J getting some help when he is working from home. click for view in flickr
"Housewife" is a funny kind of word, as if you were married to the house. Perhaps it's meant to be ironic. But I find "homemaker", its more contemporary alternative, even more odd. What makes a home? surely not just a homemaker.
"Housewife" is still allowed for older women - like "my mother's a housewife" - but it's less often used to refer to, say, a Mrs Lim, 32 years old - "She left her job as an accountant with one of the 'Big 4s' to be a homemaker." For the latter, it's as if "housewife" was too crude, suggesting a woman's limited sphere of influence. Plus, I guess "homemaker" is gender neutral. And besides, a homemaker may have nothing, no work, to do with the house (unlike the domestic help, the maid).
But friends, I think there is something about "housewife" that is lost with the "homemaker" replacement.
It's a something else you might understand if you spend an hour or so cleaning the floor with a pail and a piece of cloth, knowing afterwards that almost every square inch of that tiled surface has been examined and bear the mark of your handywork. A relationship is forged, this caring. As with the mosaic-tiled toilet. Or the shelves. Ah - I can't quite describe the relationship, but there is, for me at least, a sense that I can live in this house for the rest of my life! Yes, like some kind of married!