Just A Dumb Housewife

 Years ago, when the Norwegian Artist and I decided that I would stay home and raise the kids, this was not a savvy, astute, wordly-wise, shrewd, smart decision.

That’s me (technically, “That’s I”), the dumb housewife. I wear glasses so I look smarter. No, actually I wear glasses so that I can see. Portrait by Steve Henderson of Steve Henderson Fine Art.

Back in the 80s, when women could do anything they wanted, by gum, and do it better than any man, the only thing we couldn’t do was stay home and be a dumb housewife. (And by the way, in case you’re wondering, the Norwegian Artist wasn’t a brain surgeon, with the accompanying brain surgeon wages; for many years he was a white collar illustrator making as much, or less than, a schoolteacher. Without the pension.)

So we functioned on a mid-grade salary, and I, the dumb housewife, stretched funds, creatively shopped, and saved money to the point that we were able to purchase land in the country and build our own home, mortgage free. This, you understand, despite my being dumb. And a housewife.

We ate well, laughed a lot, homeschooled (yep, I could read, write, and add; for what it’s worth, I have a B.A. in English, but most of my knowledge is the result of lots of reading and experience), gardened, milked goats, ran various businesses out of the home, and generally lived a life of good solid work and good solid play. We didn’t own as much stuff as our contemporaries who both pursued careers, but we always had more time. There’s a trade off.

And throughout the years, the media message was pretty consistent: smart women pursued highly professional careers, and those who didn’t, found themselves unemployed and unemployable, because, being dumb housewives, they don’t know how to do anything. (Incidentally, very little was said, or is said today, of women who work non-exotic jobs to make ends meet; when women were “liberated” to become military Pentagon officials, those  who worked “unskilled” jobs because they had to weren’t mentioned. Many of these jobs don’t seem very liberating, whether it’s a man or woman working them.)

How many jobs make us feel like this on Monday morning? Actually, mine always did, and still does. Rejoice! poster, based upon Ocean Breeze, by Steve Henderson

Several years ago, when Grandpa was in the nursing home for dementia, he panicked around every meal time, because he was convinced that he didn’t belong there and that he would be kicked out. He hovered around the dining room, afraid to return to his room because if he did, he wouldn’t have a place at the table.

All the reassurances of the professional staff resulted in nothing. Doctors were consulted; psychological theories were discussed, but Grandpa remained adamant in his fear. And then I, the dumb housewife, had a thought:

“Why don’t you put a post-it note with his name on it on the back of his chair?” I suggested.

“Couldn’t hurt,” was the reply, and the post-it note was posted.

I wish more problems could be solved that easily. Grandpa saw the note with his name on it and gave a sigh of relief. “This is my chair,” he said to the room at large. “I’m going back to my room until lunch.”

Interestingly, several weeks later, ALL of the residents had name cards at their places. I wonder where they picked up the idea?

If I wanted to apply for a job today, I would be — according to contemporary business world acumen — completely unemployable, because I can’t do anything.

Most homemakers not only have a lot of experience we people, we also recognize that children, too, are people. The Least of These poster by Steve Henderson

Child care worker or teacher? No, no proper background. Cook? Nah. Office staff? Not enough experience with people. Municipal clerk? Unqualified, although I’m not sure how. I am totally inept, totally incompetent, totally without anything to say about nutrition, interpersonal relations, scheduling, basic finances, writing, or ideas on how to deal with a two-year-old throwing a tantrum in the midst of a grocery store.

Because I am just a dumb housewife.

I am wondering, when will women, and men, be liberated to the point that we are judged not based upon a degree conferred or a job title pasted on a plaque, but upon actual, verifiable, real ability?

You are not your job title. You are a human being, made in the image of God, with gifts, interests, creativity, skills, and ideas, and regardless of what you do during the day, or swing shift, do not limit yourself by the limitations imposed upon you by others.

This article is linked to Holistic Squid, My Cultured Palate, Katherine’s Corner, Wholehearted Home, Next Generation Homeschool, Gnowfglins, Hope in Every Season, Leaving a Legacy, Food Renegade, Small Footprint Friday, Our Heritage of Health, Happy and Blessed Home, The Chicken Chick, Dandelion House, Butter Believer, The Prairie Homestead, Little House in the Suburbs, Nourishing Joy, Real Food Forager, Healthy Roots Happy Soul, Granny’s Vital Vittles, Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Deep Roots at Home, Raising Homemakers, Our Simple Farm


42 Responses

  1. I can relate with so much you write about. My path was different since I worked as an OR heart nurse in a major hospital and trauma center… before Christ, I wasn’t happy no matter how high I climbed. After Christ, I found that my heart was really made to be at home with our children. I was belittled by friends for my choice, but found contentment in homemaking and home-education our children. We just graduated the last two (twins), and have enjoyed it immensely! Thank you for sharing your story and your heart!
    Blessings 🙂

  2. I found this to be so true! My mom opted to stay home with us kids (in the 80’s) and did that for 16 years. As a child it was the most wonderful thing to have my mom there for me everyday and whenever I needed her. I made that same decision 2 years ago when our son was born. I won’t be homeschooling, and I have (a lot) of ambition of my own, but I’m grateful that I get to be the one raising him. There is something to be said for the interpersonal skills a child learns when they spend most of their time with a parent. And as the full time parent I have to admit that the job is a lot harder than I expected.

    1. Megan — when you’re parenting one, it’s especially difficult, since you’re the only one to play with.

      We presently watch our granddaughter, and she is, indeed a handful. I do see, however, this advanced communication that you mention — children around adults learn to speak well and articulately, because we draw them “up.”

      I wish you the best on your journey, and I am so happy for you and your son, and the time that you are having together.

  3. One of the most readable blog posts around. Pretty good for a dumb housewife. I used to be one of those too, but now I’m working an entry-level position, and trying not to let on that I’m too smart for it. 😉

    1. Nita — thank you. I have published in the past as newspaper columns, and you have 500-700 words to get said what needs to be said. It’s good training.

      I wish you the best in your new position — you’ll take it far, indeed, and if it doesn’t go that far, you will.

      Please consider signing up for e-mail notifications of new posts; I’d love to hear more from you, as well as how that job is going on. And please consider passing me on.

      1. Thank you. I came back ashamed of myself for making a silly unmeant statement to someone I don’t know. (There is no such thing as being too smart for my position – and I am hiding nothing from anyone.) Your kind words are encouraging.

        1. I fully understood what you meant about being in an entry level position, and being too smart for it. It was not overweening arrogance, but frustration that your mind, intellect, skills, abilities, and creativity are not appreciated or understood.

          They never are, in the World of Man. But more importantly, they are valued and loved and treasured in the eyes of God, because He has given them to us to do good works. Doesn’t matter if World of Man thinks so; it matters that we’re resting in the Right Arms.

        1. Nita — sounds great. Please, educate me — what is a blogger reading list, and how does it work? Is there something that I can provide on my blog for a reader’s blogger reading list, or is this something that each reader has on his/her own computer?

          1. I use Blogger, which is not working right now, and I cannot post. It comes with a “dashboard” to which I can add blog url’s — or if the blog is also using Blogger, there is usually a button to click on the blog site which will add it automatically. That’s all I know.

  4. Truer words were never said: “Do not limit yourself by the limitations imposed upon you by others.”
    When we begin to accept the world’s concept of who we are based on what they see or don’t see in our lives, we’re done for. God created each one of us to be the person we are with the gifts and talents and likes and dislikes for His purpose. Our skills are given by Him to do the work He designed us to do. Can I tell you how much I would have liked to have been in your shoes? I battled and was never at peace the entire time I was working- even after the kids grew up and left home. I left the work force 3 years ago and haven’t looked back once. I am now a dumb housewife and what a breath of fresh air it is.

    1. Nancy — you are in a good place. I hope that you have conquered your battles, and that you know you gave your children the love and warmth and joy and YOU that they needed.

      I’m betting that each day ends before you realize that it begun — “where has the time gone? Ah, well, tomorrow I’ll get to what I didn’t finish today.”

      You are right — it is too easy to judge ourselves by the thoughts — frequently, ones that we imagine — of others, and not look to the Person who made us and loves us and ask Him what He thinks. Wise words indeed — that even our dislikes are created for a purpose. Too often we bash ourselves for those dislikes, and rarely consider them gifts, which is, in an odd way, what they are.

  5. Great post – the world doesn’t know it, but it really does need more dumb housewives. A dumb housewife following Christ could take us very far!

    1. Hi, Jeanie — thank you. You know, I’m a dumb housewife, and I do follow Christ, and I wake up many, many mornings and I ask Him, “What can I do for You? And why does it seem that I do so little?” Your words are grace and healing. — Carolyn

  6. Thank you for sharing! I just found this post on Food Renegade and your blog. I have recently stayed home to be housewife and with no kids! I’m still adjusting (have worked since age 15) after just a few weeks of not working…. rediscovering my interests and insights. I know there is more to life than corporate America–and I’m determined to find mine.

    1. Good for you, Lisa! It’ll be a transition, and society isn’t on your side, but stick it out and you will be richly rewarded — for no other reason that you will discover who you are and how much you can do.

      I’m glad you found me — please don’t lose me — and please pass me on. I write about life, common sense, and the challenges of maintaining both in this funny world of ours.

  7. I loved your article. Such wisdom you shared here! I’m just about to retire from homeschooling and feel so blessed to have had the family time we did and still do even as they grow into more independent teens. We are so much more than a name on a business card, or a job title…We may not be rich in dollars, but we are rich in all the right things and it feels pretty darned good!

    1. Debbie — so many people who are rich in the right things are not rich in dollars. Frequently, we think that’s because they invested their lives in people, as opposed to making money, and I believe that’s true.

      But also, being rich in dollars, while it’s great materially, can also be a hindrance to finding those riches elsewhere. It’s not that you can’t, it’s just that it’s more difficult. Kind of like getting a camel through the eye of a needle. I wish you continued joy with your wonderful family. — Carolyn

  8. Meriditih

    Love this post. I stayed home and raised five children, even though it meant old cars, fewer vacations, and generally frugal living. But we had everything we needed and MORE, with regard to family unity and quality time together, and the kids today (grown with families of their own) realize what a blessing that experience was. Our oldest daughter, who is exceedingly bright (perfect verbal SAT score) was visiting colleges her senior year in high school. One acmissions officer asked her, “what career do you intend to pursue with an Asian Studies degree?” She answered, “well, what I really want to do is stay home and raise a family.” Which is exactly what she is doing–while working as an online Japanese translator. All it takes is a little creativity! And if you’re raising kids on a shoestring, if you aren’t creative when you start you GET creative in a hurry! Blessings to you–

  9. Meriditih

    Love this post. I stayed home and raised five children, even though it meant old cars, fewer vacations, and generally frugal living. But we had everything we needed and MORE, with regard to family unity and quality time together, and the kids today (grown with families of their own) realize what a blessing that experience was. Our oldest daughter, who is exceedingly bright (perfect verbal SAT score) was visiting colleges her senior year in high school. One admissions officer asked her, “what career do you intend to pursue with an Asian Studies degree?” She answered, “well, what I really want to do is stay home and raise a family.” Which is exactly what she is doing–while working as an online Japanese translator. All it takes is a little creativity! And if you’re raising kids on a shoestring, if you aren’t creative when you start you GET creative in a hurry! Blessings to you–

    1. Meredith — Your oldest daughter sounds like a smart woman, like her mother. Too often we settle for the accepted way of doing things, and truly don’t give ourselves a chance to see what life would be if we pursued it differently.

      I am glad that you and your family were — and are — able to experience the joy of being around one another. We always talk about leaving a legacy in this world — U.S. presidents are obsessed with this concept — but leaving a true legacy involves no more than caring about and being with the people God has put into our lives.

      Thank you for the warm wishes — and I send blessings back. — Carolyn

  10. Well said Carolyn! Would that more women in our day knew the incredible value of keeping a home well, especially with the enormous responsibilities in providing proper nutrition in a day of so much junk being sold as food.

    If more families had time to look into what they were feeding themselves and plan and properly prepare meals it never would have descended to the pit that it is in now.

    I am completely egalitarian so don’t get me wrong but I don’t believe that the liberation of women has exactly been a liberation! Even people that follow such things take the curse of the fall in Genesis to be the natural place for a woman totally disregarding the roles of female, biblical heroines of the faith.

    So many miss the main point that the historical and ongoing nearly universal mistreatment of the fairer of the genders is a result of the fall and why it is still so prevalent even in what calls itself the church.

    1. Thank you, Jim. I am intrigued especially by your last sentence, specifically “why it is still so prevalent even in what calls itself the church.”

      As independent Christians who no longer attend weekly church services or participate in the establishment choices available to us, I am always attuned to expressions of dissatisfaction with the status quo.

      There are many deeply committed believers out there who don’t fit in to the weekly services thing, and I am grateful for the Internet in bringing this out, so that this branch of God’s people can stand tall and recognize that it is meant to be strong, and is not “lesser” or “weaker” because it is independent.

      After all, as Christians, we are all called to this independence, regardless of where or how we spend out Sunday mornings.

      Oops — looks like you found my soapbox!

      1. Haha, I guess we are trading soap boxes Carolyn. Seems they may have some embedded similarities:-)Ever since I began having the freedom to spend my Sundays as I would, which I guess out of habit are still my day of rest, I have been able to have some precious experiences, since my focus remains the same only the venue having changed.

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  12. Thank you so much for the heart confession. I, too, am a dumb housewife. I’ve been at home over 25 years, have six kids and have homeschooled almost 20 years. I have two married kids, two in the work force and two at home. For the past few years I’ve been trying to get back into the writing world, and I feel sometimes my opinions and ideas aren’t as valued because I have “only” been at home raising kids for the past few decades. However, the only person I really need to convince I have value to input is myself. Thanks for the rah-rah I needed!

    1. Mindy — you have a wealth of rich experience, and you have much to say. Just start writing and see where your thoughts and passions take you.

      So much of what we do is blocked by ourselves, convincing ourselves before we start that we can’t do it!

      Your opinions and ideas are probably not valued by the general society — all you have to do is pick up a few magazines or flip a few channels to see what mass media values, and what it passes on to the people who read/watch it and believe it. All the more reason for your voice and your message to be heard, because there are people out there looking for good content, viable ideas, thought provoking words — and they’re having a hard time finding them.

    1. Shari — thank you for the opportunity to leave a post.

      I, too, find my career at home rewarding, and the exchange — less money for more time and intellectual freedom — is worth it. — Carolyn

  13. Your post cut right to my heart. I have experienced similar sentiments in both direct and indirect ways. I am proud to be a stay-at-home-homeschooling mom and value the experiences far above any corporate ladder I could potentially climb! Thank you for putting words on this subject that I just know will encourage and inspire women all across the net! Oh… and your husband’s paintings are simply lovely! Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Amanda. If the message were blatant and outspoken, as in people walking by and shouting, “You’re DUMB! DUMB I say!” that would be one thing, and we would cope with it a certain way. But the message is insidious and difficult to perceive, to the point that sometimes we wonder if it’s all in our head. But it’s not.

      I am glad that the article encouraged you and I hope that it encourages others. Please pass it on, and please, as well, let people know about Steve’s art — we price everything in such a way that something is affordable to everyone, because we truly believe that art is a necessity to all of us. — Carolyn

  14. Jill

    I just have to say when I was reading this post, I was utterly baffled by the tone. Perhaps it’s a generational thing. I’m 35 so I was kid back in the 80’s but I do remember it was a Big Thing that a lot of women were rising in the ranks in Corporate America and that it was Odd for a mom to stay home.

    But it seems to me that the tide is turning for my generation. I read a ton of “mom blogs” and it’s really not unusual for women my age to have obtained one or more degrees, start a career – – and then opt to stay home full time once they start a family. For my generation, it’s seen as much more of a valid choice. Although, those of us who do have college degrees still put up with a bit of the “why are you WASTING your college education staying home??” reaction….so maybe we are getting the opposite of the “you’re just a dumb housewife” reaction…

    Maybe we all need to do what’s best for our own households and the heck with what other people think!

    1. Jill — you are right — it is a generational thing, and it changes with each generation. I was of the generation before you, when floods of women opted for Corporate America, which, in this generation, has turned into Cubicle America. The fulfillment that people thought they sought in the boardrooms (how many ever made it there?) is now eked out behind carpeted walls, and the benefits and pay that were offered my generation are cut in half or eliminated for this one, and one person is expected to do the job of two, for the pay of one, or less.

      Your generation is, indeed, choosing different paths with different options, and I am glad for you. I like to think that some of us — smart women, just like those in your generation — kept the home fires burning, so to speak, and enabled the option to stay on the table.

      As with any “movement,” it is important to be vigilant. In the 70s, brave families chose to homeschool, and were persecuted for it, not just by society, but by our government, schools, and law enforcement agencies. But they persevered, and now in the 21st century homeschooling is legal. But it won’t stay that way for long if people don’t remain vigilant and wary of “offers” from school districts to be paid for homeschooling, as long as they participate in this wonderful, school-sponsored education program. Nothing comes without strings.

      Your “wasting the college education” argument is the same one we received in the 80s and 90s, and it is a variation on Just a Dumb Housewife. As you say, the best option is each individual and family deciding for himself/themselves what is best for them. Actually, that’s the ONLY viable option. — Carolyn

  15. Great post! My mother was a stay-at-home mom, and it was so nice having her there when I got home from school every day and have the time to help me with my homework and school projects because she wasn’t completely exhausted from being at work all day and was able to get much of her housework and errands done during the day. When I have my own kids someday, I hope I can be “just a dumb housewife” too!

    Thanks for sharing with Old-Fashioned Friday! 🙂

    1. Lori — for my young childhood, my mom was at home too, and I remember as you do how wonderful it was to have her there when I arrived home, tired and sometimes discouraged, after the day.

      You are of a new and exciting generation who has more options than A) work fulltime outside of the home or B) don’t work at all outside of the home, and I watch in amazement at the creative choices people are making. Of course, some of this creativity is because jobs don’t pay the way they used to, and making it on one income is more difficult than it was in the past (our first home didn’t cost 10 times one’s yearly salary) — but people work hard to keep their families’ needs at the top. Corporations downsize; families don’t. — Carolyn

  16. Loriel — life has a way of changing our opinions and ways of looking at things.

    So do children — as mine grew older and more dominating in their own opinions (especially music!) I found myself having to stop, think, and turn around on my thinking more than once.

    It’s been good. While it’s difficult to admit that I’m wrong, there’s a freedom to it, and it enables me to move on from just being stuck in my same old Me ways!

    About that college degree thing — it’s a piece of paper. A B.A., which was worth something 30 years ago, is less than a high school degree now, and an M.A. is becoming less than a B.A. — and yet, they don’t represent much buth that you spent a lot of money and time getting them. My true learning I have done outside of the standard education establishment, and as you say, life is the teacher indeed.

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