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Is the Housewife Set to Go the Same Way as Valets and Butlers?

11/05/2016 12:30 | Updated 11 May 2016

Are we witnessing the demise of "the housewife"?

Is the role of "housewife" (and the title) set to become as obsolete as that of valet, butler or ladies maid?

And, yes I'm aware that a handful of people, including mega-rich oligarchs and royals, still employ valets, butlers and ladies maids, even if the maids are likely to be foreign nationals rather than young British women. But I am referring to real life, here.

I ask because recent statistics reveal that the number of women in employment in the UK hit a record 14.6 million at the end of 2015, with 975,000 more women in work than in 2010.

As a 65-year-old woman (and therefore a member of the Boomer generation with a business aimed at helping Boomers to stay on-trend), I wonder if we are witnessing the demise of "the housewife" because it seems to me that members of my generation will be the last to afford the "luxury" of being a stay-at-home wife e.g. a housewife.

As a woman who took just a handful of years out to raise my children (and was freelancing between feeds and play-dates) the idea of choosing to be a permanent stay-at-home wife with no job or career frankly makes me feel queasy, though I do appreciate that taking a break from work to spend the early years with one's children, is a valuable thing to do - if you can afford it, which few 30-somethings seem able to.

It seems to me that for the generation following us, and the one which will follow them, there will never be a question about whether they stay at home or become part of the workforce. (Or should that be "paid workforce" as I am acutely aware that however much today's dads and husbands lend a hand, it is the mums and wives, irrespective of whether they go out to work, who still do the major share of domestic tasks.)

In future generations, it will be a given that women go to work, just as in the last century, it was a given that men went to work. If proof is needed, recent research from Blow LTD, an online fast-beauty provider, revealed that female millennials are the hardest workers, working the longest hours in the UK.

I do recognise, of course, that the whole concept of work is changing and fragmenting, leaving all future generations, irrespective of gender, with difficult issues to face regarding how to earn a living. But in the future all women (with the possible exception of pockets of privileged yummy-mummies in Cheshire, SW3 and W11) will automatically be part of that conversation; they won't be able to opt out as "housewives" because ecomics will dictate they need to work.

But then the debate has never really been just about money or economics, has it?. Yes, red herrings are occasionally tossed about, such as the need to pay women for "housework," but the driving force for women opting to work is probably more about women having the freedom to do jobs they actually enjoy and about the workplace being a less hostile environment for women, so that the option of being a "housewife" will be unappealing as well as financially unsupportable.

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