How To Be A “Good” Housewife In The Modern Era

Updated March 19, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

The term housewife has come to have a negative connotation in the 21st century. Still, the origin of housewife duty can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution. When people moved out of agrarian societies and into modern cities, women faced new roles in society. With this new modern lifestyle, the definition of housewife came about: a woman who stays home and tends to the children and house while her husband works in an industry-based job for forty or more hours a week. Whether they go by the name of housewife, homemaker, or stay-at-home mom, the housewife definition has certainly changed over the past century or so. 

Whether this is a result of skewed reality television, the prominence of feminism in current times, or some other idealization that being a housewife is no longer relevant, this role has become stigmatized in many circles. Women in the 1930s were expected to be housewives; the idea of working outside the home was frowned upon. They were expected to prioritize their home and family over everything else, especially a career. However, in the 21st century, the role of a housewife may be making a comeback, just as we thought it had nearly gone away for good.

Need help defining roles in your relationship?

While housewives or stay-at-home mothers are becoming common again, it is not the same situation as women who lived back in the early to mid-1900s. Identifying the differences between the two could shine some light on how to be a good housewife in the modern era. It will also allow you to set some expectations for yourself and your marriage, so that knowing who is supposed to be doing which tasks does not become a marital concern. Communicating these kinds of expectations in a marriage may be the best way to avoid issues in your relationship early on.

Expectations of a housewife

You might be wondering how different the duties of a modern housewife might be from the role of housewife in the past. After all, domestic duties like cooking, cleaning, and keeping the children entertained seem to remain constant no matter what year it is. If you have a social media presence, you might have seen how different those tasks can be when the excerpt from a 1950s home economics textbook made its rounds online. The domestic duties of a housewife and mother outlined in the textbook were enough to make most contemporary women roll their eyes. 

By understanding what it takes to be a modern housewife, you may begin to understand some of what previous women experienced in the role. However, many traditional housewife tasks have changed with the times. Identifying those changes could help you to decide the kind of housewife you desire to be today.

Clean the house

Traditional roles dictated that while the man is holding a full-time job outside of the house, the woman is holding a full-time job within the house. This meant that a housewife was responsible for laundry, dusting, vacuuming, sweeping the floors, doing the dishes, not to mention cooking and cleaning up any clutter or toys left around the house. While it could depend on the specific household, many housewives did some of these tasks daily (such as laundry) and others weekly (like dusting).

A recent study shows that, on average, women spend 17 hours a week doing housework. This could change from housewife to housewife. For example, a married woman with more than three children typically spends 28 hours a week accomplishing the same tasks. With the baby boomer generation being born in the late 1940s to early 1960s, many households had more than three children. More kids mean more laundry, dishes, and messes in general, so a mother to several children will stay even busier as a stay-at-home mother and housewife. 

Getty/MoMo Productions

It would be logical to think that modern technology has helped to cut down on those many hours of housework needed to tend house. The housewives of the past did not have robot vacuums, dishwashers, or high capacity washing machines, for example. While the innovations used in the modern era have saved time and energy for homemakers, not everything has become easier. Consider the following examples.

Serving meals

Like traditional housewives, modern-day housewives are usually responsible for meals. While there are some services available today that were not available years ago like meal subscription boxes, for example, it may still up to the housewife to cook the food.  And meal planning in the 21st century has become a whole other entity. There were far fewer options in the past, for one. Plus, the cost of healthy food was far less, even considering the increase in wages and the cost of living overall.

Because of the cost of healthy options, many housewives today may be forced to choose between cost and quality. This might mean making one or two low-cost meals for the week and a handful of pricier but healthier meals. With the planning involved in the modern era, housewives can spend far more time preparing for meals than they did in previous years.

An efficient homemaker in the modern era might have meals planned out before going grocery shopping. This way, she can control the grocery budget and be fully prepared to cook the meals throughout the week. By doing this, a housewife can also estimate the time needed to prepare dinner, thus allowing her to create a productive schedule. A schedule may be a key aspect of maintaining the home and managing other domestic duties. 

Taking care of the kids

No matter the era, a housewife is often responsible for taking care of the children. While her partner is at work, a stay-at-home mother is left to care for her kids. Often, when people talk about what they want in a good wife, looking after the kids is part of their criteria. This usually means ensuring that they are fed, bathed, dressed, and  have structured activities to do throughout the day. Although some housewives of the 21st century could fall into the trap of plopping their children in front of the television, a conscientious homemaker might organize a variety of activities and play dates with other children.

When the children are school-aged, a housewife might be responsible for making lunches and ensuring that they are prepared for school and extracurriculars. She may take them to and from school or their activities. A textbook housewife may also play the role of guidance counselor or therapist from time to time.

Although housewives may have been responsible for keeping children away from Dad in the past so that he could relax after work, parenting in the modern era is usually more of a team effort. Today's housewife communicates with her partner and parents alongside them.  Although her partner might be tired from a long day at work, it’s generally recognized that a full-time housewife will also be tired from a long day of caring for the house and kids.

Need help defining roles in your relationship?

Spend one-on-one time with your spouse

A significant difference between traditional housewives and today's housewives is their interaction with their spouses. A 1950s home economics textbook may have instructed housewives to allow their husbands to relax and let them have quiet time when he returns home from work. It might also advise that the wife not pile her problems on her husband and instead, be a sounding board for him. 

Married couples in the modern era tend to do better with communication. Today, it is widely recognized that while a man should be able to talk to his wife about his problems and concerns, a wife should be able to do the same with her husband. 

Being a good housewife in today's world

Times have changed. For a while, that meant being a housewife was uncommon and even looked down upon in some cases. Fortunately, times are changing yet again. Society is becoming more open to the idea of mothers staying at home with their children or wives staying at home to keep up with the house. With the cost of daycare these days, it might be the best option for many families. 

Whether you work full-time or stay at home, navigating the domestic duties within a relationship can be challenging. Therapy is a popular option for couples experiencing difficulties in this area. Still, making time for yet another in-person appointment can seem impossible if you already have a hectic family schedule. In these cases, online therapy could prove a more convenient alternative. This form of therapy can be accessed from home or anywhere you have an internet connection. Plus, appointment slots are available around the clock. 

Web-based therapy is a legitimate form of therapy backed by science. One recent study found that therapy delivered via videoconferencing is effective not only for individuals but for couples and families as well. 


Remember, being an effective housewife in this century could mean a variety of different things. Some priorities might include keeping the house clean, the kids fed and entertained, making well-rounded meals, and maintaining a relationship with your spouse. Ultimately, though, you get to decide for yourself what role works best for you and your family. If you find that you need guidance and support along the way, the compassionate and trained counselors here at Regain are here to help. 

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