Many words or phrases have been discarded in our language once they have achieved a negative or demeaning connotation. In the past few decades, the term “housewife” was supplanted by “homemaker.” More recently, it has been replaced by the phrase “stay-at-home mom”. It seems the attitude and value placed on the position have been brought from that of executive home management to the level of unskilled menial work in the minds of many with careers outside the home. When and how did we decide that homemaking was not a valued and highly skilled endeavor?
In years past, caring for children and the home was far more labor-intensive. There were none of the modern conveniences we have today to clean, provide food, procure supplies, or access information. Most roles for both men and women were originally decided by practicality and necessity. Neither sex, in most cases, had the leisure to question traditional roles. Men protected the family and procured food and housing. Women prepared food, kept the house, and raised the children.
In modern times, most families can afford the devices and supplies that make it possible to manage a home without having to grind baby food, soak and wash cloth diapers, cook everything from scratch, hand wash clothing, etc. Eventually, commercial childcare facilities, rapid transportation, shorter hours, and better working conditions provided the opportunity for women with families to work at jobs outside the home while still raising children. For many, it became a way to better provide for their family’s welfare and raise the standard of living.
As a growing number of mothers entered the workplace, change was resisted by many. The feminist movement brought about an acceptance of mothers having a career outside the home. Unfortunately, some feminists promoted the idea that all women staying at home were oppressed and subservient to their husbands. Women deciding to be homemakers at the time were met with derision. The terms “stay-at-home mom” and subsequently “soccer mom” later came into use. The first term implies that most moms don’t stay home to raise their children. “Soccer mom” implies a woman who is closely involved in activities for the sake of her children. Both terms may have been created by those who felt others threatened their movement by their decision to be hands-on in raising their own children. Despite modern conveniences, any person taking on the job of homemaker with a professional attitude has more than a full-time job on their hands.
Most jobs have a degree of specialized formal training before holding a position. Unlike other skilled workers, homemakers are entirely self-employed and have no requirement to document their formal training with a certificate or diploma. No other endeavor has more need for a wide variety of knowledge and skills or receives less formal training to achieve that. Caring for the mental and physical health of the next generation and instilling values and standards of behavior has a vital influence on the future of society and the direction humanity will follow. No other position has a more significant on-call requirement. Yet, many people speak of this honorable and vital work as the least desirable, least skilled, and least valuable position in life. It’s time to take a step back and recognize the skill and dedication of the women and men in our community who choose to forgo an outside career. They are the very backbone of our society.