All I am is…”Just” a Housewife

retro-1310390_1920The other day, as I was walking back to my office after teaching my afternoon class, an older male colleague saw me and asked

“So you’re going to California?”. I said, “Yes” to which he asked, “Do you have a job lined up?” I replied, “Nope. I’ll be unemployed and happy”. His response, “So you’ll just be raising your child?” and I said “Yep” and walked away as I smiled.

 

I met two of my students while waiting for the elevator and told them what had just transpired and they were shocked. Perhaps in a different time and space, my narrating the incident to them would not have meant much. However, given that they know I have resigned and will be making the move soon, and more importantly, the fact that the course I am teaching them is about work, respecting different kinds of work and appreciating ‘work’ in all its many hues, including the connotations associated with calling someone “just” a housewife, they knew exactly what I was saying.

 

(Please do view the video below. I love it. It used to tear me up even when I was NOT a housewife. Now, even more so.)

 

 

Just like there is no “just a..” job if you respect the implications and connotations associated with what that means, there is no “just raising…” a child. Of course, I know the colleague didn’t mean it negatively (or maybe he did, I’ll never know) and wasn’t trying to be condescending (at least I didn’t get that from his tone) about my situation and perhaps the only reason it stood out to me was because I am sensitized to these things, having taught, read, and researched on topics of this nature.

 

The fact is, so many people, including the highly educated and even those considered ‘smart’ by any standard of society, fall victim to the use of “just”. Most times, people who use this word to precede a profession, as in, someone is “just a maid” or “just a taxi driver” or “just a nanny”, do not even know what they are implying, at least not consciously. To them, perhaps the task or job at hand is one that does not require skills of any kind or at least not the specialized kinds of skills set. Perhaps, they assume that, whatever it is that person is doing, can easily also be done by them and most likely, that is the case indeed. For example, I could definitely be a maid, a taxi driver, or nanny with enough practice.

 

However, the larger question is, does my ability to do something mean that I have carte blanche to pass judgment on someone else doing the same job? Absolutely not. Just how condescending it is to assume that you can do someone else’s job better than that person who may have been doing that same job for years. How narcissistic to assume that I am better than that person on whom I am passing judgment just because that person is doing a job that I may not look upon favorably or want to do myself?

 

Besides, you only think you can do someone else’s job even remotely as good as they can. You don’t know you can. Finally, if the person doing that job, the one that you are so quick to dismiss, belittle, or humiliate, is happy, finds meaning in doing that work, and considers it her or his real job, who the heck wants to know or cares what you think?

 

Society discriminates between real and non-real jobs.

 

Robin Clair, a Communication professor at Purdue University, conducted a research study with students of a different university a couple decades ago and to these students, someone having a real job also worked at brick and mortar locations, earned a salary and not wages, had health insurance,  a regular 9-5 schedule, got paid holidays, had retirement funds, and so on – the things most of us associate with steady and standard jobs. By that definition, every single person in the informal economy, from circus clowns, dancers, seasonal workers, to those working in the gig economy of Uber drivers, to professional AirBnBers, athletes, entertainers, Amazon delivery drivers, nannies, stay-at-home-mothers and fathers,…oh I can go on…are pretty much working non-real jobs.

 

If it sounds ridiculous, that is because, IT IS!. Can you even imagine a society where people working in the informal gig economy go on a massive strike? Who is going to deliver your Amazon packages!!?

 

A job is not made real or non-real necessary because it draws a salary or provides health benefits. A job is made real by how it influences one’s own life and the lives of those around us. In almost all cases, positively. Unless, of course you are a criminal in which case, your job is neither real or non-real…it is just unreal!

 

Just because I do not draw a salary does not make my work any less real. Just ask those who depend on me.

 

Also, I am never just anything. I am a whole lot of everything in all that I do and that’s just as real as it gets.

 

Have you ever been labeled a “just” something (e.g., wife or mother?)? Have you, yourself, in passing referred to someone as being just a stay-at-home-mom, for example? 


 

 

 

28 thoughts on “All I am is…”Just” a Housewife

  1. I can so relate… I was working in Corporate until 3 years ago and people keep on asking me… “so what do you do, all day with yourself at home?”… Hmmmm I work harder now than I did then. And I am having more fun! #globalblogging

    Jeannette

  2. Just is one of those dangerous words that slips all too easily into our vocabulary. I read more about this last year and have consciously edited it out of most things ever since! (I’m still working on the exclamation marks though….) #globalblogging

  3. I love this! I haven’t had it so much since becoming a mother but I worked in the hospitality industry after I left uni and the amount of times I got ‘you’re just a waitress?’ Or ‘you just work at a bar?’ – it drove me mad! I loved all the jobs I was doing and felt so angry that people tried to belittle me. One bloke actually said to me and another girl who worked in the restaurant of a hotel with me, when we were helping him set up for a party ‘this isn’t ALL you do, is it? You’re students right?’ My fury must have shown on my face as my colleague quickly replied to him that we both worked there full time – but did pointedly remark ‘we both already HAVE degrees, actually.’ Ha! Sorry I am rambling, but you’ve made such a great point here. #FamilyFun

    1. The worst part is that people who say this think they are doing nothing wrong. In fact, some may even think they are being nice to you or trying to relate to you in some way by saying that Oh..I think you are so much better than doing this, whatever this is.
      I appreciate your comment so much. I have only heard such stories in the US so it is sad but helpful (from an academic stance) to know that such mindsets transcend countries.

  4. I was a homemaker for 5 yrs and have felt this in people’s attitude. What I want to say to them is, while on job you get promoted, bonuses, words of appreciation, and of course money. Whereas for being a homemaker, according to me which is the toughest job ever, none of the above is given. Which makes it even more tough. So these people have to rewind their thoughts and think again as to why so many housewives are so happy and satisfied in spite of no appreciation, etc. They will find their answers. Or may be they should step in their (housewives’) shoes and see.
    I can go on and on. To say the least, I have worked on so many things when I was at home, I feel I am missing on these things now because of which I have decided to spend every Saturday just with my kids (no cooking, no cleaning, no personal work). And my daughter waits for that (my son is too small to understand ‘the Saturday’). A lot more non monetary benefits you see. The smile on my daughter’s face when I say I am going spend time just with you and your toys, or excitement of my son when I say Vihaan lets play with your cars today.

    1. I love that you have Saturdays set aside for your kids. They will always have that with you and you will build so many happy memories with them too. I totally get it. It is so important to sometimes actively set aside time to be there for the kids. I feel that too sometimes…I’ll have J asking me to come play with him but I can’t because I have to cook or put things away or clean up and so on. Special time just for them sounds perfect.
      Thanks for commenting.

  5. Being a sahm is so much harder than my previous job as a tutor. I miss that sometimes but as much as being a full time mummy is hard, I wouldn’t change it for the world x
    #familyfun

    1. I am really happy that you found happiness in motherhood. It is so tough though, isn’t it? I love being a mommy to my two littles but I am not sure I wouldn’t change it entirely. I would still like to work part-time or at least make some money to make more tangible (not saying doing what I do as a mom isn’t tangible) contributions to the household.
      Thanks for visiting.

  6. Yep been here and done that conversation with myself and what I hate is that even though when I was working I had a profession as soon as I stopped I lost that profession or at least I forget that I had one and didn’t put it down on those forms that say “occupation”. Why? You don’t lose your qualifications or skills the day you stop working in the said profession or occupation do you? We are just as guilty for putting ourselves down as those around us. #globalblogging

    1. What a good point! I never thought about it like that in terms of skills. You’re absolutely right of course. These days, I just put Blogger or Author or Writer..whatever catches my fancy in that moment. All of these are true. Perhaps, next time, I should just write Mother.
      You’re also right on self-sabotage or putting ourselves down. I have another post about that as well. It’s like you start buying into society’s version of who you are or are becoming.

      Thanks for visiting.

  7. I think that being mum is really hard job. How people don’t understand that? I’m more tired now on my maternity leave than I worked for 12h
    #FamilyFun

  8. Brilliant post. I’m a SAHM too, and I get you. Even if people don’t use the word ‘just’, often, their look implies it. And being a full-time mom (besides having loads of other responsibilities) is a never-ending 24/7 job in itself. Not ‘just’ an ordinary 9-5 job!
    #bestandworst

  9. I love this! I am the worst offender for it but not when talking about other people, when talking about myself. I often finding myself saying ‘I am just a stay at home mum’. When I worked I even heard myself saying ‘I am just a nurse’. A nurse for goodness sake! I went through 3 years of intense training to achieve that! It isn’t even as if I thought ‘just’ of my colleagues, or of other stay at home parents for that matter. I simply can’t seem to loose the word ‘just’ when talking about myself. I guess I am my harshest critic.

    1. I am guilty of this as well. Unfortunately, the more we subconsciously buy into society’s notion of who we are supposed to be, the more likely it is that we start speaking and thinking of ourselves in that same way. It takes a lot of self-confidence and awareness to see ourselves through the lenses of our other identities. Thanks for visiting.

  10. I’m being brutally honest but I may have felt that way bedire I had kids. I don’t think I would have said it out loud but the thought would have been lurking. Now that I actually was one, I know ALL about it! There’s certainly no place for ‘just’ in the phrasing! #stayclassymama

  11. This is really interesting. I don’t think I’ve been labled as JUST a Mum yet but I may have said it about myself by accident! It’s a full time job! My other half was meant to be looking after my son today while I got a bit of down time. By 11am they’d come to find me and then that was me hanging out with my son again while my other half did cooking, I then put my son to nap! So basically my day to myself ended at 11am instead of 5pm like I’d hoped. He acknowledged that looking after him is hard work! Oh well, it’s just a job! Thanks for linking up to #familyfun

  12. It always seems that people make a judgment based on your job title – or lack of. I am not sure how I feel about this, other than I don’t like it. I hate the idea of somebody being called ‘just’ anything, it is condescending and belittling. Not that this is the point but I believe my job now is harder than my career as a lawyer and I spent years learning how to do that – no one taught me how to ‘just be a mum’. Boy do I wish they had at times. Anyway another brilliant read thank you for sharing it with us at #familyfun xx

  13. Yup, I have 2 different university degrees and people assume that because I am a SAHM that I am unqualified and that this is the best I can get. I find it so annoying! #globalblogging x

  14. Yep totally get it! I just reduced my working days from 5 to 3 days a week so I can spend more time with my son. I have felt like I’ve had to explain this decision to people, like it’s not an ok choice because I have worked hard for in my career and will now be occupying a ‘lesser’ role! #stayclassymama

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