Could You Be a Stay-At-Home Wife?

Let's say you're a well-educated, 20-something to 40-something married woman. You have no kids because you've chosen not to have them. You have a job, or you're busy earning your advanced college degree. Could you quit your job or stop your education and become a stay-at-home wife?

The mommy wars are apparently so last Wednesday. This article explores the newest living trend: that is, affluent, child-free women who despite their education and past employment decide to stop working (or to not start working at all after college) and instead stay home to focus on laundry, house-cleaning, clipping coupons, charity work, and new hobbies.

I must admit that after reading this article, I enjoyed a brief 30-second fantasy about the many things I could accomplish if I was able to stay home without kids in the picture. I could read more than 10 pages of the book sitting on my nightstand without passing out from exhaustion at the end of the day. I could finally start the novel I've wanted to write for the past 12 years. I could take up knitting again. I could even throw all caution to the wind and learn to cook!

But the fantasy ended quickly and I gained my rightful head. I would hate this kind of lifestyle. I would be bored out of my mind after about a week.

As it is now, on the few days a month when I'm not working on a freelance project, something feels wrong. Yes, I work because I have to. We couldn't swing our bills if I didn't, which is why I'm teetering on just this side of terrified about what's going to happen in the fall when the twins are born and I can't work for awhile.

But I also work because I want to. Corporate writing is far from my dream job, but I know I'm good at it, probably better than I am at this motherhood gig. I enjoy working on a successful project. I appreciate receiving positive feedback from my clients. I like the fact that I'm able to contribute to our household income, even in relatively small amounts, and I'm extremely fortunate that I'm able to do so while staying home with my daughter, something I wouldn't give up for anything.

But I know I couldn't chuck it all to stay home if we didn't have kids and we could afford for me to do so. I worked too hard for the two college degrees I paid for (in part) myself and I spent too many years learning about the IT industry and the Marketing world, the two areas of focus for my business writing career, to make my husband fancy dinners and to perform more "in-depth cleaning" (cited by one of the husbands interviewed in this article as a benefit to having an at-home wife).

The couples with stay-at-home wives are apparently superbly happy and stress-free. With no kids around to complicate things, it's a status symbol for them that the husband has reached a point in his career where his wife "no longer HAS to work."

But I just don't get this. At.All. While I believe stay-at-home-moms have the hardest job on the planet, as a feminist, I do not understand how the well-educated and the child-free can opt out of the workforce before their golden years to focus on household chores as if this was 1950.

What am I missing here?

17 Responses to “Could You Be a Stay-At-Home Wife?”

  1. # Blogger Sasha

    Hmmm.. This concept is very interesting. I have to say, although I would hate it, I can see the appeal. I love being at home, but I hate the housework aspect of it. If my whole life were laundry, cleaning and cooking (and sewing!) I would be seriously depressed, like suicidally so. But with a cleaning lady, I could definitely be a lady of leisure, masters degree and all. Sure I would still write essays and work on my creative fiction (perhaps finish my the unfinished second master's I started four years ago--an MFA in fiction writing), but I would also spend a ton of time working out, lunching with friends, getting massages and generally relaxing. In fact, can I go back in time and rewrite my life to include this? Sigh.  

  2. # Anonymous Kris

    Yeah, I would go crazy! There are a lot of women that were mom's of my friends that never had jobs, and didn't get one after their kids were grown and out of the house. I just don't understand it. I can see (I guess) if you are doing a bunch of volunteer work, or something that gets you out of the house, socializing and whatnot... a job without the pay? But otherwise- I couldn't do it.  

  3. # Anonymous Ness

    I think I *could* theoretically do this provided I kept my mind busy, by learning at least something. Doing online courses, or working on a degree, or yanno - SOMETHING. I must admit, at the moment, being forced to work less (cos 'o baby) I'm amazed at all the ways I've found to make some moolah on the web for very little effort. Like seriously, I installed a plugin the other day, and this morning I got an email from the company that uses it to sell text ads, that they had very kindly earned me $5.32, to have placed two words on my site. Um hello...2 words. How'd you guys like to play with say, another 50 words!?? :) Oh, I'm loving the web right now.  

  4. # Blogger Marie

    It's hard to put myself in that scenario -- no child, plus a hefty spouse income. But if I let myself think about things I'd really like to do, regardless of earning potential, I'd love to spend my time doing community service. Volunteer and charity work. Absolutely. And I'd hit the gym daily. And to hell with housework! I would hire someone to clean the house! Though I'd still cook.

    I know a family for whom this is the case. They have kids, but even during the school year it doesn't make sense for them financially or stress-wise for her to work (because the husband is a very large wage earner - tax-wise she'd need to make a LOT to have it impact their finances). She keeps herself very busy with volunteer work and takes an occasional consulting job just to keep a toe in. She has an MBA.

    If the tables were turned and I had an awesome job that I loved, my husband would be ALL OVER not working himself! He'd be in project heaven at home.

    Oh well... it's fun to fantasize. Back to reality...  

  5. # Blogger MrsSpock

    I'd have to do something or I'd go kookoo bananas. I was pretty bored my last few months of pregnancy when I couldn't work my job as a nurse.  

  6. # Anonymous Lis Garrett

    I would have to have a purpose outside of cleaning and cooking meals. I would work on my writing or perform hours of charity work each week. I couldn't just sit home and do nothing. As it is, when the two older kids go to their granparents' house and I have only one to look after, I don't know what to do with myself. I can't imagine having NO kids and staying home. I would go crazy without some sort of purpose to it all.

    (although a week of it would be might nice)  

  7. # Blogger Mom24

    I think it's possible that it could be a very rewarding life. I guess it depends on what you do with the opportunity. If you stayed home everyday, and just did the home-maintenance type of stuff, I would go gaga. But, If you used your skills in a productive way, balanced with making "the house a home", I think it could be extremely rewarding. You mentioned doing charity work, trust me, that can be even more consuming than a career. Like everything else, I guess, it's what you do with what you've chosen that determines how well it works.  

  8. # Blogger Jesser

    I actually sort of did that while I lived in WI. I was working, but it was freelance stuff and spotty at best. I really didn't have problems filling my time with housework, working out and the like and I can't say I HATED it, but I didn't really feel fulfilled.  

  9. # Blogger Sugar and Ice

    That's had to even give an opinion one, seeing how I've never been in the situation and probably never will be. If I were just staying home and doing housework all day, every day, then NO, absolutely not, I couldn't do it. If I had an opportunity to get involved in some type of organization or charity, then yes, I think maybe I could. I just need socialization. I cannot stay home all day, every day...even now. If I didn't have a group of other stay at home mom friends and a play group, then I don't even know if I could successfully be a stay at home mom. I think being a stay at home wife would be kind of limiting as far as socialization, so that might just keep me from doing it, even if I were given the opportunity. So, even if my husband was making Bill Gates kind of money and we had no kids, I'd probably work. I doubt I'd go back to teaching, but I'd probably do something.  

  10. # Blogger Andrew

    I'd do it in a heartbeat!  

  11. # Blogger Simply Mel

    I actually did this. I stopped working late 1999 and only had my first kid 2001.

    Lets just clarify that I certainly didnt spend time deep cleaning or making gourmet meals....but the freedom is amazing. I could do anything I wanted.

    I think its a pretty cool gift for a bloke to give a chick! Freedom. Work or dont work.

    Isnt it about personal choice and not about what others think?  

  12. # Blogger Tracey

    I can TOTALLY see the benefits to having one spouse stay at home. Completely. Especially if both partners are honest in their expectations of each other and their desires for life.

    Most people work for the money. Cut and dry. A lot of those who work will say that they don't feel as though they are complete without bringing home a paycheck or making a contribution to the world. And I can understand how people may think that way, but I, personally, feel no desire to add to the world's materialism. My needs are quite small. If we had no children, I would probably be quite content to live in a small home, with lots of property.

    Contributing to the growth of the economy is not my life's mission. Making sure we have food, shelter and love IS.

    IF Patrick loved his job and IF we were agreeable on my staying home and IF we could live off of his income for the rest of our lives (which, personally, I think is possible) then I would never get a paying job. EVER. I could honestly be quite happy staying home for forever. It is nice to know that couples (women, especially) aren't feeling obligated to follow the pressures from society to have 2 incomes. That is what feminism is all about, isn't it? That women have CHOICES. If they choose to live that way, and are with a spouse that is comfortable with it, then why the hell not?!?

    Also, if they are able to go to the gym to be healthy, do charity work to help society, and be happy when their husbands get home, where's the problem?  

  13. # Blogger Damselfly

    Apparently, a girl I went to high school with didn't work. Her husband traveled constantly, and so she traveled with him. I don't know that she was exactly educated, though....  

  14. # Anonymous Anonymous

    So my mom, a mid-50's woman of means, is one of these women. She is straight out of the 1950's. She has not had a job since the early 90's when I was in college .. in fact she only worked at her job so that I could go to college for free (working at my alma mater). But she remarried a man of wealth, and has happily not worked for the past 15 years or so. I try so hard not to judge her, but it's hard. Her world is so small - made up of redesigning rooms over and over, gardening and yard work, baking and bringing over her desserts to friends (who apparently don't work either); she shops and picks up house things at marshall's, and she spends a lot of time painting. She DOES make the occassional dollar by selling her paintings (she's very good), but its' not exactly contributing to the household income. She is so far removed from the "real world" its' sometime hard to have a conversation with her. I love her dearly, more than anything .. but sometimes I just wish she'd do more with her life. She has a masters degree in counseling that she never used (she sort of got it for the fun of it I guess). I dunno .. as women we always judge each other so harshly. And we all need to stop doing so. But it's hard that some of us "have it so easy."  

  15. # Blogger Christine

    Um, the short answer is: Hell no.

    I went nearly out of my mind the one month between taking the bar exam and beginning work.

    I imagine if it were an option and I had a lot of volunteer obligations I would consider it. But then there, you go...I would basically have to have enough volunteer work to take me out of the house every day.  

  16. # Blogger MIP

    It does seem a bit lacking to just stay at home and be, well, just be. It would certainly be fun for the first week, maybe month, but then I think I would start to feel guilty, bored, or both. Stay at home mom I can get behind, and wish that I could be. Stay at home wife? Methinks this is a concept that neither the hubby nor I could endorse.  

  17. # Blogger MsPrufrock

    Absolutely NO WAY. I couldn't stay home with a kid, let alone without one.

    I have no doubt that these women can fill their days productively for a certain period of time, but for what? You have no financial independence, and I wonder what sort of self-worth you would have.

    What would happen if a woman in this position decided after 10-15 years of this that she wanted to work outside the home? There wouldn't be anything for her, as a degree obtained a decade ago with no related professional experience would make her unemployable in most career areas.

    I know feminism is about choice, but I fully confess to having major hang-ups with this chosen path.  

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