Housewives have always made great TV. Over the years, we’ve seen them in soap operas, like Peyton Place, followed by modern shows, like Desperate Housewives. The current reality shows based on The Real Housewives continue to make news. This time, The Real Housewives of Atlanta has created a storm of controversy over its depiction of independent African American women.
Let’s look at another type of reality which is much closer to the truth. There are many misconceptions about housewives that don’t get their start on TV. Here are eight misconceptions that might resonate with you if you are a stay-at-home housewife.
1. People think you are very traditional
There are loads of people who think that housewives always stayed at home to tend the house and the kids. The truth is that many women have had to work over the centuries. An article in the Cambridge Journals shows that in eighteenth-century London, large numbers of women were working outside the home in order to help their husbands or simply to make ends meet. In Victorian times, the majority of women worked outside the home. So, the decision to stay at home and care for the kids is not always based upon tradition.
2. People think that your husband has decided your fate
Some people might be convinced that your husband put his foot down and said you had to stay at home. They might even mention a vacancy in their workplace in order to taunt you or to find out the truth. The reality is that you have decided how to run the household with your partner and that you are both perfectly happy with this arrangement.
3. People think you opted out of the real world
They look on you as having no ambition within the so-called “real world.” After all, why would anyone want to spend all their time with housework and raising kids? It is a pity that these people have separated the two worlds. The real world is also right inside your home, where you are playing a crucial role in the lives of your partner and children.
4. People think you have no right to be paid for all the work you do
The feminist movement in the 1970’s founded the Wages for Housework campaign which fought for housewives’ wages. This was an obvious and just cause. In spite of the great progress made in many feminist issues, modern society still does not want housewives to be paid. In Italy, Giulia Bongiorno, a famous lawyer, is advocating that housewives should be paid in recognition for the important work they do.
“Women who choose to work at home should be rewarded, not humiliated.” – Giulia Bongiorno
5. People think you are dependent and submissive
The reality shows have a lot to answer for. We have all seen the trophy wives who are depicted as being incapable, beautiful, and rather vapid. An Oregon State University survey shows that 70 per cent of the 18 to 29 age group enjoyed these reality shows. This is alarming because they’ve probably never questioned the stereotypes about stay-at-home wives or other false prejudices that abound in our society. The reality is that running a household is not for the faint hearted — you are autonomous and in control.
6. People still think you have no life outside the home
Have you seen those ads for cleaning products? The ones where the women are the protagonists in about 90 per cent of the cases? Some even depict women cleaning the home while the husband takes a nap. Why don’t TV commercials reflect the reality where housewives do manage to escape the chores from time to time and have a life of their own outside the home? Loads of housewives play sports, go to films, and generally have a good time pursuing their interests and hobbies. It would be great to see more ads of men struggling with vacuum cleaners for a change, although the number of men helping in the home is increasing.
7. People think you are not an expert
Advertising, again, is to blame for portraying housewives as the go-to persons for cooking and cleaning, while men are the experts at fixing things. It seems that the housewife is only happy when cleaning and will seek a male expert when things go wrong. The false assumption is that housewives are just a little helpless and only excel at certain tasks. Celebrity chefs, like Jaime Oliver, often steal the limelight in the world of cooking. The reality is that the hardworking housewives are the real chefs and their work often goes unrewarded and unnoticed. How many times have you been tempted to tell the whole family to cook for themselves while you take a few days off?
8. People think it’s easy being a housewife
Either they have forgotten what it is like or they have someone who does all the hard work for them. I firmly believe housewives should be called managers. That is what they do, they mange the household. Shopping, cooking, gardening, budgeting, fetching kids, and helping with homework are not mindless tasks. However, that is the myth that many people seem to believe.
Featured photo credit: 1957 – Frigidare prototype kitchen/ James Vaughan via flickr.com