The H Word.

I hate the term housewife. This is generally said as I lift a roast out of the oven. I did not marry my house. It’s too old, it makes embarrassing noises and, frankly, it’s a bit small, if you know what I mean. When I hear, “housewife”, I channel Betty Draper. Not in the, my hair and makeup are perfect way, but in the, I hate everything and everyone around me way. Technically, I work from home; however, my house and I are not in a relationship. It is merely the storage unit overflowing with the products of the life we’ve created.

In the 50s, the role of the matriarch was to keep a clean and presentable appearance and home. To dress children well and ensure they were fed, polite and delivered to and from school. The picture of the well dressed mother, peering out the window to ensure supper was on the table before the wheels of the Thunderbird turned the corner and shifted from drive to park. 
Then, we changed. We grew and brave women started the hard work that continues today. We were freed from the prison of the 50s housewife stereotype. Except, we weren’t.
Women are CEOs, politicians and soldiers. We have made great strides in the workforce. We still struggle to receive equal pay for equal work, but, there is no denying our progress.
However, inside the walls of home, the role of the stay-at-home care provider still struggles to find its new normal. This role has shifted. It is more hands-on. It is more engaged. The expectations of a full-time caregiver are robust. 100% tuned in to not only the physical requirements of the job; food in bellies, clothes on back, but also immersed in social and emotional development. And, you must not only be switched on to library outings and play groups, play dates and socially enriching opportunities, but, in the midst of this, you must be engaged. Present. Not just inside the home, but, in the real and imagined world of the child. At classes, at school, at sports events and recitals and classroom parties. Constantly. This hands-on/deep end of the parenting pool is newer; stemming from the emotional and natural parenting boom of the 70s. The rollover era of peace and love moving child rearing in a new direction. This move was and continues to be great, except for the quiet expectation that tagged along…the monkey on the back of progress. Yes, the 50s era housewife.

Ham! Mother fuckin’ HAM!
In this brave new world of ultra-connected parenting, there is still the covert expectation that you go steady with your home. To promise to clean, organize, decorate, cook (equal parts delicious and nutritious) meals and make hospital corners until death do you part.  And, there is a ticking clock.  Attempts should be made to do it all before the doorknob twists. signaling not the end of the parenting work-day…because that never ends, but the traditional work day of someone else.
Few are brave enough to come right out and state this is the expectation, but, the nagging feeling of impeded progress is there. Sadly, we have not helped ourselves as we continue to feel the pressure internally to do more and more and then, even more with the same number of hours in the day. The expectation of perfection and the seamless oneness of our multiple functions. Measuring our proficiency of every part of our enormous role to determine a day’s success. We could blame society, but, we continue to place this expectation on ourselves. Instead of separating our parenting from “housewifery”, we combine them into one role. One overarching rainbow from child birth to clean toilets. On most days, I fail my home. I do not dust, clean blinds or mop. I do not scour floors or counters, but, I am an overextended and present parent. On the days when I put on my date-night pants and do my laundry, organize the roaming piles of paper and items needing attention, clean and plan elaborate meals, I am not as present for my children.

“We can have it all!” Well, we can. We do, but, only when we measure our success by the happiness of our children and stop measuring success by how many items are left on the to-do list.

I am an imperfect, stay-at-home parent. If you call me a housewife, I will hit you in the face with my Frittata pan.



  1. You said it – WE continue to place the expectation on ourselves.

    And we do. It’s hardwired into us, I think.

    We have to stop and remember that we are human and we can only do so much.

  2. I love this because it is so, so true. We really can’t do it all and if more of us would just admit it then life would be much easier for all of us. The days I truly play with my kids my house is a disaster. If I spend the day scrubbing bathrooms then my kids are pretty much in front of the tv.

    • And then the guilt of having them in front of the T.V. kicks in and so you turn off the T.V. and the guilt of seeing 10 loads of laundry coating your 2nd floor creep in. So difficult to strike a balance while brushing off the guilt. I’m so with you. This is my life too.

  3. Heather S says:

    Our kids are only kids for a short time. Crumbs and dust bunnies will be around long after they’re gone. It’s hard to strike a balance, but I prefer to lean towards time with my kids than a perfectly clean home. And their toys are way more fun than a steam mop!

  4. I LOVE this. This is sooo sooo true. I do not understand how SAMHs are expected to keep a perfect home when they are busy raising the next generation. It’s about as realistic as expecting the parent who works outside the home to simultaneously be cooking dinner. I’m tweeting this. Great post.

  5. I have the hardest time not feeling guiltly when the house is not clean, there is dirty clothes, the dog isn’t groomed and even with the yard is not beautiful. I have 8 kids all under the age of 12. And believe it or not they are pretty lazy.
    I did however buy my 1st bottle of wine and I am drinking as I type. I don’t know what is wrong with me but maybe in a few more glasses I will not even care!

    • Lanie, I’m the same way. Even though I realize how impossible the task is to have small children AND a perfect home, I try to do both which, generally means that I do neither justice. This is why I drink wine. And, WELCOME to the wine club. We are always happy to see new recruits. 8 under the age of 12. Well, you deserve an automatic promotion to Vice President of Wine Club.

    • Well I have only bought one bottle ever but I did enjoy it. What wines would you recommend ? I may have to skip stright to the hard stuff liquor 😉

  6. Ok, it’s official. I love you.

  7. A super-presentable house will just get dirty again, so I’d rather spend my time doing things I love with the people I love (and working to pay the bills, too). My messy house is a great litmus test as well – If you come over and you RETURN, then I’m your friend for life, but if you’re put off by socks on the couches and some dog hair in the corner, then feel free to hang out with June Cleaver and share her anti-depressants instead.

  8. I don’t know what you’re on about. I totally do it all. Now excuse me while I snort these diet pills.

  9. What the hell is a frittata pan? Was I supposed to get one when I signed up? Because I didn’t.

    I work, and when I’m not at work, as long as I can see the floor, the house is clean. I accept that I’m a slob in a house full of slobs. And I can’t cook, either.

    • Working parents have just as big of an impossibly full plate and I’m pretty jealous that you can see your floor. Mine is littered with children…and diapers..and possibly recycling bins filled with empty wine bottles. Did you not get your Welcome to Parenthood commemorative Frittata Pan? What the hell! I’m calling those bastards tomorrow to have it shipped overnight.

    • I had no idea what a frittata pan was either. I didn’t want to say that so you would know for sure I am a bad parent. We are a corn dog frozen dinner, and all the extra preservatives we can get kind of family.

  10. I love that you wrote this. Thank you for validating my 50s housewife post over at, where I was a little more tongue-in-cheek but got myself ripped a new one by about 10 people. You are my blogging hero, and I couldn’t agree more with every word in this post!!!

    • Now that I know about this, I must go read immediately. Any post ever that refers to a 50s housewife is doing so in some level of jest UNLESS you are a 50s housewife that has traveled through time to 2012. Then, you would be dreadfully serious and, perhaps, horrified. No offense to ANY time traveling 50s era housewives who have stumbled upon my blog trying to return to the mother ship.

  11. Yes! I have had the same thoughts…I’m just incapable of articulating them so eloquently, so thank you! I no longer work outside the home, but I did when my first was a baby. I frequently wondered “What the hell? Those women’s lib people really kind of screwed us over!” I mean, hooray for votes for women and all, but come ON!

    And the GUILT…oh, the guilt! If I’m taking care of the house, I’m ignoring my children. If I’m spending quality time with my children, my house becomes a shitstorm. Aaaaaaah! When my first was born, my mom told me I was officially the three letter word for guilt. M-O-M. One more thing to chalk up to the “Dammit, my mother was right yet again” list.

  12. Well said and truly couldn’t have said it better if I tried. I must agree that we just can’t do it all and if I am hands-on with my kids then the house suffers and vice versa. There is no happy medium and sadly not enough hours in the day. I will say this I despise dusting and toilet cleaning is right up there with a root canal, so they get done dead last!! Seriously could so relate and thank you!!

  13. Wow this made me feel so much better! As a mom to a special needs child who is homeschooled I feel alot of pressure to be the “perfect” mom. Add to that the fact that I’m fighting for custody and under investigation by CPS (someone called and fed them a few lines of bull) and I’m about to lose my mind. It’s wonderful to know that other moms feel the guilt I feel when there’s poop on the bathroom floor, three overdue lessons, and dinner is nowhere in sight.

    • April ,
      We should chat. I fostered for 5 years and adopted 6 kids for dept of family and children service. I would bet it not as bad as you think. I also have 2 children with autism. One very server one higher functioning. We could share a lot ideas with each other. We also homeschooled until our last adoption. So we know that part of things as well.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Thank. You. !!!!

  15. I’m not a huge fan of “housewife” either. However, I do wish that I looked like Betty Draper when I face planted off my bed in the morning. Right now, the whole, “Just put a paper bag over your head and make it to the coffee pot” thing seems to be working for me.

  16. You hit the nail on the head again. You can’t fully succeed on one end without feeling like you’ve failed on the other. As I review my day each evening, it it seems all too easy to find failures, shortcomings, things half-done or not yet started. But on the days when I feel like my kids are happy and I had a good momming day – those are the days when the to-do list doesn’t seem to matter as much.

  17. I really appreciate this… I struggle daily with the things that need to be done and the things that should be done. I know in my heart that my kids come first, but sometimes I feel the pressure of what needs to be done in order to maintain a healthy home. At the end of the day my husband comes home and is so appreciative of what is done and the sight of happy boys, so really why do I do this to myself? One of the ladies before said it right… We are just wired that way. I am from the south and everything must be ” a place for everything, and everything in it’s place” but I love spending my time with my children. The fact is it shouldn’t be this hard! Thank you for shining a little light on that.

  18. I consider it a good day if my 5 year old Darth Vader isn’t coated in dog hair (yeah, he’s worn it since Halloween – even in public.) Nothing instills fear from the Dark Lord more than beagle hair covered pants. I work very part time from home, but I’m hitting my busy season. Gotta get Darth some educational videos.

  19. i found that when I turned 40ish, with one child who is my personality mini-me and another with special needs, I had to make some choices and have a good, old-fashioned reality check. The nice thing about my 40s is that I’ve learned not to care so much about what I think other people are going to think of me. So, if you come to my house and the laundry is in piles waiting to be done, everything is in need of a good dusting and I’m about to feed my kids cereal for dinner, I expect that you won’t care. You come to my house to see me and my family. If the state of my home or the person that cooks the meals is as important to you as seeing me is, then you’ve come to the right place and next time, we’ll meet for coffee somewhere else. Here is what i know for sure: I am not a good housekeeper, I was smart enough to marry a man who likes to cook, and I will never have all of my scrapbooks up to date. I also know that my kids have my time and my presence as they need it, as does my husband. If, at the end of the day, I can say that we are all safe, happy, relatively well-adjusted, and love each other then that is all the “perfect” I need in my life. The rest is just simply fluff.

    • I meant “you’ve come to the WRONG place” Also, might I add, I have declared “guilt” to be a nasty, four letter word. I only indulge in guilt if I have truly done something hurtful to someone else. Beyond that, guilt is a wasted emotion and frankly, there are plenty of other anxiety-inducing situations to fill the void. Let go of the guilt, Moms. You’re doing just great! No guilt needed!

  20. Yes yes a thousand times yes! I wholeheartedly agree and love this post. And motherfuckin ham just made my day. 😀

  21. I’m so making a mother fucking ham on Christmas!!

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