Bring Back Suzy Homemaker, Bye-bye Housewife
By Ruth G. Zavitsanos
I grew up with the term Suzy Homemaker and in my admirable eye my mother held that title with great esteem and competence, much like her TV counterparts Donna Reed or June Cleaver. Every morning Mom poured coffee for her husband (my father) and gave him a peck on the cheek before he went off to work to bring home “the bacon”. I can still see my mother drying her hands on her apron after rinsing the dishes. I’d come home from school and she’d be working in the garden or taking the laundry off of the clothesline.
In our home, my mother made things happen and the words of a popular television commercial from the 60s rang true. “With Suzy Homemaker you can entertain, wash dishes, clean house, launder, iron, bake… and always look lovely.”
A typical day involved music playing in the background, perhaps greeting the Avon lady and readying herself for a shopping spree for that “always look lovely” appearance. There were phone conversations with other homemakers discussing the local news, latest fashions and swapping recipes all to continue the quest for improving their lifestyle. . They auspiciously navigated the many interruptions to their day i.e. forgotten instrument, gym suit or lunchbox, perhaps a call from the school nurse, or a last minute dinner guest brought home by their husband.
With the onset of the women’s movement in the 1970s, Suzy Homemaker was no longer hailed as a role model for young girls. Evidently, housewife replaced homemaker because as the word implies, it connotes marriage and is considered to be in contrast to a “career woman” according to Wikipedia. This baffles me because I know quite a few career women (of all ages) who are, indeed married.
According to today’s society and definitions, I’ve spent the past two decades as a “housewife.” Though, I admit, mostly men, rather than women use this term. Most women prefer, “Stay-at-home mom.” I’ve used the latter myself in my author bio. It’s a term directly referring to my choice of not working outside of the home. Now that my children are older, driving and with part-time jobs, the term has lost it’s value. I’m no longer chauffeuring kids, assisting with homework, volunteering at the school, etc. However, I’m still very much a “homemaker” and proud of it. I’ve taught my children the tasks that they’ll need whether they join the ‘workforce’ or eventually stay-at -home to raise their own children. Therefore, my job is useful regardless of the path they choose. How many positions in life can one say that applies to? Lets face it, one rarely hears the term Househusband, but as we all know, the stay-at-home Dad, definitely exists. And, many are doing a wonderful job of it while their wife is bringing home the money needed for Stevie Homemaker to properly manage the home.
I’ve never been one to get caught up in “labels” but I admit this one causes me to cringe. Housewife is a term that needs to be abolished. There’s no shame to the position but it’s like comparing the term “janitor” to “custodian” or “gopher” to “personal assistant”. A more dignified and glowing term can be taken from the era I grew up in, Homemaker.
Cleopatra a strong, intelligent and capable woman famously said to her troops, “Make it Happen.” Isn’t that what we women do all day long and tell our kids as they go off to school everyday? We make it happen; dinner, clean clothes, homework, growing gardens, financial stability, tidy homes, warm cookies, and ‘always look lovely’.