I am a housewife. A very educated housewife, but a housewife nonetheless.
The first time our accountant wrote housewife in the little occupation box on our tax returns, I nearly fainted. I'd been looking at corporate attorney or student for so long that I still expected to see one of those despite choosing to stay home when my son was born. I chuckled and tried to think of alternatives, because housewife seemed so Leave it to Beaver. Frankly, homemaker sounded like a silly overstatement of my contributions, and stay-at-home-mom sounded only like I was trying too hard to avoid using the term housewife.
Over the last eight years, I have come to terms with the fact that I am a wife, mother, and [shudder] housewife without a career or even a job. I don't feel like my brain has atrophied too much, and in the last year I have developed and begun to pursue some new interests that excite me. Although my youngest is starting kindergarten this year, I have no interest in getting a job (and am fortunate to not have to do so) and plenty of interest in learning more about photography, writing this blog, and doing DIY projects around the house. I'm also planning to get back to my pre-second baby level of fitness, and have a personal trainer and a plan to join a Masters swimming group. (There. It's in print. Now I have to do it.)
Of course, most of my time is still committed to cooking, cleaning, shopping, gardening, ferrying children to and fro, and tending to my small flock at home. It can be tedious and frustrating, but I continue to choose this existence over the alternative. I'm over whatever hang-up I may once have had about the whole thing.
I do wonder, however, how my children perceive me. During the summer Olympics, we were joking about which fictional Olympic sports our family should compete in to guarantee gold. Examples included LEGO building (my son), fairy identification (my daughter), and talking on the phone (my husband, whose job my children believe consists only of talking on the phone). When my husband asked the kids which events Mommy would excel in, the only things they could come up with were cleaning, cooking, and laundry. Are those really the only things they think I'm competent to do?
Women fought for years for the opportunity work outside the home. I have the opportunity, I have the education, and yet I now embody everything that previous generations of women fought to escape. The difference, of course, is that I did get the education, I did have the career, and I had the opportunity to choose what kind of life I want to have. If someone had told me that I had to do this and wasn't capable of anything else, that would be a different matter entirely. I know the reality.
The kids, however, don't know all the facts. They don't know anything about the women's movement, and they don't appreciate that I went to good schools and had good jobs before I did what they see me do every day. I'm pretty sure they have no idea that I'm fairly bright. In fact, I think my eight-year-old may actually think I'm a little dim. Maybe that's just being eight.
My daughter is only five, but already I can see she has the ability to do whatever she puts her very clever mind to. She has both the wits and the personality to succeed in whatever arena she chooses to pursue. When she is a little older, will she look down upon the choices I've made? Will she think I was either not smart enough or not driven enough to succeed at "something better?" If the latter, she may have a point, but I desperately hope it's not the former.
All children are narcissistic, so it makes sense that at their young age they see me only in terms of themselves. I suspect that, as they get older, they may question some of the decisions I've made and wonder if they would do the same. I can only hope that, once they are adults, they view me as something other than that lady who does the laundry and takes them to gymnastics.