Five years ago today, I timidly published my first blog post — a lopsided cake that I made for my mother’s birthday. My first blog was called Food is my Love Language. It’s true, but it’s also quite a mouth full. When I combined my food blog and my expat blog, I decided to go with the Polish Housewife name, it was shorter, made for an easier to remember url. I didn’t realize the wording would be so controversial.
I’ve been asked why I would choose to refer to myself as a housewife or in Polish gospodyni domowa (home hostess) or even worse kura domowa (house hen). Why would I choose such a negative word? As if no woman in her right mind, would allow herself to be called a housewife.
Come on, folks; it’s just a word! It’s a dated word, I’ll admit but one I grew up with. What’s sad to me, is that our society places so little value on the role of a housewife. When I was young, my mother and most of my friends’ mothers would have referred to themselves as housewives. During this time the term homemaker was becoming popular, but it’s always felt too contrived for my liking. Now we have the phrase stay-at-home-mom. I don’t think I can call myself that once the kids have left home! 🙂 So in this 5th Anniversary post, I want to discuss how I came up with the name and my thoughts on the whole housewife thing, which can be a heated topic. So for my next anniversary, I’m just baking a cake!
When Ed decided to accept a job in Poland, we weren’t sure how long he would be here. We had no idea what it would be like. In the back of our minds, we pictured something still very “second-world,” grey, no restaurants, and only a few shops with empty shelves.
There was a possibility that the assignment might be for only for one year, so I was reluctant to leave my job of 13 years that I loved to move to the other side of the world. Expat or remote assignments without family are not unheard of in military circles. In fact, after five years, Ed’s employer still treats this an an unaccompanied tour.
That’s how Ed came to be working in Poland while I was still in Tucson, working as the business manager for a large church and adding Certified Public Accountant to my official signature block.
I have to say that my employer was great about letting me have time off to visit Ed every two or three months. The trips to Poland were wonderful. Poznan is a beautiful city, very modern, a university town with so much to offer. Spending time with Ed without the normal obligations of family, home maintenance, volunteer activities. . . it was like being newlyweds again.
Even with a job you love, there are days that are frustrating. On those days when I would think of the life I was missing in Poland with my husband, I would say to my friends and anyone who would listen, “I should quit, and become a Polish housewife.” I said that more than once, and that’s how the name of my blog came to be. It’s not because I have Polish heritage; it’s not because I think a woman’s place is only in the home.
Simple enough? 🙂
To stay at home or go to work? During my married life, I’ve done both, both with kids, and both without kids. It really should be a matter of every couple deciding what works best for their relationship and their family at any given time.
Several young women that I’ve met in Poznan, they come from all over Europe, have told me that growing up they have felt pressured, expectations from friends, family, and society in general, to make the most they can of their career — a message that Cheryl Sandberg would be glad to hear! They grew up being told that a woman should try to achieve as much as she possibly can professionally.
In my research for this post, I came across this essay, which talks about communism and feminism in Poland just a generation or two ago. It’s a quick read; I urge you to take a look at this “government sponsored feminist utopia.”The author, Marzena Reich, is my age, yet our growing up could not be more different. It makes me question the wisdom of one of my professors who specialized in sociology, and said, “in the future we may very well leave the rearing of our children to experts who can do it better than parents.”
Life is full of trade-offs. We have finite resources and we’re all trying to make the most of them. When Ed and I married, he was already half way through his 20 year career as an Air Force pilot. I had worked a variety of jobs and was in school at the time, but I had yet to find my “grown-up” job. If I was going to be Ed’s wife, it only made sense for me to pack things up and join him where ever he was stationed, and that pretty much assured that he would always be our main bread winner. If I already was well established in a promising career that could provide more for our family, perhaps he would have considered staying put with an Air National Guard unit, but that wasn’t the case. When I look back at our choices, it’s almost been like a dance, or a chess-match, but I’d like to think we have had a common goal. One thing has lead to another, one thing has made another possible. If you do this, I can do that, always with concern for our daughters’ needs.
Here are comments from two friends who are currently at home, focusing on raising their children and happen to also be bloggers. Lest you think these women aren’t bright and adventurous, the first was a preschool teacher and learned to pilot a plane before becoming a wife and mother. The second has a professional background in nightclubs and PR and has become an advocate and resource for thousands after her daughter’s diagnosis with celiac.
Being a wife and mother is something I longed for during high school, college and right up until I found my husband. This truly is the happiest time in my life. My days are spent making homeschooling an adventure, cooking, cleaning, tending a garden, caring for animals, hugging, laughing, cuddling, playing with, and caring for our children. I feel blessed that I am able to stay home with our four children, have a husband who supports our decision for me to stay home, and who loves me fiercely. It’s such an honor to to be his help meet. I love trying to find ways to serve him and help him as much as possible when he is home and away from home. I also love having the opportunity of making a home for him, and he loves being able to provide and care for us. — Jenny
I don’t mind the word housewife, but I do mind how some people see it. In Dubai more wives are housewives than not, so its pretty “normal.” In Sweden though, a housewife is met with gasps! Like, “don’t you want more out of life; don’t you want your own money?” etc, etc, etc. I don’t really say to people “I’m a housewife’, I rather say “I don’t work'” but I DO work, more than most, just no pay! lol I’m NOT ashamed to be a housewife, why should I be, a spade is a spade. My husband works bloody hard to be able to keep me at home, and being Polish and maybe more traditional then a Swedish man would be, he takes pride in being able to do so. He would never be able to do what he does work-wise if he didn’t have me supporting him with all that I do. — Linda
I don’t want to paint the picture that only women who are at home are involved with their families and communities. I have another friend, who besides holding down a demanding full-time job, volunteers on a non-profit board (I know first-hand how time consuming that can be) and is treasurer of her son’s soccer team as well as organizing the team’s charity collection drives. She’s also up in the wee hours of the morning doing boot camp three times a week and running. Here’s what she had to say when I asked about the word housewife:
Anthropologists will tell us that as women, we’re genetically programmed to compete with each other, but we can’t move beyond our animal instincts? You may or may not call yourself a feminist, but I’ll bet you’re in favor of freedom and equality. I think that the insistence that women must have their career as their number one priority, is just as skewed and wrong as insisting that women must focus only on home and family. Freedom to chose means the freedom to pursue either option or something in between. Isn’t it time we stop bashing our sister’s choices and tramping on their self-worth. Let’s applaud each other’s paths in life, and encourage and help the women we know to be the best they can be, whatever they’ve chosen!