Like a lot of educated women in this country, I have been socialized to devalue domestic unpaid labor(traditionally thought of as "women's work"). The term "housewife" brings with it images of browbeaten women with no agency and no options, and applying it to myself brings feelings of shame and failure. Even though I know this is all complete bullshit, it's been an extremely difficult transition for me to make.
When I met my husband, I was a world-traveling anthropologist, fresh out of university. I had a nest egg and zero student loan debt. I worked for the first year we were together, at a shit bank job that sucked my soul dry and contributed greatly to my ill health. I talked this over with my husband(then-boyfriend), and we agreed that I would quit that job. It was difficult finding another job, as the unemployment situation in our city is dire. Eventually I decided to go back to school and get a degree as a radiology technician, which would allow me to find work at whatever city we found ourselves stationed in. Mr. Bear informed we likely only had a couple years left in our present location.
Unfortunately, I wasn't accepted into the rad tech program last year, and would have to wait a year to reapply. Since that would mean we would be moving before I finished the program, we decided to try for a baby in the time we had left, since we live around a lot of my family and I have a really strong support structure here. I will look for another program when we get settled in our new location.
The practical side of this decision is that, for the next 2-3 years at least, I am a stay-at-home wife and mother. We talked over the possibility of my working and putting the kiddo in childcare, but I would have to be making a considerable amount to cover the cost of childcare and have enough left over to justify someone else looking after the kiddo for the bulk of the day. We decided, and it was a mutual decision that I feel very good about, that I would stay home with the baby. It made more sense financially, and I want this time with my child.
Even though I know this is the best thing for me and my family, I struggle everyday with the identity of "stay-at-home wife and mother". It's not something I ever saw for myself. In my younger days, I even looked down on it(before sociology and life experience beat some sense into me). Reading other women's blogs that deal with homemaking through a non-traditional viewpoint has been helpful. In particular, Calamity Jane's post on "Reclaiming Housewifery" has helped me articulate the feelings I've been having regarding my transition.
Linking my new-found domesticity with urban homesteading has definitely helped. Raising my children to take pride in homegrown food, looking after livestock, and providing for ourselves rather than relying on store-bought convenience is one way in which I can effect change on a societal scale. Change begins at home, and achieving the great shift in our society from a throw-away culture reliant on imports and convenience foods requires a revolution in the home. In it's beginning, that was what "Home Economics" was about. Running a household efficiently, being self-sufficient, being thrifty. It requires intelligence and creativity, and a lot of math. Sadly, horribly, home economics has been reduced in schools to how to sew a throw pillow, and how to bake cookies. Not how to provide a nutritious and varied diet for our families on a realistic budget, while saving for emergencies and planning a long-term future.
Domestic unpaid labor is important. Raising the next generation is important. Homemakers wield more power than they(we) realize. When I allow myself to feel like a child who gets an allowance, instead of a vital part of my household and society as a whole, I am doing a great disservice to all of us who, by choice or necessity, apply our talents and intelligence to running our homesteads(be they studio apartments or sprawling farms). It is not "unfeminist" to engage in domestic unpaid labor and child-rearing. We are not wasting our potential by working in the home sphere instead of offices.
This is not a zero-sum game.