Why It's Time to Retire the Term 'Housewife'


Is it just me, or has the term "housewife" taken on a less-than-desirable meaning in the modern world?

The dictionary definition of a housewife is, "a married woman whose main occupation is caring for her family, managing household affairs, and doing housework."

OK, fair enough. But I think most of us women know that even when our main occupation isn't being in the home, we end up doing most of the work anyway. Even if a wife and mother leaves the home to go to work, she's often still the main person confronting the chores, children, and all the little things that need tending to upon arriving home.

Of course, there are exceptions to every situation, and I'm sure there are plenty of husbands out there who are productive, dynamic helpers around the house.

In the very popular show Desperate Housewives, we were shown a group of women living in an upper-class neighborhood. We saw them wearing designer outfits, gossiping almost constantly, having affairs, and basically just creating drama in every scene.

Though the show was undoubtedly out of touch with actual wives in the real world, there was one character who was more lifelike than the rest. The character of Lynette (played by Felicity Huffman) was a married mother of four. She and her husband took turns over the years working outside the home while one of them stayed home with the kids.

Their marriage on the show depicted issues such as being too tired for sex, raising children, not having enough money, and the reality that marriage is totally not glamorous. Besides this one character, I can't think of another "housewife" on the show who was relatable.

The term "housewife" itself seems like something from the dark ages.

I think it's time to retire this term. It may have seemed cute back in the day, but honestly, associating the word "house" with "wife" and having such a black-and-white definition for it just doesn't apply anymore. I don't meet any married women who refer to themselves as housewives. Ever.

In fact, I think most women consider being called a housewife insulting. Am I right about this? The term implies that this is all you do, and you can't step outside your box beyond the label of housewife.

Personally, I've always thought it was a demeaning term, ever since I was a young girl.

When I was young, I always thought that no matter what I did in life, there was no way I would become a housewife. It seemed like a fate worse than death to me.

Truth be told, I didn't even "settle down" until my mid 30s. And by this I mean owning a home, getting married, and raising children. My distaste for the idea of being referred to as a housewife has never gone away.

When I quit my longtime job of over a decade to stay home and take care of two children, I felt in some ways like a failure. I felt that I was letting down all my ideas about being a powerful, independent woman. Cleaning toilets, making lunches, cooking dinner, and doing endless loads of laundry isn't anything to write home about.

I don't like to cook at all. I do it to feed the family, but I'm not sure I'll ever be passionate about it. If I ever feel like a desperate housewife it's when I'm trying to figure out how to do all the things a housewife is traditionally expected to do, like dusting and organizing cupboards. I hardly ever do those things and I'm pretty sure a housewife is supposed to do those things.

The problem is that in this day and age, women as a group are in the grips of an identity crisis.

Women are wrestling with labels being thrown at them from every angle, when in reality most of us are doing a multitude of jobs within jobs both outside and inside the home. Women command a wide array of occupations, roles, and functions. These can change from day to day, depending on the circumstances.

As far as being a desperate housewife, a real housewife, or any other version of a housewife, I think those days are over. The term "housewife" works well for TV sitcoms and parodies, but this is where we should see the writing on the wall.

A housewife has become a mythical figure that makes for good television and comedy, but doesn't really exist in the real world anymore. I don't think we should cringe when we hear the term, but instead look back on it as an attempt to categorize a woman into confines that were much too narrow.

Originally a Vancouver Island native, Michelle now resides in California.

Michelle's writing and blogs discuss a wide variety of topics including domestic abuse, adultery, relationships, parenting, step-parenting, beauty & health. Read more: Unfaithful and Obsessed: Our Love Affair with Affairs

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