Being a stay at home wife is a job. It is a job without pay, and sometimes a job without thanks, but it is a job. From dusting to laundry to grocery shopping, there is always something to be done. Anyone who says it isn't work has never cleaned bunny diarrhea off the floor while making a shopping list and running a load of clothes.
Recent attacks on stay at home wives have slammed women that stay at home as rich women who don't do anything. In fact, most stay at home wives and mothers are not rich, and we definitely do something! As my husband tells me, I contribute something valuable to our family. I decrease his stress by being at home to take on errands and housework so that he doesn't have to do it when he gets home. If I was also out all day, more of the burden of housework would have to fall on him when he got home.
Military wives have extra reasons to stay at home. I am a Navy wife – a fact that strongly impacted my decision to stay at home. I want to maximize the time I have with my husband, because unlike most civilian men, my husband will periodically be at sea for months at a time. If I held a job outside my home I would not be able to be home whenever he is, take time off with him whenever he can take time off and even see him at lunch once a week. Military wives have a special appreciation for time with their husbands because they know that time is limited.
Staying at home is work. It takes forty hours a week, a lot of dedication, and it provides a valuable service to my family. It enables my husband to relax in the evening, keeps our home in tiptop shape, lets me create a comfortable atmosphere where family and friends can be welcomed, and enables me to be there for family and friends in times when many people who work outside the home cannot be there. All this means I work as many hours a week as my husband, doing work that both he and I agree is just as valuable as his job.
If you stay home with children, your workload more than doubles. Doing housework and child care is more than forty hours a week of work. From arranging play dates to taking sick children to the doctor, a stay at home mom always has a packed schedule.
Being a military wife also adds to the housework and childcare work load in this way. When you husband is gone, everything falls on you – from mowing the lawn to taking the car in for repairs. You have no one to help. If you are working outside the home during your husband's deployment, you essentially have two full time jobs. If you have children to care for on top of that, then you have three jobs. No one can do three jobs perfectly, so for military wives who can, it often makes more sense to stay at home.
Even when the military spouse is not on deployment, duty days, long hours, and the chance to support her husband's career often impact the military wife's decision to stay at home. From being able to attend command functions with my husband, to bringing food in for his conferences, being at home has enabled me to support my husband in his Navy career.
Housework and child care are time consuming, sometimes back breaking work. If they were not, you would not have to pay other people to do them. If I asked another woman to come over and do laundry and vacuum and mop, I would have to pay her. Why? Because it is work. If I asked her to come over and play with my bunnies, I would not have to pay her. That is because while cleaning floors and clothes are work, playing with bunnies is not. It costs many mothers who work outside the home hundreds of dollars a month to get childcare for their children. Why does it cost so much? Because daycare providers know that caring for and taking responsibility for children all day is a lot of work. The work is not any easier when the mother does it herself.
A paycheck doesn't determine what is and isn't work. The time and investment required by the task, as well as its value, determine whether or not it is work. If cleaning my home is a job for someone else, then it is also a job for me. I am simply deciding to make homemaking my full time job.
Lisa Minner McLemore is a stay at home Navy wife and writer. She lives with her wonderful husband and two rabbits.She blogs about being a stay at home wife at http://stayathomewifeandwriter.blogspot.com/ .