'Should I Be a Housewife?'

An excerpt from a career counseling session

Posted Nov 08, 2015

Horacio Villalobos, Public Domain
Source: Horacio Villalobos, Public Domain

During a career counseling session yesterday, the client said, "I'd like to hear about the dark side of housewife life. Right now, I'm afraid I'm idealizing it."

Perhaps you'll find our exchange of value:

MN: You may indeed be idealizing the housewife life. Many housewives struggle to keep it all together and even those who have it all down lives far more empty than they otherwise could life. Such housewives, who spend a lot of time on yoga, pilates, art classes, and day spas, don't realize that the life well-led really is heavily about contribution.

CLIENT:  It's confusing for me because I love yoga, pilates, art classes, and day spas, and glamor and luxury, but I also really care about the meaning of life, contribution, and spirituality.

M: We're all entitled to some pleasure but it shouldn't be at the expense of contribution. For example, while I enjoy petting my dog, taking hikes, and hanging out with my wife, I would pay you for the privilege of helping you make the most of your life, even though that's work, because that's so important.

The aforementioned shallow housewives don't get that. They're takers: They let someone else support them while they take the art class because it's fun. They lunch with their girlfriends gossiping about who is having an affair with whom because it’s fun. That's a pretty wasted life. Plus, you'd be a better mom if you work.

C: Really?

M: The data1 indicates that the kids of working moms do better. And logically, this makes sense. Full-time moms whose lives center around the kids often become helicopter moms. The kids become more risk-averse because overprotective mom doesn't let kids take the risks they need to take to experience decision-making and their power and their limitations rather than let fears unrealistically build. So the overprotected child becomes less efficacious.

Also, such kids often see mom devoting so much energy to relative trivia such as decor and time-consuming meals because she has nothing more going on her life.

In contrast, the child of a woman who works professionally in an ethical, significant job is more likely to be proud of her mom, even if she makes quickie dinners and the kid has to go to after-school care.

My wife has always worked full-time and been a great role-model for our kid. And we're all happier for it. And my daughter is a strong woman with a great job, a good husband, and two great kids. Yes, she's tired every night, even exhausted a lot, but it's a good exhausted. And because she's making a good living, she is not dependent on a man.

On top of all that, many stay-at-home moms say their brain has gone to mush--that can make returning to employment later a problem. Am I being too pontificating?

C: No. I think this is great. But my mom was a teacher and came home drained. So I've made the assumption you can't be a mom and work without being exhausted, and it isn't good tired.

M: Good tired doesn't just happen. It's about the right job, the right way you do the job, the way you parent, who you befriend, how you recreate. You're not preordained to recapitulate your mother.

1 See. for example, this 2015 literature review in the New York Times,  this one reported by CNN, and this more thorough 2014 one in Think Progress

Marty Nemko's bio is in Wikipedia.