How To Be A Good Housewife In The Modern Era

Updated December 16, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Karen Devlin, LPC

The term housewife has come to have a negative connotation in the 21st century. The origin of housewife duty is actually a by-product of the Industrial Revolution when people moved out of agrarian societies and into modern cities and women faced new roles in society. With this new modern lifestyle, the definition of housewife came about: a woman who stays home and tends 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 less than accurate reality television, the prominence of feminism in current times, or some other idealization that being a housewife is no longer relevant, it is a job that has the opposite stigma than it did in the past. Women in the 1930s were expected to be housewives - the idea of women who work outside the home was frowned upon. They were expected to prioritize their home and family over everything else, especially a career. However, now that it is 2020, not only had the role of a housewife gone away nearly completely, but it has started to make a comeback.

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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. The differences between the two will 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 is 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 era housewife might be from the role of housewife in the past. How much could the everyday tasks within the home change - cooking and cleaning, keeping the children entertained, and other domestic duties seem to be the basics 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 women roll their eyes. Whether they go by the name of housewife homemaker or stay-at-home mom, taking care of the house and children was always the number one priority.

By understanding what it takes to be a modern house wife, you will get a grasp on some of what previous women experienced in the role. However, some of the traditional housewife tasks have changed with the times. Identifying those changes might help to make you a quality housewife in the 21st century. It will also help you to decide the kind of housewife you desire to be.

Clean The House

A housewife in the modern era is one that doesn't necessarily share any of the chores with her husband. 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 means that a housewife is 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 depends on the specific household, many housewives do 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 changes housewife housewife. A married woman with more than three children typically spends 28 hours a week accomplishing the same tasks. More kids mean more laundry, dishes, and messes in general, so a mother to several children will stay far busier as a stay at home mother and housewife. So, depending on housewares housewarming housewife, the work load and the time spent to take care of the house changes from home to home. With the baby boomer generation being born in the late 1940s to early 1960s, many households had more than three children. However, in the past, women spend more time on housework.

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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 – traditional housewives – did not have robot vacuums, dishwashers, or high capacity washing machines. While the innovations used in the modern era have saved time and energy for homemakers, some things have not been made far simpler.

Serving Meals

Like past housewives, modern-day housewives are usually responsible for meals. Having homemade meals together is something that can really make a house a home. While there are some services available today that were not available years ago to a family and society, like meal subscription boxes, it is still up to the housewife to cook the food. How does this differ from housewives in the past? Meal planning in the 21st century has become a whole other entity. There were far fewer options in the past, and 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 are forced to pick and choose between cost and quality. This might mean making one or two low costs, unhealthy meals for the week and a handful of pricier but healthier meals. With the planning involved in the modern era, most housewives spend far more time preparing for meals than they did in previous years.

A good homemaker in the modern era will have the 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 will also have the ability to estimate the time needed to prepare dinner, thus allowing her to create the most productive schedule. A schedule is a key aspect of maintaining the home and other domestic duties of being a housewife. After all, every good wife knows that preparing good food for her husband and family is a great way to show love!

Taking Care Of The Kids

No matter the era, a housewife is responsible for taking care of the children. While Dad is at work, a stay at home mother must care for her kids. Often, when men talk about what they want in a good wife, looking after the kids well is part of their criteria. This usually means ensuring that they are fed, bathed, teeth and hair have been brushed, they are dressed, and they have structured activities throughout the day. Although some housewives of the 21st century fall into the trap of plopping their children in front of the television, a good homemaker will organize a variety of activities and play dates with other children.

When the children are school-aged, a housewife is typically responsible for making lunches and ensuring that they are prepared for school, extracurriculars, and taking them to and picking them up from school or their activities. A dictionary housewife also often requires that mom play the role of guidance counselor or therapist.

Although housewives were responsible for keeping children away from Dad in the past so that he could relax after work, parenting in the modern era is much more of a team effort. Today's housewife communicates with her husband and does not do the parenting alone. Although her husband might be tired from a long day at work, a good full-time housewife will also be tired from a long day of caring for the house and kids.

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Spend One On One Time With Your Husband

A big difference between previous housewives and today's housewives is the interaction that occurs between husband and wife. The 1950s home economics textbook that was previously mentioned instructs future housewives to allow their husbands to relax in the bedroom and let him have quiet time when he returns home from work. It also says that the wife should not pile her problems on him, as he should be able to unload his problems on you. While this was way back in 1950, being a housewife has changed dramatically in this area.

These days, there’s more of a balance it seems. Even though the lady of the house takes on a supporting and supportive role to the husband – who is still the head of the household – there is an expectation of shared responsibility and investment in the home and family. The lady of the house can take on a more equal say when it comes to making decisions for the family both at home and outside the home, and the man of the house might be expected to share some of the work and responsibilities around the home.

Married couples in the modern era tend to do better with more communication between the two. Although 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. By ensuring that communication between man and wife is open and honest, being a full-time housewife is a role that is more appreciated by both parties.

When the focus is placed solely on one person in the relationship, the relationship can easily become one-sided. However, by being a housewife in the modern era, men are more enlightened in how much work their stay at home wives do. The one on one time that couples share at the end of both of their days allows them to regroup as a team and understand what is going on in one another's separate lives.

Being A Good Housewife In Today's World

Times have changed. For a while, that meant being a housewife was uncommon. Those that were housewives were looked down upon. Fortunately, it is becoming a far better situation for mothers to stay at home with their children or wives to stay at home to keep up with the house. With the cost of daycare these days, it is the best option for many families. If you find yourself being a housewife in the modern era, following the above-mentioned suggestions will make you a good one!

Remember, being a good housewife in this century means keeping the house clean, the kids fed and entertained, making well-rounded meals, and maintaining a relationship with your spouse. By placing proper emphasis on each of these categories, a fulltime housewife is sure to succeed in her journey in the home. If you feel as though reverting to the 1950 standards of a housewife would better work for you and your relationship, that is okay, too. Find a structure that works for you and stick with it!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Is being a housewife easy?

This will depend heavily on your situation. For example, being in a complicated financial situation might make being a housewife very stressful, or having a special needs child, or choosing to homeschool. There are many circumstances that could make your role as a stay at home mom/ wife more complex. 

Being an American housewife is full of tasks that can make the role a bit overwhelming. If you have children, the number of extracurricular activities American school possesses may pose some stress for a young housewife. Taking kids to school, home from school, to however many activities they have after school, and home from those activities can make time at home to do work more sparse or broken. That being said, when first adapting to the stay at home role, there will surely be a transition time before you get comfortable with the routine you have and the schedules your children have. 

Is being a housewife good?

There is absolutely no problem with being a housewife if that is what you want to do and it is financially feasible for you. 

The only problems would arise if you make major life decisions, such as staying home with your kids or leaving a job, based on external pressure rather than “following your heart” so to speak. Maybe you feel external pressure from a partner, a job, your friends, and societal expectations, but do not let them influence your decision to stay home or pursue a career. That is an intimately personal decision to make, and you should not need to apologize for it or explain it. 

You may be wondering if there is a problem with being a housewife due to modern feminist movements, which could lead you to ask why women would choose to stay at home when the fight for women’s rights took so long to secure (and some may argue are still being secured). But remember that feminism, and women’s rights, are centered around choice. That means that in an equal society, women have the right to choose the life they want, rather than having those decisions dictated for them by lawmakers, bosses, or other authority figures. 

Being a stay at home mom/wife is fulfilling an important role in the fabric of society. Contributing to a job or career with a skill that you excel in is an important role in the fabric of society. Just remember, that choice is yours, not anyone else’s. 

What makes a good housewife?

According to the English dictionary, a housewife is “a married woman in charge of a household.” This definition is open to a lot of interpretation regarding what is considered household matters. Nevertheless, this more modern English translation below will list a few different stay at home tasks that a good housewife might adhere to: 

  • Cooking meals 
  • Cleaning
  • Taking care of the pets/children (if any are had) 
  • Transporting children to school and/or extra-curricular activities
  • Supporting her family/household members 
  • Doing laundry 
  • Educating your children and helping with homework or homeschool

A more traditional image of a housewife may also include using a sewing kit to stitch up any worn and torn materials in the house. This image usually included a woman carrying around a small sewing kit in her dress pockets for those emergency sewing projects that just couldn’t wait. Additional tasks may be incorporated depending on your unique family and household. 

Beyond that, remember that taking care of yourself means a happier household for the whole family. For you, maybe being a good mother and wife means maintaining an exercise routine, investing in interior design, signing up for a boxing class, maintaining an active and fulfilling social life, or more. Before worrying about perfectly fulfilling the role of a good housewife, prioritize instead being the best version of yourself that you can be. 

What is the politically correct term for a housewife?

Stay at home mothers tends to be the preferred term for housewife. For similar reasons that are stated in “Is being a housewife good?” the term housewife itself tends to have a negative connotation for some people. Nevertheless, the term is not considered derogatory and can be used. Just be aware that some people may take offense to the diction. 

Who is happier, a housewife or working wife?

According to a survey, the role of housewife is favored more than a career woman who must work outside the home. While many people may prefer to be stay at home mothers/wives, the reality is that being a housewife does not provide an income. That being said, a woman faced with financial pressures may need to give up the much-preferred role of being a stay at home mother/wife in order to provide for her family. 

Which is better, a housewife or career woman?

Neither a housewife nor a career woman is particularly “better” than the other. The position depends entirely on how you would like your life to live your life and support your family. If you are happy staying at home and running your family/household, caring for your family, and raising your children, then being a housewife would be better for you. If you are an ambitious woman who wants to keep busy, make an income, and insert oneself into a career, then being a career woman may suit you best. It all depends on your individual circumstances and preferences. 

The only important thing is that you do not make decisions based on outside pressure. That might be outside pressure from a partner, a job, or even your girlfriends. If you want to be a housewife, be a housewife! If you want to be a career woman, go for it! Just never let anyone make you feel inferior for your decisions. 

Please read “Who is happier, a housewife or working wife?” for additional details to consider. 

What can I do as a stay at home wife?

Being a stay at home housewife (as stated in the English dictionary/English language definition of “housewife” in “What makes a good housewife?”) involves many tasks/chores to complete while home. These tasks may include the basics like cooking for the family, cleaning the house, gardening, maintaining the lawn, taking care of the children, supporting her husband, taking care of any pets, transportation of kiddos, etc. There are surely other tasks a stay at home mother/wife could do such as getting involved in their children’s school activities as a chaperone/supervisor, taking care of older parents who may live in or near the household, and/or joining community organizations. Please read “What makes a good housewife?” for more information. 

What housewife can do at home?

A housewife can basically do whatever she needs to do to run a clean, smooth, functioning, and prosperous family and household. This may include (but are not limited to) a number of activities described in “What makes a good housewife?” and “What can I do as a stay at home wife?” Depending on the size and type of family you have, these tasks may vary slightly. If you chose to do so, you could be a part-time housewife who works part of the day and is home to run the house during the rest of the day. There is also the possibility of being home while working a job with flexible hours. This would allow some flow of income as well as the household to be maintained all from the comforts of the same location. 

Why is housewife undervalued?

Labor that is typically completed by women, especially in the home, tends to be undervalued and sometimes even unpaid

Housewives can be undervalued by spouses and society because of the past stereotypes into which women were forced. These stereotypes assumed that women could not and should not be involved in social, political, economic, etc. types of business because of their lack of knowledge and engagement in society. Now, housewives may still be undervalued because of their lack of income or adherence to historical stereotypes. A housewife could also be undervalued by her spouse because of the seemingly “trivial” work she must complete during the day in comparison to her husband’s work in society. 

Think about it this way: If you were not arranging the house, how much would your household have to spend on a cleaning service? If you were not raising your children, how much would you have to spend on childcare, tutors, chauffeurs, etc.? If you were not cooking, how much would a chef cost? 

The value of the things you do every day for your family would cost tens of thousands of dollars if you were not taking care of them. 

If anyone tries to belittle you for your role in your household, remind them that instead of one job, you juggle about ten different roles, and you do it all for free. 

How do housewives keep busy?

Housewives keep busy through plenty of household tasks and schedules which must be maintained. These tasks involve the basic functions of a house: cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, taking care of and transporting children, outdoor work, taking care of fellow family members and pets if need be, etc. Further details can be found in “What makes a good housewife?” Additionally, a housewife must maintain multiple schedules other than her own. Generally, she must maintain her children’s schedules be them school-related, sports-related, and/or socially-related. A housewife must also maintain her husband’s schedule, ensuring that dinner is cooked upon his return home from work and even joining or bringing him lunch during his lunch hour. Though a housewife’s description does not technically involve these errands, a housewife and family woman may also need to take parents/relatives to doctor appointments or run with them for their own household errands if they need assistance. 

Is it OK to be a homemaker?

It is definitely okay to be a homemaker if that position is financially and emotionally suitable for you. Ultimately, homemakers are always present in a family. The difference is found in the full-time and part-time roles these homemakers have. While some families may have full-time homemakers working constantly to maintain order in their house and family, others have multiple part-time homemakers (a mother and a father) working to keep order depending on their work schedules. That being said, whether you are full-time or part-time is completely acceptable as long as you are happy with your role choice. 

How can I be the perfect housewife?

There is no standard for being the perfect housewife. At the end of the day, you will need to practice plenty in order to ensure everything that your household needs and complete that to the degree you believe is best. The modern English translation of being a housewife does not mean that you cannot be an active community member or figure in society. If you are able to run your house well and efficiently, then feel free to do more than just household tasks. For more information regarding at-home tasks, please read “What makes a good housewife?” 


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