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Over the years the word housewife has become an epithet of denigration. A full time career for a woman now is the hallmark of liberation and purposefulness. There may be any number of reasons for a woman to work. The aim may be to utilize and sharpen one’s skills, to prove one’s individuality, carve an identity or earn money. ‘What is your education worth if you don’t have a career’ is what I often hear. Being a housewife is now considered lowly, almost synonymous with servitude. A housewife’s services are inconsequential involving almost no intellect. It is believed to be the easiest job on earth. Nothing could be farther from truth.

Let’s see what all a housewife does- She’s a cook. Nutrition health and formation of correct habits are the lofty purposes of this educated cook. She’s a nutritionist and caterer both and her culinary talents and skill are often put to test when guests drop by unannounced. She brings about colour novelty and variety in the daily drudgery of cooking. Now we shall evaluate her management skills; A housewife is also a time and home manager. She runs the home on schedule and ensures that everything gets done on time. She often has to synchronize the demands of all family members allocating time slots for everyone and everything. She is the budget manager, the accountant, the practical cost reducer working with feminine intuition and common sense. She looks after social engagements. The mother is also the first and most important teacher of a child. Consciously and sub-consciously the children imbibe the behaviour and character of the mother. Her spirituality, mentality, character, joyfulness, simplicity, sincerity, honesty and talents are all transmitted to her babies naturally. With school going kids, demands of academic excellence are a burden that inevitably falls on the mother. The more educated the mother, the bigger the contribution she makes in this field. Educate a woman and educate a family, so they rightly say. Also a woman’s designing talents are tested very often. She is the dress designer and seamstress to the rest of the family. Her dress sense and refinement spells out the image the family presents. Being an interior decorator and artist is a part of her honorary job too. Her aesthetic sense reflects her personality and she converts her house into a comfortable, warm, beautiful and gracious home.

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Besides being a role model for social and ethical behaviour, a mother is also a psychologist. She understands her child emotionally often acting as the first anchor and counsellor. Her guidance solves the behavioural problems of the child. She helps him understand the world physically and socially, interpreting the traditions and values of the social system we exist in. She keeps a sharp eye on the child’s growth, behaviour and habits, minute to minute, day to day. Motherhood is not learnt out of a book. It requires responsibility, high ideals, honesty and a selfless attitude. It is a skill developed over a period of time and constantly adapted for every child. Mother is also the disciplinarian for her children. Fairness of character is what she has to enforce but she also has to act as an ego pacifier and peace-maker. Also, it’s up to her to make her children socially acceptable, likeable and desirable human beings. She’s thus not only a psychologist but also a sociologist indirectly. A housewife is a preserver. House assets or food items, she’s constantly securing everything. Her medical skills are also tested from time to time. She’s always teaching her children principles of hygiene and health. When illness strikes she’s a full time nurse, stressed at times but so patient and loving that no hospital offers. Above all a good housewife makes a home that is comfortable, warm and beautiful for her man when he gets back after a hard day’s work. She makes him feel special and good to be alive.
Since these are the times when money and earning capacity have become the sole criterion of the worth of human existence, the ordinary housewife who combines all these skills and is multi-faceted in her role, in an employment situation deserves a sizeable pay cheque. To quote a woman’s magazine, an insurance company conducted a survey in Britain that shows an average housewife working without any help puts in 92-95 hours of work a week, double the hours of a man. She walks 52-55 miles a week in the discharge of her household duties, equivalent of climbing the Eiffel tower 130 times up and down. In our country unlike the west, most women do not have the time and effort saving devices enjoyed by their western counterparts as dish washers etc. But even calculating modest salary levels [that of an untrained clerk] the housewife’s job would require at least 4 times the salary paid to him. If other factors are also taken into consideration and extra payment made for them [as 24 hours call duty, emergency services and bonus etc] the housewife will be a luxury most upper middle class men in service will not be able to afford. Not to forget she does the sort of jobs and does them in a way not only money cannot buy but also cannot measure.
A woman need not have a high-flying career to be a woman of substance. A housewife also is very much so—a woman of substance. So next time when anyone calls you ‘just a housewife’ please ask him to think again.