children happy. It also stresses the marriage, because the wife is grieving for company, when husband returns tired after long day at work. The marriage might last, because she is financially too scared to break it up and after staying at home it might be difficult to return to the working world, but it might not make the marriage happy nor a good place to kids to grow up. This might not be true of all women staying at home, but it is still common enough story.

My granny used to work, when my mother was little. My mother used to stay home, because my father had good income and that was possible. She is intelligent woman and was never truly happy at home just whit us kids. She loves children and has been great mother at best taking care of home and doing inventive stuff. Yet she has always been at her best, while she worked or studied.

Now the decision to stay home maybe better for kids than working long hours to further career and not having enough time to be whit them. Yet staying at home should not be portrayed as ideal and traditional solution, while it seldom is and at least does not fit for everybody. Nobody should feel bad mother, if they wanted to have something else in their lives than just kids. No father does either. I don’t think highly career driven father is ideal either. And nobody should stay home as a martyr, if they clearly are not happy and just make their kids miserable.

Now if I ever get a family, I’d loved to be able to work from home, at least some part of the week, but I am not ideal homemaker nor shall I ever be. I don’t see why I should feel I am not enough woman like this.


6 Responses

  1. It’s a coincidence you bring such a topic like that now. I was in London last week talking to different women in the City, and most of them told me the country has the highest rates of housewives in Europe because you have no choice if you want children. Generally, people have hectic schedule there, which are difficult to combine with a family life. And you have to add the fact that many workers in London live very far away from the town, and have to spend hours in transportation everyday. Either you’re rich enough to pay for a nanny, either you, as an English woman, has no other choice to stop working. I hope I wouldn’t have to face that dilemma.
    But you’re right, working at home seems a good solution.

  2. I just red a news of a study that found women who work from home are more efficent and career oriented that ones that work at office – imagine that. It should be bonus for employer too… (and for your career).

    This study was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology and it was by Ravi Gajendran from University of Pennsylvania.

  3. You are very much a real woman even if you’re not Susy-homemaker. Just as a woman who wants to be Susy-Homemaker is not a disgrace to modern woman.

    It’s about having the choice to be whatever you want. I can’t stand that women are picking on each other about this sort of thing when they should be standing together supporting each other.

    Not that you were picking…not at all. I totally get your point. I just wanted to comment that there are some of us out there that see both sides and find both options valuable and something to be admired.

  4. Good point – kind of what I was trying to say. I just don’t like the myth, because it just isin’t historically true. It not being historically true does not mean that one could not chose to be home mom, if that is the best solution for her.

  5. Wow, Interesting post.
    I am a homemaker and I do believe it is good for our children and for our marriage. We haven’t found that it stresses our marriage at all. We come with the view that our marriage is the solid basis for building our family and so we make time together a priority. I am not starved for adult interaction. I’m too busy to be! Other Moms and I get together for tea and to let our children play. It works fine.
    I also consider myself a very intelligent woman and find I am able to make use of all my professional skills in the home.
    I have also kept a home and raised children on a very, very meager income (below national poverty level without accepting public assistance), with only my husband working and I’ve kept a home on a spacious income. It can be done well either way. Most Americans cannot fathom living simply without two vehicles or cable. Do you know the average German lives well on $17,000 a year? Interesting.
    I believe most studies reveal that is is better for the children to have a full time mother.
    Some food for thought for you.

  6. Dear Hannah,

    If you red in the beginning you might have noted that I told that my posting was not against home makers. Why do you feel you need to defend yourself? However it was interesting to read your comment. Thank you for writing it.

    I just reminded that not ALL kids are happier, when their mom stays home and I do have my own experience as such a child to support that. Do you mean it does not matter how I felt, because it does not fit in the view of issues that you’ve build for yourself? Only thing I was against in my post, was that there is general solution fitting for all families and that people, who don’t make the same choices are somehow bad or greedy, like you hint.

    I was also against the myth that women in history have somehow committed just for their kids. This is purely modern phenomenon. That does not mean that people could not make that choice with happy concience. I just don’t like them presenting themselves like some kind of saints, when they do it. That kind of martyrdom is exactly the thing that does not make any kids happier.

    To clear your misunderstanding I tell some things about me. I could have a much higher salary in the private sector, but I choose to work in the public sector. Nor have I ever understood the American urgency of making money and not having any free time. We Europeans do prefer to have more free time, so even if we work, we do have more time for our children. I don’t have tv (so no cable), I use public transportation (no car) and I love to save as well as share my own with others. Would you call that especially creedy?

    I would be interested to see the studies you mentioned. Only studies I’ve seen, tell that it is preferable for very young children (under three) to have a steady nurse; the older children need more varied social contacts (with both adults and peers). I’ve also understood that most important for childrens happiness is loving caring relationship with their happy parents. (Divorce or having single mom seem to be the worst stress factors.) We do have dads staying home, when the kids are really young, and kids seem to love that! They need their dad too, you know.

    I don’t agree with sacrificing kids for career (like some seem to do), but you don’t have to go to the absolute opposite direction either to raise good, happy kids.

    Ps. I forgot to note in my original writing, that the women that do have somehting else in their life than just kids have easier time of letting them to grow up, when they’re due to be independent. Of course that does not necessary have to be work.

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