I’m a witch. A feminist. A housewife. It all takes work.
To understand me I think you need to understand both my grandmothers. Mum was brought up by a very independent woman. Nanny always worked and expected my mum, as the eldest child, to pull her weight when it came to looking after the house and bringing up the younger kids. Dad, however, was brought up by a stay at home mum who did everything for everyone. Mum was taught if you want something you got off your backside and got it yourself, while Dad was taught it was the woman’s job to cook, clean and basically be at the beck and call of her husband. I’ve often wondered why my parents got married, but despite the sometimes spectacular clashes they are still married after over forty years.
Growing up, I couldn’t see why Dad would tell me to do something but never my brothers – though Mum would often redress the balance. Dad and I often fought like cat and dog. I vowed never to be told what to do by a man and to always have my own money so I didn’t have to ask for cash like mum used to before my brothers and I were all at school and there was no reason for her to not start working again.
That plan was working really well until four years ago. By that time I was married and things were going great. Then one day I came home from work and my husband told me he’d been offered his dream job, but it meant moving to America for a few years, oh and by the way I wouldn’t be entitled to work on that particular visa. I couldn’t see how our marriage would survive if we lived on different continents so I gave up my career and plans for running my own business and we moved.
I actually totally got behind the idea of being a “kept woman”. We joked about how I’d spend my days at the salon getting my hair and nails done all the time, and go for long lunches with friends, but the reality was rather different.
There’s no business like hearth business, no business I know…
I approached running a home as if I was running a business, something I’d already done once (I’ve included my personal tips for running a home below, if you’re interested). I got an account book so I could keep a track of all our income and outgoings, and I created a schedule of jobs around the house.
While the financial side was fine, I soon remembered that I hated doing housework and really wasn’t very good at it. On top of that, I really hated not earning my own money. I felt I had to justify every penny and felt guilty if I bought something for myself, yet I hated it even more when it felt like my husband was buying me a dress or something.
That first year was tough. Looking back, I believe it was the biggest challenge we have faced to date – bigger than redundancy or even cancer. Yet we did get through it.
I finally started admitting how much I was struggling, and that meant I was able to get help. My husband encouraged me to tackle the paperwork that would allow me to apply for a temporary social security numbe. This would mean I could work, contribute to the finances and do something other than housework or watching Netflix. Without a car I was still very limited, but I’ve always been a really good tarot reader. I signed up to a service that allows me to read via webcam, which lead to the opportunity to co-host an Internet radio show about tarot and spirituality once a week.
It’s now been four years. We still have no idea when we’ll get to go home but I’ve realised this is the perfect opportunity. I still run the household, from the accounts to cooking and cleaning, but now I’m learning skills I’d never have had time to learn when working full-time.
I have a dream of being as self-sufficient and environmentally-friendly as possible without giving up modern luxuries like hot water and the internet, so I’ve been looking to learn anything that might be useful. So far I’ve learnt how to make jam, bread, pickles and candles. Now that I have a sewing machine, I’m also learning how to sew. Oh, and I recently started a beginners’ quilting course. These are going to be useful skills to have when we find our “forever home”.
The goddess Vesta and the hearth as a sacred space
One thing that really helped me was the idea that my home isn’t just my home – it’s the family safe place and as a witch it’s my sacred space as well. I learnt a bit about the Roman goddess Vesta who is, I think, a bit of an under-represented feminist icon. As the goddess of hearth and home she was one of the most revered deities at the time, and her shrine in the Roman forum was tended solely by women, the Vestal Virgins or Vestales. They were indeed virgins, but more than that, they weren’t dependent on men for their livelihood, their identity or self-worth.
In the home as well, the role of the housewife was one of power and control in partnership with her husband.
The spiritual side of looking after a home
With this in mind I’m trying to make looking after the house a more spiritual practice rather than just “doing chores”. Admittedly my house is rarely spotless – a longhaired dog and wooden floors have put paid to that. Still, I take pride in the fact that visitors feel welcome in our home.
By placing a value on my own contributions to the household I am able to maintain my self-respect and self worth, and my husband has also relaxed into the role of the main earner knowing that I do not hate the lifestyle we find ourselves living. I may never be a proper domestic goddess, but at least now if I’m asked what I do for a living I have the confidence to look the person in the eye and say, “I am a housewife”.
5 ways to effectively run the home
It’s a tough job market out there, and it can be hard to find work, so there may be periods in your life where you find yourself in my position. Similarly you may have children and want to stay at home for their sake, or you are just in a position where you don’t need to go out to work. Whatever your situation, if you find yourself taking on the mantle of housewife here are my top tips.
1.Embrace your choice, even if it wasn’t really much of a choice.
OK, this is a tough one. Getting to grips with this saved me from teetering into depression, and it’s an important point.
In today’s capitalist society we are given a value based on how much we earn and how important our career is deemed, so to reject that is often met with sympathy, confusion or disdain. Yet I see it as a bit of a rebellious choice. Even some of my feminist friends have seen running a home full-time as a joke or a cop-out, but I am still doing all the things I did in business – it’s just some of them I can do in my PJs. I am an accountant, a nutritionist, a chef and a load of other jobs… all rolled into one serious package.
2. Remind yourself that earning money is not the only way to contribute to the household.
You will be responsible for maintaining a healthy diet with tasty meals eaten in a nice clean environment, and by taking charge of the finances. Particularly if you are used to having more money, you can make sure you keep a roof over your head and food in your belly. You may actually save money because you’ll suddenly see how many cappuccinos you were buying or decide now’s the time to cancel any random subscriptions you don’t use.
3. Understand your finances.
Seriously, we should all do this anyway, but whether it’s just for yourself or for a household with more than one person, you need to understand where your money comes from and goes.
Once you can see exactly how much comes in and how much has to go out to cover bills each month, set yourself a budget for groceries, a budget for petrol or bus fares and if you have an event that month give yourself a budget for that. If you’ve got some left, great! You can either use it for a treat, pay off a bit extra on a credit card or pop it into a savings account, or roll it over for next month if you know it’ll be an expensive one.
And I personally found it really important to understand that once the money is gone it’s gone, so I learned it’s sometimes time to say no.
4. Work out a schedule.
Look at the jobs that need doing daily and those that need doing less often. Maybe make Mondays and Fridays the days to do laundry, Tuesday you’ll wash the bedding, Wednesday you’ll clean the bathroom and Thursday you’ll do a proper clean on the kitchen.
It may need tweaking but you’ll soon find out what works for you and what fits into your lifestyle. Remember, little and often is way easier than leaving it until it’s a big job. Believe me, I tried that; it sucked.
5. Remember that housework doesn’t have to be a chore.
Stick your favourite tunes on, go wild and dance – nobody will ever know! On a nice day I throw the windows open and have a nice cup of tea to reward myself for a job well done; on a rubbish day it’s a glass of wine, I won’t lie, but I still wait until I feel I’ve earned it because once you sit down it’s so hard to get up again.