Recent circumstances have had me thinking about what defines a housewife. I started making a list. The list is long. A proper housewife is not simply someone who runs a load of laundry and can make dinner. A true housewife is the mistress of a household, a tireless servant to her house and the words of Roseann Barr, “a domestic engineer”. It is a complicated job and an entire culture suppports and prepares any woman entering marriage to have the tools (and hopefuly the skills) to manage her household. It starts with the bridal showers. Every bride gets to make the wish list that replaces the once offered dowry or hope chest. All the lady friends of the bride, her mother and the groom’s mother present the soon-to-be-wife with gifts for her house. While sometimes the shower is specifically lingerie, usually it is kitchen and home items.
I think I may be reflective about this topic for a while.
A housewife’s primary directive is to make a smoothly functioning home. JUST consider the kitchen. Beyond grocery shopping, which anybody can do with a proper list, running a kitchen requires the following skills and knowledge. What is the layout of the grocery store? What has been used from the pantry that needs replacement? Is the pantry well-stocked? Are there adequate spices, vanilla and baking supplies. Are there all the appropriate pots, pans, dishes, baking pans, cookie sheets and utensils. Is there a recipe box? Is there a library of cookbooks? Have you learned to read a recipe and time its preparation along with the other menu items? Can you prepare an menu and multiply the recipe to accomodate triple the number of guests? Can you set a proper table? Do you have linens? Has the silver been polished? Do you know the mechanics of keeping a kitchen decontaminated? Can you prevent food spoilage? Do you have the necessary equipment and tools to store food? Do you anticipate the food preferences of your family and their friends? Does anyone have food allergies? The kitchen knowledge extends to the garden. Do you know how to grow the herbs for your kitchen? And what about seasonal produce and regional produce?
I hate to admit I sound sexist, but this knowledge base is fundamental for me. I was taught all of these things growing up or I taught myself. My sisters do these things too. And this is just the kitchen. Sure, for brief periods, someone can pinch hit and make a few meals, pick up a few groceries, order take out…but they do all of that on the foundation of a well managed home…a home with a housewife. And except in extreme circumstances where roles are truly reverses, this is the responsibility of the WIFE.