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Housewife… Really?

I was filling out a form the other day for my family and once again a strange feeling struck me. It came when I needed to put in my wife’s occupation. ‘Chartered accountant’ I immediately thought, but my wife hasn’t worked as an accountant for about three years. She’s been doing something far more stressful, but also far more rewarding; looking after our boys.

So what do I put? Mum? Well that’s true, but there are also lots of mums who aren’t lucky enough to stay with their kids all day, and some who wouldn’t dream of giving up their jobs, so I don’t want to do them a disservice! What are the alternatives? Homemaker (sounds like a builder and Lego definitely doesn’t count)? And then the classic… Housewife.

I have a bit of a problem with the term ‘housewife’ – not the role, I’m big on that, do what makes you happy if you can. In fact, I’d love to be a house husband but my wife would just complain that the jobs and meals weren’t half as good as she could have made! No, my issue with the term comes from the fact that first of all, for most of her career as a housewife, B wasn’t even a wife. We got married when our little one was about a year old, so she had been doing the job on and off for four and a half years at that point.

We had an untraditional ordering to this ‘being a grown-up’ business: Kids, house and then we thought maybe we’d get married at some point if we had time – possibly before our big one started school to make surnames easier. Well, just before we left for NZ we got the chance and it was perfect. Just the few people we wanted there, having a big meal and party in a cottage in the woods – awesomely understated and fun.

But I digress…

This threw up the problem again. Apparently once you’re married, you have to re-register the birth of your children, no problem there. But once again we had to write down B’s occupation. Housewife is the preferred term, and whilst I don’t like it, as a statistician, I can appreciate the need for standards. But this wasn’t the only problem; yes, when little one was born, B took an extended break from work so aside from the aforementioned issues with the term, she should officially go down as a housewife on little ones birth certificate. But the registrar also insisted that we change her occupation on big one’s birth certificate. I was stunned. So flabbergasted in fact that that I put up practically no resistance.

Now it’s not that B or I have a problem with her being a housewife (naming issues aside, I think we have covered the fact that I have big respect for housewives), but at the time Alby was born, B was a chartered accountant! Big One’s certificate is a lie.

It doesn’t matter that B hated being an accountant and it doesn’t matter that B would happily never see a balance sheet again, what matters is that hating being an accountant has been a significant part of both of our lives and to have the years of pain qualifying and the years of stress practicing all erased with the flick of an elaborate pen is just gutting.

And this is something that happens to a lot of mums in a whole range of different ways. As dads we get to be a musician, a cyclist or a wine guy with kids. But it seems to me that more often than not, mums are mums, or housewives.

So to conclude I would like to propose some new names for stay at home mums on an extended break from work to replace housewife….

How about:

  • Mumiging Director
  • Life Coordinator
  • Beast Wrangler
  • Executive Little People Leader
  • Head of Human Development
  • Tantrum Prevention Agent
  • Toddler Tamer


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Originally from the UK, I moved to Wellington with my wife B and my two boys (five and one) in 2016. I like sweet potato, Lego, paw patrol, ninjas, standing on chairs and running around with a blanket on my head...wait that's my boys...what do I like again?

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