Many women dislike the word “housewife” because of implications of feminism and the stigma of gendered domestic roles. I dislike the word “housewife” because I am one. Well, I don’t dislike the word itself but the actual role. I dislike being a housewife!
I’m also not a housewife and “stay-at-home mom”; not because I dislike that word either, but because I am not a mother nor am I expecting. My only children are a nine-year-old dog who thinks she’s the queen of the world and a rescued cat with the personality of Garfield. I am, however, a wife to a very loving husband who drives me insane and woos me simultaneously. My love for my husband, my animals, and my beat-up home do not change the fact that I really dislike being a housewife.
Like any other housewife (or househusband), I get shit done! However, I still find myself attempting justification of my housewife role to others. More importantly, the biggest challenge I’ve faced is justifying that role to myself. Why I dislike being a housewife and why I’ve struggled to justify this role to myself is complex but at the core is a very simple explanation: I can’t handle being financially dependent on my husband.
Financial dependency has always been an emotional struggle for me. I have a hard time even taking money from my parents, which typically comes in the form of payment of a student loan or treating at a restaurant (both of which I greatly appreciate). With my husband, I struggle even more because this dependency typically involves receiving cash directly.
My husband knows that I struggle with this. He attempts to make me comfortable with the situation by reminding me that I contribute greatly to him and our household, that I brought a fair amount of savings (from pre-law school employment) and financial savvy to our marriage, and that my lack of income is only temporary. These well-intentioned attempts rarely ease my discomfort.
I remind myself that I help in ways that make his life more comfortable and convenient, I maintain my legal skills through my freelance job, and I volunteer contributing to the greater good. Sometimes that makes me feel better. But most days my contributions make me feel like my husband is paying me to be his maid/chef/dog walker.
I understand and even encourage one to provide for his or her spouse, family, or household in non-monetary ways. However, I am not offsetting many expenses but rather am an expense. I do not feel like a provider. I feel like the line item on my husband’s budget so that he can provide to himself, our animals, and our home in order to relax and not have to do it himself. I am “earning my keep” and that makes me feel like a financial burden. Because of this feeling, I have yet to ask my husband for money when I need it; I just wait for him to offer and begrudgingly accept it.
My husband is not to blame for this; he even tries to mitigate the situation. It’s all in my head. But I can’t be the only who feels like this. Whether you prefer the term “housewife/husband,” “homemaker,” or another term entirely, how do you deal with the discomfort of financial dependency on a spouse?