Working Wife

A recent post on expat+HAREM has got me thinking about being at home and what it means to me.

I never had any desire to be a housewife, in fact as a teenager I went so far as to reject the idea of marriage and family, a sure case of baby going out with the bathwater. A lot had to do with my mother, from whom I felt a lot of mixed signals about her life at home with the kids. She wasn’t unhappy in dealing with children and house,  and yet in retrospect I see she  suffered from low self-esteem. As we grew older and she had time for hobbies and eventually work, she became more confident, stronger.

For me, I slipped into the role and yet am fully aware of it’s importance. In fact, while I’m not houseproud, I do take the role seriously perhaps too much so.  I know how much my work eases the life of my family and now that I have time to work, I am reluctant to upset the whole routine. A recent piece in the New York Times prompted further thought, am I willing to sacrifice my family’s well-being for income?

Yet I still have a drive to earn money.  And society here expects that I will do just that, everyone asks when I will work? As if I didn’t already.  In most cases this is code for ‘when will you teach me English?’ As if language teaching is the only job available to me. Perhaps it is.

So I’ve taken the path of Skaian Gates English, working from home, earning some money and keeping the routine. We’ll see how it works out in the end.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Catherine,

    Many thoughts, I’ll start with the last one: have your husband pay you.
    Then of course: Every woman needs a certain amount of independence, and income from another source than your husband, would be perceived as more “real”.

    Your post makes me think of my mother who had no interest whatsoever in getting married and having a family. Her mother bore her father six children and was pretty much incapacitated by physical problems after that, not a good example for my active, athletic mom. But then she met my dad and was willing to change her mind, but only if he would become a professional artist. Imagine that! If she had to be a housewife it would be as a muse.

    Personally I’ve come to see the art of homemaking as an integral part of my life as a creative person. But at the same time I can’t tell you how much I’d like to have more help around the house and the yard. And often I want to live in my studio and not go home (upstairs) at all. My husband is wonderful and very good at housework —if only he had more time.

    As for “them” one of our neighbors, while getting a tour of our home and my studio, told my husband “you are a very patient man.” The nerve! And what did he mean by that, we still wonder.

    Isn’t it funny how “they” can get our gander up and disturb the balance we create for ourselves?

  • Dear Catherine,

    Many thoughts, I’ll start with the last one: have your husband pay you.
    Then of course: Every woman needs a certain amount of independence, and income from another source than your husband, would be perceived as more “real”.

    Your post makes me think of my mother who had no interest whatsoever in getting married and having a family. Her mother bore her father six children and was pretty much incapacitated by physical problems after that, not a good example for my active, athletic mom. But then she met my dad and was willing to change her mind, but only if he would become a professional artist. Imagine that! If she had to be a housewife it would be as a muse.

    Personally I’ve come to see the art of homemaking as an integral part of my life as a creative person. But at the same time I can’t tell you how much I’d like to have more help around the house and the yard. And often I want to live in my studio and not go home (upstairs) at all. My husband is wonderful and very good at housework —if only he had more time.

    As for “them” one of our neighbors, while getting a tour of our home and my studio, told my husband “you are a very patient man.” The nerve! And what did he mean by that, we still wonder.

    Isn’t it funny how “they” can get our gander up and disturb the balance we create for ourselves?

  • Catherine, nurturing your routines and passions brings so much back to your family. Yes, income ( and you’ve found a great way to integrate your writing and teaching) does bring ease, but I agree with Judith in the sense of an honorary monetary value for your work at home, too. I don’t feel that you ‘have time to work’ now as if you weren’t working before, but that you are switching from one kind to another.

  • Catherine, nurturing your routines and passions brings so much back to your family. Yes, income ( and you’ve found a great way to integrate your writing and teaching) does bring ease, but I agree with Judith in the sense of an honorary monetary value for your work at home, too. I don’t feel that you ‘have time to work’ now as if you weren’t working before, but that you are switching from one kind to another.

  • “House-proud.” Haven’t heard that expression in a while! (Guess that’s something Judith’s neighbor won’t ever accuse of her of? Hee hee.)

    I can understand that drive to earn money. You can work hard all day but if you don’t earn money on some level you don’t have any purchasing power — you can’t put money where your mouth (and heart) is. I feel this way strongly about certain projects I’d fund (my own, and other people’s) if only I had the reserve cash. I am naturally a patroness of the arts and culture (as well as some social justice causes) but so often my hands are tied to do more than donate my personal time and energy. I am happy to do that, but I am only one person. I am always on the lookout to find ways to have a bigger impact.

    Thanks for this Catherine, and good luck with Skaian Gates English!

  • “House-proud.” Haven’t heard that expression in a while! (Guess that’s something Judith’s neighbor won’t ever accuse of her of? Hee hee.)

    I can understand that drive to earn money. You can work hard all day but if you don’t earn money on some level you don’t have any purchasing power — you can’t put money where your mouth (and heart) is. I feel this way strongly about certain projects I’d fund (my own, and other people’s) if only I had the reserve cash. I am naturally a patroness of the arts and culture (as well as some social justice causes) but so often my hands are tied to do more than donate my personal time and energy. I am happy to do that, but I am only one person. I am always on the lookout to find ways to have a bigger impact.

    Thanks for this Catherine, and good luck with Skaian Gates English!

  • Thank you all for your responses!

    Judith, hah, my DH couldn’t afford me!! It’s all our money so he would view ‘payment’ as narrowing what is mine. He’s the first to say I should relax about money. Most of the hangups are in my own head.
    Interesting that you say homemaking is part of your creativity, I often feel I get the best ideas while doing something routine. I need to start harnessing those ideas more though.
    Laughing at your neighbour, I’m guessing he wasn’t invited back again!

    Rose, you are quite right, I fell into the trap there. I now have more time to devote to non-child related things. It was only after my children were born that I discovered just how hard I can work if I have to!

    Anastasia, it’s exactly as you describe. It’s not so much about access to or control of money (which I have), just more freedom in the use of it!

  • Thank you all for your responses!

    Judith, hah, my DH couldn’t afford me!! It’s all our money so he would view ‘payment’ as narrowing what is mine. He’s the first to say I should relax about money. Most of the hangups are in my own head.
    Interesting that you say homemaking is part of your creativity, I often feel I get the best ideas while doing something routine. I need to start harnessing those ideas more though.
    Laughing at your neighbour, I’m guessing he wasn’t invited back again!

    Rose, you are quite right, I fell into the trap there. I now have more time to devote to non-child related things. It was only after my children were born that I discovered just how hard I can work if I have to!

    Anastasia, it’s exactly as you describe. It’s not so much about access to or control of money (which I have), just more freedom in the use of it!

  • Val

    Good luck with the job.
    I never thought I’d be a stay at home wife and mother either.
    Well I didn’t think I’d be a mother at all.
    Now I hear my daughter saying exactly the same as I did.

  • Val

    Good luck with the job.
    I never thought I’d be a stay at home wife and mother either.
    Well I didn’t think I’d be a mother at all.
    Now I hear my daughter saying exactly the same as I did.

  • Thanks Val!

    I wonder is it a phase all teenage girls go through??

  • Thanks Val!

    I wonder is it a phase all teenage girls go through??

  • Great blog! I truly love how it’s easy on my eyes and the details are well written. I am wondering how I could be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your rss feed which ought to do the trick! Have a nice day!