Is it a job to be a housewife?
Care work and family: I am a housewife. So what?
Family care work can make you happy. But then it must also be treated politically like work.
Not only does it involve a lot of work, there are also many important values to convey. Illustration: Eléonore Roedel
"What do you actually work?" It was always a bit annoying to answer this question, it was actually meant a different one: "What do you earn money with?"
Depending on the form of the day, I answered: “Nothing at all”, “I sit on the sofa all day, sipping cocktails and leafing through glossy magazines” or “I am a housekeeper and work in my family”.
These questions didn't really hurt me, after all, after training as a housekeeper and studying nutritional science, it was a conscious decision, after two children were part of the family, to look after them full-time. Most thought that was "great". Only a few noticed that we could certainly afford that too. However, I don't know many families who do the same.
For 12 years this old model of the single breadwinner and the housewife at home worked well for us. On the one hand, I am very happy to be a housekeeper, I just enjoy taking care of things; on the other hand, the professionalism achieved in training and studies gives satisfaction in doing.
We were very well aware of the risks of old-age poverty and divorce and we can and can be insured privately. Partial employment, on the other hand, did not seem financially worthwhile to us because of the high expenditure.
If you honestly count the comparatively higher costs for care, living and mobility in the case of hourly employment against the additional income, you usually only have a few hundred euros left. The price that the family would have paid with a life “just sewn to the edge” seemed too high to us.
The ways to the children's institutions and to one's own workplace are time-consuming, and the opening times are not always helpful. Food preparation always has to be quick, something is always missing in the refrigerator and in the rest of the supply. Constantly it has to be agreed and negotiated who will "take over" the children and when. In our circle of friends it is not uncommon for the grandparents to travel to the children's place of residence for two and a half days every week to take care of the grandchildren.
All of this can work if the family is very well organized and the processes are well structured. On the other hand, it becomes an endurance test every time the children are sick, the partner is not resilient or the machines that do the rough work for us break down. Even six weeks of summer vacation can be a real impertinence.
In the ears of a supplementary, single mother or a family just above the Hartz IV assessment limit, our calculation as a young family must sound like a mockery. Why is caring for a family not properly rewarded in our society?
Back to the job you learned?
Not only does it involve a lot of work, there are also many important values to be conveyed there: mutual care, careful treatment of nature and creation, cooking and eating culture, game culture, culture of debate, culture of entertainment ... such a valuable time with young children that I was able to experience there. It is intense, over very quickly - and it cannot be repeated.
When the children are older - our youngest daughter's end of elementary school was a good time - things can work out differently. I think it's right to show the children that you can organize yourself well, that you have to stick to agreements and that they too can and should make a contribution so that the household takes care of everyone as well as possible.
This text comes from the taz on the weekend. Always from Saturday at the kiosk, in the eKiosk or with a practical weekend subscription. And on Facebook and Twitter.
Of course, also because we cannot know whether there will be such an opportunity in the future for our children as we have taken. I think it is unlikely that incomes in Germany will develop in such a way that our model is a real option when our children start working in five to ten years.
After twelve years as a housewife, I've been back to work for four years. Not as an ecotrophologist, however, as re-entry is difficult. The problem that it is not so easy to get back into the job you have learned is, besides the loss of income, certainly the second nasty pitfall in the part-time trap, which primarily affects women.
The image of housekeeping
That's why I'm now working as a representative at an Oldenburg elementary school. If a teacher is absent, I come and try to continue what is topic as meaningfully as possible. This required training to become a pedagogical worker over 118 hours of instruction.
At school I experience that children are sent to school sick, even though they vomited at night, for example. They then say: “Mom said everything is out now; and I can't stay at home alone. ”I feel sorry for everyone: the child, the parents, the classmates who are infected in rows, and sometimes me too, when“ everything wasn't out ”.
The German Housewives Association (DHB), the professional association of all those employed in private households, has been fighting for the recognition of the work done there for over a hundred years. He has played a key role in ensuring that the state-recognized profession of housekeeper even exists, and one honestly tries to enhance the image of housekeeping activities.
When we moved to Oldenburg 18 years ago, the local association offered me to take over individual lessons in the training of housekeepers. What I like to do myself, to run a household well and safely, seemed to me there in concentrated form, sedate and conservative, the teaching activity somehow seemed like a schoolmaster.
Energy for family life
I have never cared about being a perfect housewife or convincing others of it. I really just want the household to run well so that there is energy left for family life and everyone is well taken care of.
However, today I see more clearly the losses to our society that parents' withdrawal from family households entails. All of the values listed above and much more must be conveyed in schools and care facilities. These groan under the weight of the many educational work that has to be done in the meantime.
Incidentally, in his job my husband doesn't need constant confirmation of how important, responsible, indispensable and so on his job is. However, he has this confirmation in front of him every month on our account
Incidentally, in his job my husband doesn't need constant confirmation of how important, responsible, indispensable and so on his job is. However, he has this confirmation in front of him every month on our account. This recognition is missing for the work that is done in families.
If we are currently thinking about a basic income based on solidarity, unconditional or any other kind of basic income, there is also the possibility - and it must be taken absolutely - of decent wages for care work in the family. It is also about providing those parents who choose to look after their children at home with fair protection for their old age.
Labor market policy measures can help parents find their way out of part-time or time-out. Family policy has to regulate that parents can reduce their employment outside the home without loss of income. And tax policy instruments must ensure that small, additional income from part-time employment is not taxed so high that it is hardly worthwhile to go to work. I am sure that if there is the political will to regulate this well, it will work.
What work is important for society?
There has to be a real choice, especially for families who cannot do without the small extra income. Only then can we hope parents will take hold of them.
With a structural change in thinking about which work is important for this society and which is therefore fundamentally remunerated, the entire approach to this work will change. If there are no more “family breaks” and “parental leave” in the way a society thinks and uses it, then no one needs to laboriously venture back into working life from a life as a housewife or husband.
He or she can then perhaps quite unabashedly make all the skills and qualities acquired in the family shine elsewhere in our society.
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