How we are slowly losing the term “housewife” from our vocabulary
by Paula Gardner
My Mum was a housewife in the 70s. For me and my younger sister, it was a reassurance of a person always around to listen to our problems and share our celebrations. The short time that I spent not “working”, when I had my first child, was a heady mix of discovering someone I loved so completely, new friendships and my local area. And yet, there was a significant imbalance when it came to power in the household. As a non-earner at the time, it changed the dynamics for me, and I shudder to think what it could do a woman and her confidence in the long term.
I recently received a press release from mynametags.com who surveyed British females and found as many as 38 percent feel the word “housewife” is outdated, while a further one in ten (12 percent) cite the word to be sexist or embarrassing.
Dying Skill Sets
Many women surveyed claimed their skillsets lie in less practical areas than those of their mothers and grandmothers, with the data unveiling a range of traditional housewife skills many women no longer possess, including how to gut and fillet a fish, pluck a pheasant, build a fire in the hearth and polish silverware. Errr, I can build a fire but that’s about it.
Darning socks, polishing shoes, gardening and baking also featured among the list of “housewifely” tasks modern women simply do not have the time or skills to undertake. Sewing on name tags and making beds the old-fashioned way without fitted sheets (hospital corners) emerged as other skills modern women feel are falling by the wayside.
Despite this however, as many as 60 percent of females believe they are highly accomplished, with a range of new and important skillsets such as being well travelled, having financial independence, being well read and giving sound advice emerging as things women feel they possess than previous generations of women did not.
Three in ten said being tech savvy was a true skill for the modern age, while 27 percent said being able to negotiate a deal was important and 28 percent said being a good cook was still a skill worth having.
Overall, 43 percent of women feel they are more fulfilled than their own mother was at the same age and 71 percent feel they have a better work life balance.
But 61 percent said they did not have time to learn skills such as knitting, baking fairy cakes or handwashing clothes, while nearly a third said they tend to offload practical or household tasks to their mum or grandmother.
The survey of 2,000 women by My Nametags revealed a staggering 86 percent feel the expectations of women had changed over one generation – with 40 percent saying earning a high salary was what determined an accomplished woman in 2018.
Lars B. Andersen, Founder and Managing Director said: “We were interested to find out what traits accomplished women have today, in comparison to previous generations, after seeing a surge in demand for stick-on name labels for school uniforms, rather than the traditional sew on labels. The results show that priorities have changed over time, as modern women are not as interested in learning traditional skills, such as knitting or sewing. Nearly 80 percent said they would rather pay for convenience when it comes to things like buying costumes for school plays, rather than making them by hand, or buying birthday cakes instead of baking them at home.”
Andersen continued: “It seems we place less importance on these skills as being an accomplished woman today is much more about being happy, financially independent and having a good group of friends.”
The research also asked mothers to give details about things they do with their own children that their own mother didn’t do with them when they were children. Being more clued up on popular culture (40 percent), watching funny videos on YouTube (40 percent) and being more open and honest about finances (40 percent), were among the top answers.
Andersen concluded: “We asked women about the skills or traits they would like to pass onto their own children and it was heart-warming to read the responses. These ranged from passing on their taste in music, their moral values and being more politically aware, to work ethic and good manners. There was a strong sense that, although many traditional skills are falling out of favour, these have been replaced with equally important know-hows that are prevalent among today’s accomplished woman.”
So, how many of these can you still do, and how does that compare to modern women today?
2. Darning socks
3. Mending clothing items
4. Ironing a pleated skirt
5. Making a patchwork quilt
6. Gutting and filleting a fish
7. Keeping house plants alive
8. Cooking and baking
9. Washing clothes by hand
10. Plucking a pheasant
12. Making outfits
13. Sewing on buttons
14. Removing stains from clothing
15. Folding clothing perfectly
16. Sewing on name tags
17. Building a fire in the hearth
18. Polishing silverware
19. Making a bed without fitted sheets (hospital corners) 26 percent
20. Arranging a bouquet of flowers
21. Sharpening a knife
22. Completing a crossword
23. Knowing the correct forms of address for various dignitaries 18 percent
24. Polishing shoes
25. Hosting a dinner party
What we are more interested in (according to the survey)
1. Having financial security
2. Being happy
3. Being happy to live on your own 44 percent
4. Having a well-paid job
5. Empowering other woman
6. Owning a house
7. Having a good group of friends
8. Having a clean home
9. Being well read
10. A career with responsibility
11. Being tech savvy
12. Being a good cook
13. Being well travelled
14. Being able to negotiate a good deal
15. Having a degree
16. Using your vote
17. Giving sound advice
18. Being in good shape/physically fit
19. Having a beautiful/stylish
20. Owing your own company
21. Having a good credit rating
22. Being the breadwinner
23. Being able to bake
24. Being able to deliver a presentation/speech
25. Never forgetting a birthday
What do you think? Are there skills you’d like to brush up on, or do you think our modern obsessions are the right ones?