Thumbnail image for HappyHousewife.jpgI thought this post was going to be about the Happy Housewife as a Happy Hostess--lots of tips from Martha about throwing a party, and some fun anecdotes about the party we threw this weekend. And I may still write that post, but in reality, actual party preparations brought up a whole other post.

For the first time since starting this project, I got a hint of the kind of resentment I imagine could be par for the course for women who live this lifestyle permanently. It turned out, due to a combination of Mark's work commitments, Mark's underestimation of how much work is involved in throwing a party, and my inability to say no before I got really angry, that the bulk of the pre-party preparations fell to me. I spent nearly a whole day (six plus hours) driving around, hitting a total of 8 stores (which, given how long it takes to get anywhere out here, is a lot), buying party supplies. I ran to the butcher, the hardware store, the beer and wine store, multiple grocery stores. And, by the end of the day, I was very, very angry.

It wasn't just that I felt I was being left with the majority of the preparations for a party that wasn't my idea in the first place--that was irritating, but dealable. My major resentment came from the fact that my taking charge of all of the party prep was expected. It wasn't something that was discussed or agreed upon, it fell on me by default. From what I've seen, this isn't something many women would find to be unusual. In my life, it is unusual, so I noticed, and I chafed.

In my situation, this expectation was just plain ridiculous. I may be doing this project, and I may be home all day, but I'm not a housewife. I work more than full-time. I bring home more than 50% off the bacon. Taking charge of this kind of thing is not in my contract. For me, then, this was just an oversight, a mistake. I don't expect it will happen again. But the experience brought something up that I've been thinking a lot about--how does this type of thing work for women who do take on full-time homemaker roles? Would this type of resentment be a factor? Would it be warranted?

Please weigh in. I wouldn't wish how mad I was about this on anybody--and I assume that those of you who have relationships with more separated household roles have a way to deal with this kind of thing, or else you'd hate each other. So fill me in?

14 Comments

I'm very interested to see what others have to say! My partner and I are contemplating a future in which he is a SAHD, and have definitely discussed what our jobs would be if that does become our arrangement. We both feel that it is very fair for him to take on all the cleaning, bills, making appointments for both of us, and day-time kid care. Also probably a lot of the cooking. I definitely would consider that to be his contribution to the household, and would become resentful if I was continuing to contribute and he was not. To us, that does mean that he would do things well enough that I could live with them - e.g. clean somewhat on my schedule, because I get antsy about messiness far earlier than he does.

I do wonder though if he'll become resentful that his job is less stimulating than mine. Hopefully it will take up less time, and be compensated for by the fact that it allows him lots of freedom. We shall see. I'm lucky that he's not constitutionally very resentful.

I have always taken on the bulk of any housekeeping, homemaking, hostessing responsibilities - even when I worked full time. I consider it my responsibility.

I feel absolutely no resentment in it. I love every aspect of it. (Except the fact that I have to match socks. I often pay my daughter money to match socks so I don't have to.)

My husband will do anything in the world that I ask of him. But, I have to ask. And I have to be specific. He's never minded a chore or a trip to a store, but he needs details and lists. I'm good with that and have never felt resentment about that, either.

Your first commenter said that it is a less stimulating job. I really don't agree with that. I love my job. I love taking care of my home and my husband and my kids - I love hostessing dinner parties or luncheons or having friends over for popcorn and a movie. It is stimulating, challenging, exciting. Being given the freedom of quitting my job and making homemaking a full time job was a dream come true for me and my husband. It opened a door to so much more than I even anticipated.

What I don't do well in entertaining is, well, entertain. That's my husband's area of specialty. He can work a room and talk to anyone. I'm much better serving food. I don't care what prep I have to do before a party or how long it takes me or what sleep gets sacrificed for it -- as long as he is there for the party so that he can do his thing after I've done mine, I'm good.

Hallee

I started to write a really long and detailed answer, then realized that I blogged about it a few months ago.

http://www.halleethehomemaker.com/2009/09/virtues-honor-working-at-home/

I know it's hard to believe but it is ok to feel some resentment. I think what you are feeling is not resentment for doing all the work but hoping for some gratitude and a pat on the back for doing it all. Which is fine. You deserve to be thanked and appreciated for all the hard work that you put into this party. I was in a similar situation last weekend. We hosted a pool party last weekend where we supplied ALL the food and drinks to 40 guests. It was a lot of work and I actually took a whole day (I work full time) off of work just to get all the supplies and prepare all the food. I felt great being able to do everything but was hoping for a "thank you" or "your the best" out of my mate. I mentioned this to him and after words he bragged to everyone he talked to about how I did everything and it made my day. Maybe you should talk to your spouse and metioned that you would like a little appreciation, that you deserve.

My biggest resentment about my housework is the fact that my husband will not put his dishes in the dishwasher. His mom used to yell at him that he didn't do it right so he just doesn't. I understand where he is coming from, but it bugs me.

I don't mind cooking, I don't mind cleaning the toilets and doing the laundry. I do mind the dishwasher thing though for some reason. Currently he supports us 100% while I go to school full time, and he doesn't mind that the house isn't always perfect (or even far from perfect).

I am a housewife, I have tried over the years to have a job outside the home and I just wasn't built for it.

So as a housewife, this type of thing wouldn't bother me at all. I love having parties, I love being a hostess. WHat most people don't realize is there is a distinct difference between being a housewife and being a SAHM.

As a housewife, I have a job to do, just as my husband has a job to do outside the home, my job is to take care of the home. All aspects of it, including throwing parties. If it is a last minute party my husband will do what he can to help me get ready, but the reality is I like things done a certain way.

I thrive in my environment, and I think that is the difference, resentment comes in when you are doing something you don't want to do. I love being a housewife, when you are doing something you thoroughly enjoy doing you get joy out of it.

"My partner and I are contemplating a future in which he is a SAHD... We both feel that it is very fair for him to take on all the cleaning, bills, making appointments for both of us, and day-time kid care. Also probably a lot of the cooking."

Wow. Really? If all of the cleaning, bills, and making appointments for both of you (including your own dentist appointments? really?) fit into the hours that you're at work, given that he would also be responsible for keeping the child(ren) entertained and alive during all of the time you're gone, then I guess that would be fine. But I'm really skeptical. I couldn't imagine that being the case if very young children were involved.

Hallee, that could have defined me to a tee! Including the part about my husband being better at working a room LOL

I think your feelings are completely valid. I'm sorry you're upset, but I'm sure if the roles were reversed -- and it was your husband who was going to be busy, but also at home -- he would have done the same for you. That's what marriage is about. You do things for each other, even if sometimes you squirm inside, and then have to write a post about it later. I quit my job back in 2008 to freelance full-time and manage my blog. Like you, I work A LOT (albeit from home) though unlike you, I do not bring home anywhere close to 50 percent of our household income. My husband and I have been married for 23 months now, and though he is an amazing person (as I'm sure your husband is) sometimes I get stuck with about 60 to 70 percent of the domestic duties during the week because...well, I'm the one at home. It would be unfair for me to expect him to come home from work at 7:30 p.m., and put in a load of laundry, or prepare dinner. I'm still hoping something will pan out for me in this job market (I live in L.A.) but I often have day terrors of becoming a housewife, so in that sense, I think I can relate to some of how you feel. You should tell your husband (even if he has already read this) how you feel/felt. Maybe there's something that you guys can work out so that in the future you both can plan better. If the party is on a Friday, maybe he can pick a few things up after work on Monday and Wednesday, alleviating some of the driving you'll have to do to prepare for guests. You may still have to do the bulk of the work, but at least you'll feel better knowing that he genuinely made the effort to help take the pressure off you. But you have to talk to him. Neither you, nor your spouse are mind readers, and if you expect him to understand how you're feeling without guiding his understanding, then you're setting him up to fail, which is something I'm sure you don't want to do. Feel better, and for whatever it's worth, I'm sure your party was awesome! :)

That's a bummer you ended up doing more than you were expecting. I can see why you'd end up resentful. Hopefully he'll make it up to you. It can be hard to plan a big party and take more work than you're expecting.

We had a get-together for my SO's birthday last night and I am tired today from staying up late to clean everything up! I did most of the prep work for the party too since it was for his birthday and he was out of town until that day If it was more of a random party I would have felt put out.

We have a weird balance in terms of housework because his job has him out of the house three days a week (that's 72 hour shifts), but then he has four days off. So he's simultaneously away more and off more. Though he takes classes and works extra shifts in a side job a lot so is busy on his 'days off' too. We've struck a pretty good balance though. We'll see what happens this fall when he starts school full time and only works part time!

Hilariously enough, I think the people I know that have the most experience with this would be Michael Weinberg and his wife, Jen. They throw great parties all the time and seem to divide things up well enough that they don't stab eachother with knives during the party. And they keep throwing great party after great party, so I assume that the arrangements are acceptable to them both.

I am a housewife. The only time I get resentful is when I feel like my hubby isn't trying to improve our income. My husband worked for a non-profit and when the recession hit there were some measures my hubby could have taken as prevention but he didn't now we don't even know how we're going to pay rent each month. (I could really go off on a rant.)
If my husband is working 40h a week I expect a little help here and there, I don't usually have to ask. If he is work 50 or 60 I try really hard not to ask for any, and if he is working less than 40 h I expect a lot of help. I am a housewife, and homeschooling mother. This adds up to about 50-60 hours a week of work. While I have a lot of freedom in how to structure my time it is ultimately my responsibility to see that all are groomed, fed, comfortable and lessons learned.
I feel like I pull my weight, even if I have an off month now and then and I expect everyone else to do so also.
When I feel resentful I try to be patient, not my forte, and also make it absolutely clear what is upsetting me and possible resolutions.

Skye - yeah, really. Like I said, we're not there yet...but I think its certainly a possibility. We'll have to see how things work out. Our best friends have a similar arrangement, and in fact he home schools several kids, and seem to do ok. The house isn't always as clean as they might like, but that's life.

Honestly though, I can't imagine how the cleaning WOULDN'T fit into the time that I'm at work. Maybe my standards are different than yours, or my house smaller, but at the moment we're getting it all done even though we're both full time graduate students. (I'm out of the house more than full time, at the moment). And we definitely don't spend our whole weekend cleaning or anything like that. Its not spotless, but its fine, you know.

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