Why I consider "homemaker" one of my jobs

March 19 2013 | Guest post by Cassie

Last week we talked about how being a homemaker can be an uncomfortable position for some. But now let's talk about why it can be an awesome job.

By: J. TriepkeCC BY 2.0

In 2012, I quit my day job in order to focus full-time on working as an editor. My fiancé was convinced that I'd get bored and start looking for a new second job in less than a month. I confidently denied that possibility, but I was secretly terrified he was right.

I'm a workaholic. How would I handle going from two jobs to one and still feel like I was a productive human being? I mean, sure, I was constantly sleep deprived, cranky, worried about meeting deadlines, and pissed off at my day job bosses, but could I handle days when I didn't have any assignments?

As anyone who works from home can tell you, you are at the mercy of your environment. You use your own bathroom all day, so you can't really ignore that it's dirty. You can't notice that the litter box needs to be scooped and promise yourself you'll do it when you get home. If your kids, or your partner, or your pets need your attention, they often think you're "not doing anything" and feel free to interrupt the flow you JUST managed to get into.

After yet another one of these interruptions, I started looking into finding a local coworking space. Sure, it costs money, but it's not too bad. The pictures are pretty and they offer coffee and a bathroom. So I thought about it. And I realized that when I quit my job last year, I went from three jobs to two.

I'm also a homemaker.

I've always heard the term "homemaker" applied to people who don't do anything else, a PC term for "unemployed and not looking." If you had another job, no matter what it was, that was how you identified yourself. "Oh, I'm a substitute teacher" or "I'm a Mary Kay consultant." You may spend significantly more time keeping your house than you do teaching or selling Mary Kay, but that job prevented/saved you from saying you're a homemaker.

Every night when my fiancé goes to work, I get on my laptop and edit. But before I can let myself work, I have to make the bed and start the laundry. When I need a break, I clean the bathroom. I get hungry and walk to the kitchen, picking stuff up off the floor as I go. While my food is cooking, I wipe down counters, wash dishes, and feed the cats. I couldn't do those things from an outside office.

I do our grocery shopping and run our errands. I manage our accounts and pay our bills. On my (now rare) days off, I'm usually cleaning or organizing something in our house. I try to make sure my fiancé comes home to something freshly baked at least once a week. I spend enough time keeping our house that it's another full-time job, and I take great pride in every compliment I receive from my fiancé and his friends. I am, without a doubt, a homemaker.

So looking into co-working made me realize that "homemaker" doesn't mean "I'm unemployed and I like it that way, thanks." Homemaker is a job title that more people could claim, and I'm claiming it.

I'm an editor and a homemaker, and I'm proud of both of those jobs. I'm just as proud of a "Great work, Cassie!" from my boss as I am of a "These cookies are amazing!" from my fiancé's coworkers. And now I understand why I was so cranky before. Three jobs is a bit much, even for a workaholic like me.

By: David GoehringCC BY 2.0

  1. I recognise so much of this in myself – "homemaker" is clearly a title I should be reclaiming too! I am an academic and a homemaker. Sounds weird at first, but I think that's an accurate reflection of my life.

  2. I proudly list homemaker as one of my occupations. The first line of the "About" page on my blog reads, "I am a teacher, traveler, artist, writer, homemaker and a whole lot more." I think that we need to reclaim this title as something cool, because it really is a special thing to make a house a home.

  3. I couldn't do those things from an outside office.

    I guess I'm a little confused. Both my partner and I have fulltime jobs in outside offices, and yet we straighten up and do the laundry. We cook meals and do the dishes. We pay the bills and go grocery shopping and feed the cats. Are we also homemakers? Who isn't a homemaker?

    • I might be misreading this article, but I feel like she's saying that she does her homemaking before, during and after her editing work–which she wouldn't be able to do if she didn't work from home. Most of us who work in an outside office don't have the ability to do homemaking work during other work hours.
      Which is something I definitely wish I could do. Get a roast in the oven between graphic design jobs? Vacuum while I'm brainstorming? Put random dishes in the dishwasher while I'm on the phone with a client? If only!

      • I totally am in agreement. For a while, I was the unemployed "homemaker," but now that I'm starting my own arts business from home, I'm doing the work/home maintenance thing. Breaks are often in the form of the other stuff I need to do, although work procrastination is also in the form of stuff around the house I need to do. Don't feel like further fleshing out my business plan? Why don't I clean the bathroom instead?

        There's such a negative stigma to calling oneself a "homemaker" or "housewife," too, that I cannot deny that I'm relieved to having something else to call "what I do," even if my business is in such early stages that I haven't actually gotten any income yet.

        Oh, and I totally get the comment about family members not getting when you're working. I try really hard to only work while my husband is at work to avoid the bulk of this issue, but sometimes that's just not possible. If only he could learn that A. When I'm writing, I can't talk, but B. When I'm painting/drawing/sewing I'm able to have a conversation at the same time…

      • Absolutely, Dootsie. You can have an outside job and be a homemaker. The way I treat my "chores" is what brought on my realization. It's not that I can do stuff while I work from home. It's that those activities are important to me, important enough to make them a real priority. I couldn't guarantee myself that I could get things clean enough if I worked from outside the house, and that bothered me a lot. Somewhere along the way, cleaning went from a chore to a goal.

    • I also have the same question. Like, I keep our house in order and have a wonderful garden and bake cookies on the reg. My fiance also keeps the house in order, does renovation projects, and makes wonderful dinners for me. We both work outside the home for 50+ hrs a week.

      So does being a "homemaker" mean just not being a slob? Is there something in between? I'm all for taking back terms, but I'm confused as to how it's being utilized.

      • I think "homemaker" implies getting really invested and active in developing your domestic systems. You're not just keeping shit clean… you're, like, actively improving your systems for sorting your laundry. You're not just grocery shopping, you're clipping coupons and hitting the sales. You're not just cleaning the bathtub, you're investigating more eco-friendly options you can make yourself.

        My take on it is that you're not just doing the stuff you have to do — you're bringing a real sense of ambition and drive and INVESTMENT to how you keep your house.

        Another way to say it might be viewing keeping house as a career (one with goals, plans, strategies, and a real identity), instead of just chores you do to keep the house from falling apart.

        • OK I guess that makes sense. So like, my house hold we are in the process of bringing a 100 year old house back to life, and really consider rehabbing the home and yard a hobby and something we truly put time into. We also totally enjoy having people over and making amazing meals for them. Try to grow our own food and keep improving the care systems for our pile of rescue animals. So by this definition we might be homemakers.

          A lot of our friends are totally happy having their newish 2 bedroom apartments and haven't done much to change their habitats and never have people over or cook much etc. So they would not fall into this category?

          I've always kind of considered myself an urban *homesteader* (as opposed to homemaker) because of the time and effort put into achieving the goals we have set for our little patch of paradise.

          I guess I have a hard time wrapping my head around the homemaker thing because there are a fair amount of people in my social group (mostly married to my coworkers or my fiances coworkers) that consider themselves homemakers who don't seem to do much more than the basic "not eating raman out of plastic cups" stuff…..I may or may not get annoyed by their claims of being hardworking homemakers at times, so I'm probably REALLY biased against the term.

          • I think there are people in any career field who claim the term in a manner that other might consider undeserved. The people who call themselves writers, but have never been published, the programmers who can only program html, the chef who is actually just a senior line cook.

            Homesteading implies a slightly different focus than homemaking. Specifically a focus on self sufficiency. I am a stay at home mom and a much better homesteader than homemaker. Motivating myself to spend time outside playing in the dirt or with the chickens is much easier than motivating myself to do dishes or vacuum.

  4. I like the idea of thinking of homemaking/home-caretaking as another job. It's a job my husband and I sometimes struggle with, but I like the context of thinking of it as another job, after taking care of our first jobs.

  5. I think "homemaker" could be used like "artist." Are you an artist or are you someone who dabbles in art? Maybe you have outside justification for your job title, like people pay you to make art (which is AWESOME), or maybe you just consider yourself an artist. Either way, is it a hobby or a profession? Is it an expression of your soul or a way to keep your hands busy? So to compare that to "homemaking," do you consider yourself a homemaker? Is housekeeping something you do because you have to or because you take pride in it? Is a clean house and well-stocked kitchen an extension of your personality, your soul, and your attitude or is it something you do because if you didn't you be eating ramen out of plastic cups? Screw Better Homes and Gardens. Only you can judge your position in your home, just like only you can judge whether or not you're an artist.

    Edited to add: Ariel explains this much better than me.

  6. I really like this concept of owning the effort you make in putting love and care into your domestic space. I would say that I'm a part time homemaker, because I work full time and pay a cleaner to do my floors once a fortnight – I figure paying someone to do work in my home means that it's valuable to me, so I tip my hat to people who do it themselves. I do that because it matters to me – having dirty floors causes me stress the same way running late with a work task does.

    I also consider the organisational role I play at home to be a valuable, though unpaid, contribution. If I didn't decide and organise what housework gets done when and by who, it wouldn't happen. If I didn't budget and pay bills, we'd be buried in late fees (it happened to my partner a lot before I came along).
    I'm not saying what I do makes me more valuable that my partner, he works very hard outside the home, but I consider what I do in our home just as important as my other work – not something which should just be expected of me, and discounted as a given.

    The efforts I make make me holistically valuable, in all areas of my life – and it would be awesome if more people doing whatever work for free could feel like that too 🙂

  7. I know I plug Apron Stringz a lot, but she really does have awesome posts on all of these topics we've been tackling lately.

    http://apronstringz.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/master-of-fine-homemaking-arts/

    If you look into the history of Home Economics, it used to be so very much more than how to sew a pillow and bake cookies. "This is no small matter to brush carelessly aside, this is the crux of it really, because we have lost vast stores of knowledge about how to run an efficient, thrifty, coordinated home."
    Ariel hit the nail on the head about household systems. Making the most of your household budget by streamlining your systems and eliminating waste is something we've lost along the way to our current culture of convenience(I'm not bashing convenience, I fully take advantage of it often, but I think we've made some trades we shouldn't have to get it).

  8. I have been "unemployed and not-really-looking" and I certainly wasn't a homemaker back then, I was more a guardian of the rubbish tip. For some reason now I work from home I'm making much more of an effort, probably because its a great excuse for procrastination :p

  9. After 34 years of being a homemaker, or a having a job and being a homemaker, or being a full-time mom and a homemaker, it just doesn't seem to make much of a difference what you call it anymore. I keep our home, relatively, clean, do the laundry and dishes, most of the cooking and baking, the mending, taking care of the pets, doling out the meds and caring for a handicapped relative, because this is part of my job in the "work" of our marriage. And anyone who thinks marriage isn't work needs to really stop and think about it! It's the part I prefer to do, and the part I do better than my husband. In some ways, I really enjoy doing it, and in some ways it's sheer drudgery. (I did say I'd been doing it for 34 years.) My husband does the heavy lifting of car mechanics and yard work, things I absolutely hate doing. He was also employed fulltime until about four years ago. After a layoff, and fruitless job search for several years, we are basically a retired couple since this is the year he starts drawing social security. (And just how did I get here, I sometimes wonder.) Housework is what you define it as, ramen over the sink so you don't dirty a dish, or Martha Stewart on overload. It's nothing more nor less than what it takes to keep our caves clean and our lives functioning. And technically, I still have a job as I get paid for taking care of the relative who is handicapped, a plus in this state as I do it anyway!

  10. I'm a homemaker, in addition to running two small businesses. I don't have a problem calling myself that, and I suppose I missed the idea that it ever meant "unemployed and not looking". I mean, I'm not actively looking for outside work, but I'm not sitting on my ass in my jammies eating candy either. I think that taking care of my home and my family, keeping our environment clean and useful, making our food, making many of the things we use on a daily basis, is an important and meaningful use of my time. I am certainly happier than I ever was wasting 60 hours of my life every week stressing out over someone else's business interests. I think that women, especially women of a certain age group, have a tendency to be shitty to one another about who is and is not a "homemaker". It certainly goes beyond just "I'm the one who washes the dishes and the laundry" because realistically everyone who does not want to live in filth does that. But it's not something that we have to be ashamed of, or judge one another over, either. I'm glad to see people embracing the term again and talking about what it means.

  11. Is getting dressed every day a job, too? I get the essence of what this is saying, but I feel like it's splitting hairs. Everyone upkeeps a home in some sort or fashion, does it need to be called out like you do it "better"?

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