Calculating the Value of a Housewife

If housewives were to be paid, how much do you think they would be worth?

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©flickr
©SeatleMunicipleArchives

And by housewife I mean those women that are exclusively housewives; they bear the children, raise them, take care of their husbands, relatives and the home. These types of women have no office job or any other type of job that rakes in a salary because they are fully committed to taking care of their household chores. For some of them it is a matter of choice, others it’s due to circumstances beyond or within their control…and for others, it could simply be because their spouses are of a traditional kind – wife at home, husband at work.

How many times have you heard the expression; she was/is JUST a housewife. Really…just a housewife? I dare you to say that again and let’s see if the anatomy of your face will still bare the same structure. I double dare you.

Despite being educated and having many other skills, for many years my mother was an exclusive housewife. I was only a kid when I realised just how much it took for one to be a good homemaker. Of course it didn’t help that my mother’s manager (aka my father, aka her husband) was somewhat a species from a parallel universe…I had vowed then to never end up like my mother although in her own way she was proud, in fact, very proud of her life.

The plight of the housewife reminds me of the plight of the miner; somewhere there is a miner hard at work digging and digging the dirt until he reaches the diamond, and somewhere in a well ventilated room with a great view of the city is another man punching a few keys on a computer. At the end of the day, only one man between the two will walk/drive home with a fat bank account. Guess who? Forget the circumstances that put the two in their respective positions, the point is that they each need the other in order for the business to be successful. Likewise, husbands and wives need each other’s input in order for them to run a successful family life.

Just because the husband’s input comes in form of a calculated value does not make the wife’s input useless.

The problem I have seen with some men is that they tend to overemphasize their financial contribution in the home whilst undermining the contributions of their wives simply because theirs cannot be quantified. Say, if a housewife’s job description was to be written down, what would it look like? And how much do you think she should be paid at the end of the month?

For most families, the wife is usually the first one to wake up in the morning, and the last one to go to bed after ensuring that all the members of the family have been taken care of and are safe in their beds. If you have ever faced the challenge of being tired and wanting nothing but to sleep, then you should know just how valuable a good rest is. So, is there a value we could put to that in terms of money? While everyone else is sleeping, she cuts her sleep short in order to attend to her duties…and she does so without complaining. And this is why I think some men will never understand just how hand working their women are; because they do their duties without complaining!

The truth is that it hurts…it really hurts to wake up so early in the morning just after a few hours of sleep. Just when you think you are about to get a good rest, the baby starts wailing for your attention and the fella sleeping next to you goes on with his sleep as if hypnotized by an Egyptian wench. If you try to ignore the sounds, the next thing you’ll hear is, “can’t you hear the baby crying woman? It’s disturbing me!” Say what??? It’s disturbing you? Then what about me? Now imagine someone telling this woman the following day that she is ‘just a housewife….” Seriously, would you blame her if she blew your brains out? To make matters worse, chances are that she never even ‘came’ the night the baby was conceived but you can swear on heaven’s door that her husband ‘came’ and he did so with impunity! Now the baby is born and he wants to make it all her fault…like it’s got nothing to do with him?? Either he needs to grow a pair or get castrated! Now tell me again, if you were to put a value to this kind of night time baby care, how much would it be?

mother n childOne of the major reasons I have personally considered that might lead to gender equality not being attained is the issue of child birth. Therein lies the one fact that will forever separate the species. It is not just a matter of sexual roles but it spirals on to gender roles – which are socially constructed. Until men can carry a pregnancy for nine months and go through labour, do not talk to me about women being a feeble species. Once upon a time I watched in dismay as one of my friends frantically assaulted a treadmill just a few weeks after giving birth because she was worried about her husband running off to other women because she “had lost shape.” Should we therefore, also put a value to the amount of effort that women put in to get back in shape after child birth…to the lost body confidence, the possible post-natal stress, the depression…and the general insecurities that come as a result?

She has cleaned the house, from the bedrooms to the living room. Her husband comes back home, it was raining cats and dogs outside but he walks straight into the house with his dirty shoes on and leaves a trail of his insidiousness on his way to the bedroom. I am thinking about that narcissistic boss who throws your hard work on the floor without so much as going through it simply because…he can do it and there is nothing you can do about it. Who said being a housewife isn’t a job?? And then we bring the kids into this messed up equation, the mess they make in a month is equal to the stuff that goes into an atomic tomb, if left unattended, it’s lethal and of devastating consequences.

In the workplace, there are certain tasks that seem very minute when in essence; they are very cardinal to the overall functioning of an organization. The housewife does a lot of such work around the house too…the kind of work that will enable people to only see the cover page and never the details in the print inside. Imagine a woman with no degree in communications or psychology proudly welcoming visitors into the home. She is all smiles as she greets them and feeds them but deep down she is nursing wounds from her husband’s verbal and physical attacks from just a few minutes ago. I saw a lot of this in my parent’s home and for years I stayed glued to the tele on Oscar nights wondering why my mother’s name was never mentioned in any of the Award categories.

My mother didn’t have an MBA but Lord didn’t she know how to make do with a zero budget! Unfortunately, she isn’t the only wife to be faced with financial difficulties. Sometimes, it is not always that the husband is unable to provide financially, it either they are financially careless or they are not providing enough thereby leaving the wife to work on a tight budget. A friend of mine – Rachael – once told me, “because I don’t complain and because we somehow always seem to manage, my husband thinks that the money he gives me is enough to cover our monthly costs. So last month I decided to let him handle all the household costs after he passed a funny comment and guess what?” Suffice to say, her husband failed to work with his own budget and the family ran out of groceries meant to last the whole month in less than two weeks.

You see, Rachael and her husband are keeping relatives of her husband which means managing household affairs for her is even more challenging. Once she chastised her brother in-law for using too much sugar and milk for his breakfast. Another time she told her sister in-law that it was impossible for them to have finished a whole chicken between the three of them in one meal. Unfortunately, her husband overhead these conversations and told her to stop complaining about food around the house as if she was poor. This family may not be poor, but this woman has a budget within which she has to work and ensure that food is enough to last the whole month. Her husband has a tendency of saying, “other families don’t even have this much to work with so this should be more than enough for you.”

The problem with this logic is that just because one family considers a million bucks more than enough, it might not be the case for another family. It matters what the size of the family is and what lifestyle they are accustomed to. Rachel’s husband expects his family to have at least more than three slices of bread each every morning, with either butter, eggs, bacon, or/and some veggies. This is not the standard breakfast for most families and requires a very flexible budget to maintain. It is the wife’s job to ensure that the family spends within its means and when there isn’t enough, they have to somehow make do with whatever is there. Whether she does this through magic or by chance will forever remain a mystery. But the truth is that she has to push a lot of buttons, visible and invisible to make things work, and that includes controlling how food and other household amenities are handled by each member of the family; be they in-laws or own family members.

There is a general misconception that all women are born natural chefs. I don’t know about professional chefs but I have found it challenging to cook up new menus at home every week. When he’s at home (and only when he’s at home), my husband hates repeating meals, for instance, if there was chicken in a meal he had for lunch, there shouldn’t be anything close to chicken for dinner. This means that each meal prepared for the day should be special. This also means that I have to spend at least two hours every week browsing the internet for ideas. By the way, what is the average salary for a chef specialized in all kinds of food?

It is easy for someone to complain about what they are eating if they never invested their time cooking it. Just because you can afford to buy the ingredients does not mean the final product will be what you had in mind. If everyone could afford to eat out whether financially or emotionally, then the home cooked meal would have lost its power by now. Therefore, if you are able to find a freshly cooked and scrumptious meal every time you knock off from work, aren’t you blessed, to say the least? It really isn’t easy trying to think of something new and different to cook for the family every day of the week. Perhaps for some it might come natural…but i doubt its the case for most.

And then there is that stuff that women usually do that cannot be said out loud (let’s not forget all the dirty laundry and what not – literally). Let’s put these in a box and label it X. How much do you think that stuff is worth? …. That there is someone willing to clean after you every time you make a mess and nowhere in history is it written that they hold a Public Relations Degree, aren’t you getting off cheap? There are those women who do all the work alone without the help of a housekeeper, those are the real heroes. Then there are those women who hold day jobs and still go back home to be wives and mothers, these deserve sainthood I tell you.

Just because someone brings in money to the home doesn’t make them the better person in a marriage.

Just like businesses need both capital and labour to be successful, so do families. All things considered, chances are that the housewife has a lot more ‘shit’ to deal with than someone holding a day job in an office. How much do you think it would cost to hire a housekeeper, a chef, a nurse, a counsellor, a financial manager, a nanny, and a PR manager all at once every day of the week for a month? And add value of the bonus that comes with sleeping with all of these without being charged with sexual harassment. She is not JUST a housewife; she is a homemaker, the reason why you have a family of your own. She is your partner through thick and thin. Treat her with as much respect as you would wish to be treated. The money you give her isn’t enough to buy the effort she puts in to bring the family together. You do not own her. Whereas your financial contributions can be quantified, hers are so huge that no value can be attributed to them. They are invaluable.

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An Unforgettable Scene – Dae Jang Geum AKA Jewel in the Palace

Jewel-in-the-Palace-Dae-Jang-Geum_2807_event

Today marks eleven years since I first encountered the one scene in a drama that made me feel like I should really become a great writer someday! I am a fan of many legendary writers from the likes of Shakespeare, J.K Rowling, to the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle, the Hong Sisters…and everyone else in-between and after, and of course not forgetting whoever writes the lines for Raymond Reddington in The Blacklist, God bless their soul whoever they are coz those lines are simple but epic! And of course I am also a fan of directors like Steven Spielberg all the way to Kim Jin-Man – (anyone think Kill Me, Heal Me?? Yeah!) …I love them all! However, for some reason, this is the Number One scene that had a profound effect on me the very first time I came across it and there are not enough words to describe WHY it is different from anything else I have read or watched before.

And no, it isn’t because I am a feminist and the story celebrates the rise of a woman who rose against all odds in a male dominated society to become one hell of a woman…no. The real reasons lie in the details of the plot, the talented cast – the villain lady is so good in her role that you even feel you would hate her in real life!…and the wonder work of the director. The food of course is another thing to growl about as you keep fighting the urge to rush to the kitchen and get something to eat every time a scene filled with delicacies is presented. Pray you don’t get fat by the time you finish watching the drama!

To this day, since eleven years ago…I keep thinking…I want to write a great story like that one someday…someday….someday….

Here goes my favourite scene of all time!!!:

jewel in the palaceA man on a self-imposed exile wonders into the woods in the dark when he falls down the mountain into a dark pit. Moments later, he awakens from unconsciousness to find himself in the company of a prophet. They share a few pleasantries and then this conversation ensues:

Man: Sir, I have to be on my way…please tell me the way out.

No response from the prophet.

Man: Sir….??

Prophet finally speaks.

Prophet: You don’t seem like the kind to harm someone but why do you have a storm of blood in your hands?

Man: Excuse me…(looks a bit confused) what do you mean sir?

Prophet: tsk tsk tsk…your fate…what a pity.

Man: What do you mean sir? (Getting a little agitated…). Please explain to me. Why do you pity my fate?

Prophet: Three women are holding your fate, (he says in an ominous tone). Even though you killed the first woman, you will not die. The second will die because of you even though you save her. And the third will kill you but she will save many lives.

Man leans his head a little closer to the prophet and whispers:

Man: Sir, what shall I do? What can I do to free myself from this fate?

Prophet: The best thing is not to meet them.

Man: How? How can I not meet the first woman?

Prophet: Haven’t you already met her?

You can literally see man’s pulmonary veins stop functioning for a few seconds.

Prophet continues,: That’s why it’s a pity…(he says – he’s basically fanning a volcano now, isn’t he? ).

By now, you can clearly see the man’s face pictured right next to the word ‘horrified’ in an illustrative dictionary somewhere.

Man: And the second…no…I will die because of the third woman? Then how can i not meet the third woman? (He asks)

Prophet: Don’t meet the second woman.

Man: Then how can I not meet the second woman? Please tell me, Sir. (He pleads).

Prophet throws three placard-like papers at the man, each containing a single word (or could it be words??)

The man looks at them and immediately registers confusion on his face, unable to comprehend their meaning.

Man: What do these mean, sir?

But when he looks up, the prophet is nowhere in sight.

Man: Sir! Please wait, sir! (He shouts as his eyes look around but to no avail).

END SCENE.

In the next scene, the man consults a priest and soon finds out the meaning behind the characters written on the three papers.

As the plot unfolds, the man tries to evade his fate and does his best so as not to meet the second woman in whose hands his fate lies. If he can avoid meeting the second woman, then by all means he will never meet the third woman.

But its fate….

He will meet the woman, willy-nilly.

And he does meet the woman.

Because of course, if he doesn’t meet her, there wouldn’t be this beautiful and awe-inspiring story for me to mush over – forever!

This is Dae Jang Geum, AKA Jewel in the Palace…a story I shall forever remember.

Kudos to the writers, director and great cast of this one. I Salute!