Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Part-Time Parents and Spouses

Many a verbal atrocity has been committed in order to find a politically correct name for housewives. For some reason, people are bothered with the word "housewife" and keep coming up with one linguistic atrocity after another to substitute it. For a while, "stay-at-home mothers" was in vogue. Of course, this gauche construction makes little sense, since not all housewives are mothers and, besides, it isn't like they stay at home all the time. They are bound to go out every once in a while. Then, we had "home-makers", which sounds just as atrocious. What does it even mean to "make homes"?

Now, there is an even more bizarre designation for housewives is being bandied around: "full-time wives and mothers." This must be the worst one so far because not only is it an unpronounceable mouthful, it is also offensive to everybody who works. Does every person who works automatically become "a part-time spouse and parent"? I, for one, do wonder how one manages to be "a part-time wife." Is my marriage somehow suspended every time I go to work? And what if I work at home? Am I considered a wife at that time? Or do I need to stop working completely, for the wifely role to kick in? What about the husbands of housewives? Unless we are talking about people who inherited a fortune, a housewife's husband is obligated to work for the simple reason that she chose not to. Is he to be considered "a part-time husband and father" because of that? Should we now expect a child to say about her working father: "Daddy is my part-time parent"?

With the current economic crisis the historically recent and geographically limited phenomenon of housewives is slowly disappearing even in those few places that, for a very short time, had this institution. In the meanwhile, there is a perfectly good word for people who don't work for one reason or another: unemployed. Why people keep resorting to strange verbal acrobacies in order to avoid applying it where it so obviously fits, is incomprehensible to me.


Pagan Topologist said...

My wife and I unfortunately live an hour drive apart, so we see each other only once every week or so for a day or two. I suppose that makes up part time spouses. Nevertheless, I love her as much as if she were a fulltime spouse.

BenYitzhak said...

I grew up with the term "Domestic Engineer"

Clarissa said...

BenYitzhak: seriously? I haven't heard that one. It is just too bizarre.

Anonymous said...

No, Unemployed people are people who are actively seeking jobs, not people who have chosen not to work for one reason or another. The economic principle of unemployment explicitly requires that the phenomenon be involuntary, so in this case, it doesn't apply.

Also, are you actively a wife when you are teaching? I think you become a teacher in those hours and your wifely self is dormant... except if you teach your husband...which might prove unethical and the like....

Further, using your logic, the term "Housewife" seems problematic. Are you not a wife when you are in your house? If you are, then, you too are essentially a housewife....just perhaps not full time.

I like home worker... :)

Hello, my name is Temite and I work at home. Although, I don't have a husband and i just run my business from my home. hmmmm... not quite right.

Its impossible to define these things because once we put a name to it, we attach all sorts of connotations to something that is just a different sort of profession.


Clarissa said...

I'm sorry but your comment is beyond confusing. What's a "wifely self"? How can it be dormant?

For your information, under the laws of the country where I live, I do not cease to be legally married regardless of any occupations I wish to engage in.

You can't call a housewife a "home worker" because what if she does no work in the home at all?

Anonymous said...

@Temite: the definition of unemployment you are using was only created to lower unemployment counts through excluding those workers who have given up on looking for a job for wahtever reason (out of hopelessness, illness, etc.) either temporarily or permanently.

Stephanie said...

Homemaker is one who does the work that makes a house/apartment/whatever into a home. That makes much more sense to me than a housewife, one who is presumably married to a house. I've done the work to make a house into a home, but I've never been married to a house. So, I always preferred "homemaker" as my designation. (Now, I'm self-employed.)

Stay-at-home mom came into vogue about the same time stay-at-home dad did.

Economically speaking, "unemployed" refers to those who are not currently employed, but are actively seeking employment. My husband, for example, is not employed, but he's not unemployed. He's not seeking work; he's chooses to take care of our three children. (He prefers stay-at-home dad.)