As usual, something happened, very recently, to give me a reason to discuss this ever-present, should be obvious, often avoided, and almost always misunderstood topic.
Though we all know what year it is, some things change too slowly to notice the changes even if there are some. Barring certain attitudes and some legislation, this topic doesn’t seem to show much change: the full-time parent.
For too many years we called the full-time parent, historically almost exclusively female, a housewife, though she wasn’t married to a house. This term does, or will, seem less demeaning when we know the root of the word “husband.” Based in German, it loosely means house-bound, or tied to a house. That information will make some of us either more comfortable, or even less comfortable, with both titles.
Recently, we discussed various aspects of “housewifery” including the fact that most women today, even those with a family and household, still have careers by choice or necessity. They are the working mothers/wives of the new American agenda. Of course, today, many men with families are, too, also either full-time caregivers or the primary caregiver in the symbiotic partnership of America’s, fairly imperative, dual-income society. It’s tough for anyone who’s in it, and most Americans in the middle income bracket, or lower, are in it.
Bearing all this in mind, one would think that the level of work and dedication due to family commitment doesn’t need to be mentioned, but there are still people with a mindset forged in ancient fire. That is the idea that being at home, all day, handling domestic chores, a family’s scheduled activities, managing changes and emergencies, and fielding a family’s needs, is a “glamour gig” of some sort. It wasn’t ever and it isn’t now. It is imperative that everyone understands how hard a full-time parent – even one not employed outside of the home – works.
Years ago, the husband of a friend mentioned what an easy trick it was to be home all day “playing with the baby.” The women on site made sure he didn’t leave with that same attitude. The job description would scare anyone; few would sign up for the work even if it paid, which it doesn’t, and fewer would stick it out for any length of time. It’s a labor of love.
Full-time parents learn to juggle a lot and must live with the details they miss. I once left my 11-year-old waiting for me in my driveway alone, completely having gotten lost in a packed and ever-changing agenda that included a part-time job, coaching, volunteering at two different schools and one church, combined with the flurry of housekeeping obligations and errands. We won’t even discuss the emotional investment of parents.
Today, with more people, both men and women, wading through the waters of parenting and a job at the same time, there has been some enlightenment … but not enough. My conversations with, and observations of, many of the couples walking this path, sadly, resulted in finding that enlightenment, even in the 2020s, isn’t universal.
A fellow I know recently remarked that his wife, a full-time homemaker and mother of three, working part-time from home, didn’t work hard. It’s an untruth that only discloses a lack of knowledge, compassion, and understanding as well as the perpetuation of the myth that just because someone is at home, he or she is at leisure.
There’s no denying that being able to have a small level of privacy during one’s day, and not having to perform in the presence of one’s superior are perks. These, and a few other benefits unique to working from home while raising wee ones, are obvious, but they don’t mean the days aren’t demanding and long, or that down-time abounds. Indeed, working from home increases demands just because of availability.
It’s rather amazing to know that there are adults, even some who are parents, working outside the home, who still believe that for those maintaining a home full time, its organization, and the care of a household and family is a cake-walk of some sort. Let them eat cake; they’ll come around.
Even considering the number of homemakers in America who aren’t also working outside the home has dropped like Newton’s apple, defending full-time home-making and parenting is always a sensitive topic. It remains a topic still viewed, not in darkness but, evidently, in insufficient lighting at best. We must always be aware, and share that awareness with others.