When the TV show Designing Women was at its heyday, there was an episode called “Working Mother” (October 1, 1990) where new stay-at-home mom Charlene and 9-to-5 mom Mary Jo get into a fight that starts when Mary Jo comments that it must be nice to watch soap operas all day. The two make up with the following conversation:
Charlene (referring to a neighbor who commented on Charlene’s new position): I said I work – I work in the home. Something that …I have chosen carefully and thoughtfully and deserves respect.
Mary Jo: It’s so hard these days – whatever choice a mother makes you feel guilty. Like the world is judging you whether they are or not. What we have to do, the stay-at-home moms and the 9-to-5 moms, is to keep from turning on each other.
Charlene: I have a confession: I was watching that soap.
At the end, they bring over a computer connected to one at Sugarbakers so Charlene, the accountant, can work from home since her replacement was an utter dunderhead.
But these two groups of women are nothing compared to this recent article about stay-at-home wives.
We’re talking Samantha Stevens. We’re talking Gabrielle Solis. We’re talking Lucy Ricardo—pre Tabitha, the twins and Little Ricky.
“What do you do all day?” is a question Anne Marie Davis, 34, says she gets a lot.
Davis, who lives in Lewisville, Texas, isn’t a mother, nor does she telecommute. She is a stay-at-home wife, which makes her something of a pioneer in the post-feminist world.
Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of “The Secrets of Happily Married Women,” says stay-at-home wives constitute a growing niche. “In the past few years, many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home,” he says. While his research is ongoing, he estimates that more than 10 percent of the 650 women he’s interviewed who choose to stay home are childless.
Daniel Buccino, a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine clinical social worker and psychotherapist, says stay-at-home wives are the latest “status symbols.”
“It says, ‘We make enough money that we both don’t need to work outside the home,’” he says. “And especially with the recent economic pressures, a stay-at-home spouse is often an extreme and visible luxury.”
Davis says her life isn’t luxurious. “Tuesdays are my laundry day,” she says. “I go grocery shopping on Wednesdays and clean house on Thursdays.” Mondays and Fridays are reserved for appointments and other errands.
But her schedule also allows for charity work and leisure: reading, creative writing and exploring new hobbies, like sewing.
It’s a lifestyle, Davis says, that has made her happier and brought her closer to her husband. “We’re no longer stressed out,” she says; because she takes care of the home, there are virtually no “honey-do” lists to hand over.
We’re not talking about women with children. We are not talking about women who are older and their husbands are ill and need care. We are talking about women in their 20s, 30s and 40s who have to care only for themselves and their husbands.
A whole day to grocery shop? Does she just float from line to line – or from store to store?
Let’s see. I commute to and from a full-time job five days a week, I’m on a neighborhood board and sisterhood board and I freelance. And with all that, I am able to not only spend quality time with my husband, but go grocery shopping, do laundry, keep things clean and do errands – plus have plenty of time for fun and relaxation.
It might make life less stressful for the wife, but I know that if I stayed home all day while my husband was in the rat race, it would cause more fights, not less.
I worked too hard to get where I am – and I’m still paying off a student loan. Should my husband be asked to pay it back for me? Does Mrs. Davis get an allowance?
Sorry stay-at-home wives … I think your days went out the door with black and white television, vacuuming in pearls and finishing schools.