I never ever EVER wanted to be a housewife. One of my grandmothers and my mother were housewives, but I never saw this as a career choice for me. As a teenager, it never occurred to me that being a housewife was, in fact, a step up, or getting a job was a step down, for earlier generations of women. Most women in history have worked outside the house because most women in history have had to. Even if she had a dozen children, Mrs Whoever often had to go out and do a bit of scrubbing for a wealthier woman.
The abject boredom of Betty Friedan meant absolutely nothing to legions of women who were glad to have homes of their own and, perhaps, remembered a time when their ancestresses scrubbed and cleaned other homes. If I have this right, one of my great-grandmothers was "in service", a professional cook for a rich family that emigrated to Canada from the UK. Once she was safely in Canada, my great-grandmother quit. She married my great-grandfather and became a housewife.
Another of my great-grandmothers worked in an office almost all of her life. It wasn't know until recently that she was my, uh, great-grandmother, since there was a convenient family fiction that she had "adopted" my grandmother shortly after arriving in Canada from the UK herself. As she never married, becoming a housewife was never an option. Her savings saw her through her last years in a nursing home; she was a real trooper.
Still another of my great-grandmothers was a Society Lady, an American club woman who married a rich industrialist. She had household staff and the whole kaboodle until the stock market crash of 1929. Alas! I don't believe she went out to work after that, however. Her husband did, though. He got a job and worked into his 80s. He was a real trooper, too
I'm rather hazy about the career of my fourth great-grandmother. If I have this right, she looked down on "lace curtain Irish" despite being married to an Irish-American herself, so my guess is that she wasn't in service. She had something like 10 children, too.
One of my ancestresses operated a ferry boat during the U.S. Civil War. I can't remember which one, but it is an interesting detail on the ancestral C.V.
Anyway, although most of my career plans have gone West, I still do not consider myself a housewife. Considering how long I put off the laundry, etc., I would not be a good example. I'm more of a society hostess whose staff is permanently on its day off, and so she scrambles about making do. In between scrambles I write things, and sometimes I even get a cheque for the things I write. This is a great relief, for then I can buy my husband presents with money he didn't actually earn himself.
I'm thinking about housewifery because of readers who are Single but want to be Married AND Housewives to boot. Now that Betty Friedan is older than the hills, I think we now understand that it is not a cruel form of imprisonment but rather an amazing opportunity to stay at home with the kids and bake muffins. Not a lot of couples can afford to raise their own kids instead of sending them off to grandma's house or the state daycare. Many couples make huge sacrifices for the wife to stay at home.
Whether this situation is a tremendous improvement in Western society I leave for you to battle out in the combox. Where women have many more opportunities to work, we seem to have fewer opportunities to stay at home and raise our kids.
Many housewives do, in fact, work outside the home in part-time or casual jobs, and it makes me want to cry to think how hard mothers-who-work-outside-the-home have to work. But working outside the home is indeed the reality for most women in the world. Very few women escape having to be financial responsible for ourselves, and I don't just mean practicing household economy. I mean that very few young men nowadays really can afford to keep a wife and growing family on their salary, not if they wish to buy a house or anything else, really. I'm sorry that it's so, but it's so. And this is something to consider when you wonder why college-age men are not in a huge hurry to get married and have kids.
One of the many non-romantic things a courting couple has to talk about is where the money is going to come from. I know many a Single woman thinks that her financial situation will improve if she marries, but I am sorry to say that that is not always so. Men, too, incur student loans and credit card debt.
Update: There's a new poll. It is called "The Inevitable Housewife Poll." It's inevitable because having asked men if they dreamed of supporting their wives at home, I should ask women if they wish to stay at home.
I'll write later about the men's poll. I know the results were very much affected by the homeschooling thing. For readers who were wondering whether homeschooling is rampant among orthodox Catholics these days, it isn't. As far as I can make out, it is most popular in the USA and in rural parts of Australia. I haven't heard of any Catholics in Canada or the UK homeschooling, although I'm sure some Catholics there and here opt for it.