In the nearly 24 years I have been married, I have worked full-time, worked part-time, stayed at home with my children, worked full-time again, and then returned to part-time work. In all of these years, no matter how many hours I spent working outside of my home, I have always considered myself, first and foremost, a homemaker.
Dictionary.com defines homemaker as: a person who manages the household of his or her own family, especially as a principal occupation.
I do, in fact, manage my own household—not perfectly. Many days not even all that well. But I do manage, and my household is always my primary occupation. My household—my children, my husband, our home—occupy my mind (and my heart) the majority of my waking hours. Having a job that pays doesn’t change the fact that caring for my family and creating and maintaining a home for them is my single most important job. It requires as much creativity, discipline, intelligence, skill, and hard work as any job I’ve ever had.
However being a homemaker, or at least calling yourself one, is no longer fashionable. We half-jokingly use titles like Domestic Engineer, Family CEO, or Director of Domestic Affairs. But I am none of these things. Those terms are far too cold, and worse, they suggest that the title of Homemaker is somehow beneath me. Stay-at-home mom (or sometimes dad) is still a socially acceptable term, but that label is too exclusive. What about moms whose kids are older? What about moms who work? What about women with no children? What about men? Is homemaking just for women with small children? Just for people who stay at home full-time? Or is being a homemaker more than that?
As a homemaker, I care for my children. When they were small this meant everything from nursing babies to tying shoes. Now that they are older, my children don’t seem as needy, but the truth is they just need me in different ways. They need my attention and my focus now as much as ever. This doesn’t mean I can’t or shouldn’t work outside the home, but being a homemaker means my children are my primary occupation.
Being a homemaker also means that I cook—not because I am a slave to my stove but because I want to. It’s something I do for my family and for myself. I like the time I have alone with my thoughts in the kitchen. I like the smell of soup simmering, meat browning, bread baking, and garlic roasting. But most of all, I love to sit down with my family and laugh and talk and linger over a home-cooked meal. I cook because a family meal is communal. It’s what brings us together at the end of the day to touch base and to be and to become who we are as a family.
I love to cook. Cleaning is another story. I try to keep a tidy(ish) house. Admittedly this is not my strong suit. But being a homemaker is about so much more than housekeeping. It’s about making our home comfortable and cozy and warm. It’s about creating a place that is peaceful and inviting and, well, homey.
As a homemaker, that’s what I do. My husband also cooks and cleans and cares for the children. But when it comes time to pitch out the pumpkins and replace them with snowmen or to toss out the pinecones and decorate with seashells, that’s all me. I buy the throw pillows and the scented candles. I hang the pictures of our children and tack their artwork on the refrigerator. I place crosses and statues and reminders of our faith around the house. I put the vase of flowers on the dining table and the art books on the coffee table. I make our house a home with comforts and small luxuries, through art, religious reminders, family mementos, and seasonal decor—not because these things by themselves are important, but because being a homemaker means creating a home that is an expression of who we are as a family. It means creating a place that feels like us.
Still, there’s more to being a homemaker than just what I do for my family in the home. I also manage most of the day-to-day business of being a family. We need to take a casserole to a funeral. The dog has to go to the vet. Bills have to be paid. The church needs a volunteer. One of the kids needs a gift for a birthday party or a haircut or an appointment with the dentist. I do or arrange most of that stuff. Why? Because I am the one working the fewest hours outside of the home and because making sure that a family does things for others, gives back to the community, pays their bills, and gets their teeth cleaned is part of running a home, part of being a homemaker. These things matter. They help to define us as a family—dog lovers, casserole makers, volunteers.
I love my job as a teacher. It is my career, and I am honored and proud to be a teacher. But it is not my primary occupation. Even when my children are grown and gone, my primary occupation will always be homemaker—making a home for my husband and me, for our children to come home to, and for our grandchildren to be spoiled in. Being a homemaker isn’t just what I do. It’s who I am.
No, I’m not bothered by the term homemaker. In fact, I quite like it. But I prefer the Urban Dictionary definition:
A person, usually a woman, who cares for her own home and family by cleaning, cooking nutritious meals, doing laundry, running errands, caring for pets, working with a budget, organizing, etc. She is her own boss and enjoys the freedom of creating her own schedule. She does not have time to be lazy. She realizes the value of her unpaid job as a homemaker because it brings stability to the family and less stress for all.
I would also add: A homemaker is any person, whether at home full-time or working outside the home, who sees caring for her family as her greatest accomplishment and her most important contribution to society.
This piece originally appeared on Huffington Post.
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