Thursday, April 10, 2008


Ive been having fantasies. About housewives. About being one. How much it would be to just potter around all day making the house look nice? Fiddling about with some flowers; popping to the gym; getting a little squiffy over lunch with the girls, then popping into a boutique, buying some stuff!

Alright, im joking. I know its not really like that. I dont mean to denigrate what homemakers do. I know its hard, hard work, so much that I think it should be given a monetary value. If a man didnt have a handy wife to take care of his children, do his laundry, cook his meals, clean his house and have sex with him, he'd have to pay someone else to do it. (Call me cynical, but i reckon that's the real reason Captain Von Trapp married Maria in "The sound of music"- so he could stop paying her).

But im not the only one having fantasies. At least two of my friends, both well-paid, stressy jobs, have admitted that they would love to just give it all up and be supported by someone else.

It's very fashionable, you know, thw whole domestic goddess thing. Baking your own cakes, making your own cushion covers.

So what's going on? What does it mean? Because when i was 18, the worst insult that could be levelled at another woman was, "All she wants to do is marry some rich man and be a housewife."

Back then, it was all about being ambitious. Whenever I thought of work, I saw myself power-marching down a wide corridor wearing a short red suit and high black stilletos, winking saucily at men in well-cut jackets. I saw myself, swivelling in a black leather chair, my hose-clad legs upon my desk, tapping a pen against my teeth as I made an important phone call. What the phone call might be about was always rather sketchy.

Infact, all the details of 'work' were a little vague, and the only thing I was certain about was the red suit. I had no clue that work might entail being tired or bored or scared or skint. That I'd have to get up early and walk to the taxi stage or brave the cold on a bajaj. Having to look for transport every single morning.

Recently, a survey showed that a high percentage of women in their late 20s would prefer to be housewives than have a career. Apparently, they'd seen their own mothers, products of the second wave of feminism, trying to have it all-home, children, job-and instead just ending up doing it all.

This was gleefully interpreted (by misogynist types?) to mean that the women's movement had been a wate of time: that women didnt actually want careers at all. Never had. But what it really means is that the women's movement didnt go far enough. If we had continued pushing for affordable, safe childcare, for longer maternity leave, for paternity leave, for more flexible working hours and for men to do more housework, it could all be different. Men can have it all. Why? Because women are being housewives to 2 people- their partners and themselves.

So, no wonder a stress free, stay at home life seems attractive. But imagine if we couldnt work.

Maybe this is just a phase we are going through. We are knackered and the whole world doesnt seem safe. Our food is full of mysterious extras, our water polluted, and a retreat to old fashioned values feels like a retreat to safety.

We want to be housewives, but only because we know we dont have to be.

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