Why do some modern women look down on being a housewife or stay-at-home mom?
Because they actually have no clue what the job entails.
We understand that in order to do a specific job, you have to be trained for it. You go through some kind of education, practice or apprenticeship period, in order to be prepared for the job and fit to perform it well.
To be a doctor, we know we need to go to medical school. To be a lawyer, we need to go to law school. To be a teacher, we need to go to a school of education.
To be a housewife and a stay-at-home mother, where do we go to learn?
What does it take to run a smooth household? What does good home management involve? Are there best practices? How should the day be set up for maximum productivity and optimal performance?
Most of us went to school during the day, for most of the day. We left home at 7 am and got home from school at 3 or 4 pm. If we had a stay-at-home mom, we didn’t get to see what exactly she did all day during the time we were gone at school. We don’t know if she had a schedule or what it looked like.
Since we didn’t witness it, some of us assume that there is really nothing to it. Maybe she just sat around all day or took a long nap. Maybe the house runs itself. The family takes care of itself. Stuff kind of just happens.
Ignorance is bliss.
Then as these high schoolers grew up and graduated from college, the questions began surfacing: What should be my (career) path? What should I invest the majority of my time, energy, effort, and intelligence into? Should I be a housewife? When I have kids, should I be a stay-at-home mom?
What would I even *do* all day?
Their minds draw a blank.
Many modern girls and women just really don’t know. And we don’t respect what we don’t know.
When I was in middle school in a public school in New Jersey, we were assigned a Home Economics class for a semester. I remember some of the things the teacher, Mrs. Wentworth, taught us: how to sew on a button, how to bake cinnamon rolls, how to iron a shirt. I was around 12 or 13 years old when I took that class. It was fun and very practical.
Nowadays most, if not all, American schools have removed all Home Economics classes from the curriculum. Nobody is teaching kids the basics of life skills, how to do basic things in the home, how to cook or clean or organize or create.
So we aren’t getting this essential knowledge at home by watching our mothers work around the home, and we aren’t getting it in classes at school, either. Add in feminist propaganda about marriage being slavery and serving a husband being degradation, and most modern women feel like they wouldn’t be caught dead staying home.
This results in a general ignorance of the details of running a smooth household successfully. This leads to a knee-jerk hand-waving dismissal altogether of the role of a wife and/ or mother who stays home and manages life for the family.
So. What does that role actually entail?
عن عبد الله بن عمر رضي الله عنهما عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: “أَلَا كُلُّكُمْ رَاعٍ، وَكُلُّكُمْ مَسْئُولٌ عَنْ رَعِيَّتِهِ، فَالْأَمِيرُ الَّذِي عَلَى النَّاسِ رَاعٍ، وَهُوَ مَسْئُولٌ عَنْ رَعِيَّتِهِ، وَالرَّجُلُ رَاعٍ عَلَى أَهْلِ بَيْتِهِ، وَهُوَ مَسْئُولٌ عَنْهُمْ، وَالْمَرْأَةُ رَاعِيَةٌ عَلَى بَيْتِ بَعْلِهَا وَوَلَدِهِ، وَهِيَ مَسْئُولَةٌ عَنْهُمْ…”
Abdullah ibn Umar narrates that the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
“Each of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. A ruler who rules over people is a shepherd and is responsible for them. The man is a shepherd over his family and is responsible for them. The woman is a shepherd over her husband’s home and children and is responsible for them…”
The housewife’s role revolves around three main areas: her husband, her children, and the home.
Her role involves a lot of responsibility, intelligence, adaptability, creativity, and discipline. The housewife wears many hats, out of love for her family.
Running a smooth home is much, much more than simple cooking and cleaning, but certainly cooking and cleaning are important tasks. The meals that you and your family will eat every day don’t cook themselves. Eating out or ordering in every night is expensive and is not the healthiest option either. Most human beings communicate love through offering food, a reality borne out across cultures, as anthropologists show. People tend to have warm, fond memories of hot, homemade meals cooked with love.
Keeping a house clean, organized, and tidy is actually quite a lot of work and requires constant maintenance. Organizing things in each room of the house in an intuitive, user-friendly way is another task. Laundry is a multi-step process. Errands don’t run themselves: meal planning, buying groceries, and other runs have to be made. Adding tasteful decor and accent pieces adds beauty and warmth, a feminine touch that makes a cold bare house a cozy home.
Beyond these basic responsibilities, the woman of the house creates a smooth rhythm and is adept at multitasking. She systematizes everything so that things run like clockwork. It’s not about doing laundry once, or going grocery shopping haphazardly, or cooking at random times. These tasks are all cyclical, and with time and experience, the housewife will finesse these processes and order them logically for maximum time management and efficiency. She will set up a system for doing laundry, a system for daily tidying plus weekly/ monthly deep cleaning, a schedule for grocery shopping and for cooking, toy storage, and a rotation system. Children’s clothing has its own system, sorted and stored by size and season. These are just some examples of intelligent homemaking systems.
She also oversees family life generally, managing the coordination of the family’s routine, schedule, and calendar. Which events conflict with which? What are the kids’ activities? She syncs the calendars for her own activities, the kids, and her husband’s.
She supports her husband, inspires him, and sees to his comfort and pleasure. She has feminine energy, an agreeable nature, an attitude of love and respect for her man. She sees his value as her husband and shows him the respect he is due. She understands what it takes to sustain a stable long-term relationship–a marriage– and is willing to put in that work. She finds little and big ways to show him an appreciation for the hard work he puts in for her and the family. (In a healthy marriage, she gets this back too. Everything is reciprocal.)
She nurtures her children and provides them with tarbiya, inculcating Islamic values, building character, and establishing a solid foundation of unconditional love. She gives kisses, hugs, smiles, pats the boo-boos, and wipes away the tears. She talks to the children about Allah, His Messenger ﷺ, and shows them the beauty of Islam from a place of love. She teaches them responsibility, hard work, and fair play. She provides her offspring with the healthy attachments and orientation they need for sound emotional, physical, and psychological development. She is their first teacher.
If she is a homeschooling mother, she continues this tarbiya of her children as it naturally extends into more formal education, teaching them about the world through the lens of Islam, the natural correlation between the Words of Allah and His creation all around us, plus the mechanics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. She nurtures their natural curiosity and wonder.
She is the rock of the family, the grounding and stabilizing force that holds down the fort. She is the warmth of the home, its beauty, its feminine strength. She is the glue that holds everything and everyone together.
Now, here is the disclaimer lest people misunderstand this to be a categorical condemnation of all women who do not fit this picture: It’s not. This is simply a reminder to all of us that our notions of what homemaking is are generally flawed, unfair, and inaccurate.
Of course, some women never get married, either by choice or by circumstance. Of course, some women get married but never have children, either by choice or by circumstance. Of course, some women are wives and mothers but work outside the home because they need to for a large array of reasons (widowed, divorced, separated, sick husband, high cost of living and need to pay rent, etc). Some women are able to prioritize family, home, and children while at the same time pursuing a part-time online degree or certificate or working online or starting their own home-based business as an entrepreneur or doing da`wah. These are all different realities on the ground. No doubt.
But as it pertains to subconscious *mental images* that we have, to our *aspirations to certain ideals*, to our *conceptions* of various ideas, we need to get some things straight:
Having an advanced degree just to have a degree is not an ideal we should aspire to.
Having a career just to have a career isn’t, either.
Our worth as women doesn’t stem from how many degrees we have or how much money we bring in or how many letters follow our name as our professional title.
Failing to understand the role of the wife/ mother and therefore under-prioritizing it isn’t good for anyone.
Seeing the housewife as a slave is crazy. So is believing the tired stereotype of the housewife as a lazy, unproductive woman who leeches off her husband and whiles away her days gossiping and watching soap operas.
Homemaking is not “slavery.”
Homemaking is not “domestic drudgery.”
Homemaking is not meaningless, mindless menial labor.
Homemaking is making a home.