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received a press release from who surveyed British females and found as many as 38 percent feel the word “housewife” is outdated, while a further one in ten (12 percent) cite the word to be sexist or embarrassing.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.

More Fulfilled

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? 


1. Knitting                                                                                           51 percent

2. Darning socks                                                                                46 percent

3. Mending clothing items                                                                  41 percent

4. Ironing a pleated skirt                                                                     38 percent

5. Making a patchwork quilt                                                                37 percent

6. Gutting and filleting a fish                                                               37 percent

7. Keeping house plants alive                                                             35 percent

8. Cooking and baking                                                                        34 percent

9. Washing clothes by hand                                                                34 percent

10. Plucking a pheasant                                                                      33 percent

11. Gardening                                                                                      32 percent

12. Making outfits                                                                                 31 percent

13. Sewing on buttons                                                                          29 percent

14. Removing stains from clothing                                                        29 percent

15. Folding clothing perfectly                                                                27 percent

16. Sewing on name tags                                                                     27 percent

17. Building a fire in the hearth                                                             26 percent

18. Polishing silverware                                                                        26 percent

19. Making a bed without fitted sheets (hospital corners)                     26 percent

20. Arranging a bouquet of flowers                                                       21 percent

21. Sharpening a knife                                                                           19 percent

22. Completing a crossword                                                                  19 percent

23. Knowing the correct forms of address for various dignitaries          18 percent

24. Polishing shoes                                                                               18 percent

25. Hosting a dinner party                                                                     16 percent


What we are more interested in (according to the survey) 


1. Having financial security                                                         54 percent

2. Being happy                                                                            49 percent

3. Being happy to live on your own                                             44 percent

4. Having a well-paid job                                                             40 percent

5. Empowering other woman                                                       39 percent

6. Owning a house                                                                       39 percent

7. Having a good group of friends                                                32 percent

8. Having a clean home                                                               32 percent

9. Being well read                                                                        32 percent

10. A career with responsibility                                                    29 percent

11. Being tech savvy                                                                    29 percent

12. Being a good cook                                                                 28 percent

13. Being well travelled                                                                28 percent

14. Being able to negotiate a good deal                                       27 percent

15. Having a degree                                                                     27 percent

16. Using your vote                                                                       27 percent

17. Giving sound advice                                                               27 percent

18. Being in good shape/physically fit                                           25 percent

19. Having a beautiful/stylish                                                         23 percent

20. Owing your own company                                                       23 percent

21. Having a good credit rating                                                      22 percent

22. Being the breadwinner                                                             19 percent

23. Being able to bake                                                                   18 percent

24. Being able to deliver a presentation/speech                            16 percent

25. Never forgetting a birthday                                                       16 percent

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?