I grew up in the Philippines where even the Philippine Information Agency describes one beneficiary as a “plain housewife” There is nothing “plain” about being a housewife. I should know…I’ve been one for 15 years.
In the Philippines, women and men have always shared the tasks of raising a family. That our languages don’t distinguish between males or females (asawa can mean husband or wife) is just one of the evidences of the more egalitarian society we have enjoyed long before the colonial encounter. In many societies, the mag-asawa shared in various responsibilities of the oft-inseparable domains of earning a living and tending the household.
The working woman is often seen as “sophisticated” – highly-educated and well-heeled – while the housewife is seen as “plain”.
But I disagree. Women who stay at home are also working, perhaps even more so than their husbands. I run a sari-sari store, participate in multi-level marketing, do handicrafts, and engage in many other sources of income. It is only our prejudice for formal employment that colors our view of other forms of hanapbuhay (livelihood), but they are no less important.
I have never felt unsophisticated being a housewife. Financially, emotionally, and socially, it takes courage to be a housewife. I have been lucky to have the luxury of staying at home, and I am not advocating for every mother to be a housewife. What I am against is the notion of a “plain housewife” because it shapes our way of thinking about women, and the way women think about themselves. Whatever choices women and men make – as couples or single parents – we should create an environment that supports these choices and family configurations.
I am a storyteller, teacher, cook, driver, guidance counsellor, and much more…and always a friend. Indeed, there are no plain housewives, just as there are no plain individuals: women and men alike. As we celebrate Mother’s Day, we must celebrate the women of our lives in all their uniqueness. Whether they decide to stay at home, or pursue careers that keep them from home, surely theirs is a labor of love, which deserve our utmost affection and appreciation.
Authored by Amihan Jericho