Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Echoes From the Land of Sheroes

Happy International Women's Day!  This day celebrates women's social, political and economic achievements through the decades (and actually through the past century since this year's celebration commemorates the 100th anniversary).  We've gone a long way indeed but the reality is that the struggle continues.  I feel the struggle every single day more so I suppose because I see myself as a domestic worker (DW).  

I wanted to double-check the definition of that term, DW, just to make sure I fall within the category and for those who are equally curious, here it is:

Domestic work covers many different activities, situations and relationships, and so is not easy to categorise.
It includes many tasks such as cleaning, laundry and ironing; shopping, cooking and fetching water; caring for the sick, elderly and children; looking after pets; sweeping and garden-tidying.  
          Source:  http://www.domesticworkerrights.org/?q=node/13

Now that we're all clear about that, I will confirm that I am one.  The trouble with this is that I still constantly feel that I am perpetually struggling to be recognized as a 'WORKER'. There is a global movement fighting for domestic workers' rights and I am totally supportive of their efforts.  However I still feel that within my own circle, in my own narrative, my biography, I have yet to achieve progress where it involves recognition of what I do and who I am.

There are times when I still hear remarks making me feel as if what I do has less value than paid employment.  And make no mistake...Such remarks come from both males and females...(and yes, you know who you are).  I am still made to feel as if I am merely an auxiliary to my husband, instead of an equal, simply because I do not earn outside the home and will probably never earn as much as he does.  To a certain extent, most women who have more financial power than their husbands still probably have a similar struggle mainly because of the gender difference. And if that were the case, imagine how I must feel, how women like me constantly struggle to be recognized and yes, dare I say it, revered!

I often wonder why some people think that domestic work is easy or easier than work outside the home. Sometimes I wonder too if the term SAHM (stay-at-home-mother) should be changed to WAHM (work-at-home-mother) in order to be more accurate and representative of reality.  Presently WAHM is only assigned to mothers who run a business from home and therefore the term 'work' here still refers to paid work.  But domestic work IS WORK!...and it is HARD WORK!  Maybe when people hear SAHM they envision this mother who literally just stays at home, does nothing but vegetate on the couch, sip tea and take naps through out the day.  Maybe people think it's having all the time in the world to devote to 'me' time and it's a life of pleasure and extreme entitlement.  

Well snap out of that ignorance and listen well.  My days start early and they don't start any later than my husband's.  When he wakes up, I'm up and to be honest, most times, I get even less sleep than he does.  Paid workers get days off.  I don't.  Paid workers come home at the end of their work day (which, I'd like to point out again, ENDS), raise their feet up or whatever, and relax, while people like me continue to attend to our family's needs and perpetually do our best to keep the house sane.  When paid workers become ill, they get a sick day and their work load can either wait or someone takes over.  In my case, well, all I can tell myself is, "Tough luck...suck it up!"  When paid workers get sick of their jobs and come to realize that they can no longer tolerate their boss, they can resign and find another job.  Me?....Well...tough luck.  Suck it up!...again.  

I can go on and on trying to drive home the point that what I do as a WAHM (yes, I am owning the label now) is not as easy as what others perceive, and more importantly, is just as valuable as outside (paid) employment.  But I'm sure that other than me mainly preaching to the choir right now, I don't want to give you the impression that this is about complaining, lamenting my sorrowful state.  It's not.  And I don't want you to think I'm sorrowful either.  This is a choice I made and I don't want it any other way.  For one, I cannot imagine having another person raise my child right now, and while I can still make this choice, can afford to choose this choice, then I embrace it.  

This is just about me hoping that someday soon, the ignorant and insensitive remarks would end; that women like myself will no longer feel the pressure to be perfect and highly efficient homemakers 100% of the time because we're made to feel as if this role is the only thing that justifies our existence; that we will feel just as entitled to breaks, laziness, and me-time, as the rest of you who work outside the home, without feeling guilty or inadequate; that wives like myself will not feel like a burden to our husbands who work outside the home and will not be made to feel as such just because we do not contribute financially.  And by the way, husbands who think this way should be reminded that whatever professional success they continue to achieve is partly because they have their supportive wives who take care of them and everything else they can't make time for in their lives.  It's a symbiosis.  The 'earner' depends on the homemaker and vice versa.  And indeed, as cliche as this sounds, we are merely different, yet equally important.       


  1. "But domestic work IS WORK!...and it is HARD WORK!" A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E-L-Y. You said it, sister! :)

  2. Last Sunday, Bung and I were talking about the way you write. We were both under the impression that you should be a columnist.
    You write so well

  3. HI! Just a quick note to let you know I gave you a blog award :)


  4. Go Joy! Power to all of us "stay-at-home-and-working-non-stop" moms!

    I love your blog! Looking forward to reading more of your insightful posts!

  5. I am a SAHM too, and I agree we get little respect. But if you tote up what it would cost to hire a cook, nanny, house cleaner, driver and personal assistant you can see what a financial benefit it is to have a stay at home parent of either gender!

    But the women I feel for? The single mothers, they do all that we do and earn money and have no one to come home to at the end of the day. They are my heroes on International Women's Days, single moms are awesome!


Let me know your thoughts!