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Consumerism, budgeting and wifework

(156 Posts)
Tortoiseonthehalfshell Thu 04-Aug-11 04:28:16

So you know, just a trivial thread then.

Blackcurrants said something in the decluttering thread about us all having far more stuff than our forebears, and that partly leading to this problem with housework. I don't think that's at all true, actually. I think biggish households used to have big stores of linens, preserved food, candles, etc., because it wasn't possible to run out and buy a replacement at 2am, and without machines to wash dishes and clothes and carpets one needed more of those things to allow for the time consuming process of cleaning them.

But the reason I'm talking about it in a different thread is, I've been thinking about consumerism recently. It seems like everyone in my world is talking budgeting, decluttering, repurposing. We're in an era of austerity. Just as the mythical traditional household set up (woman at home, man at work, a nuclear family situation that existed between about 1945 and 1960) is held up as the Golden Ideal by social conservatives, it seems like wartime austerity, or the depression, are being lauded as an 'we was poor but we was 'appy' ideal.

And just as women are judged by the state of their houses, I think we're also, in this era, judged by, and blamed for, how much we buy. Are you poor? Is your home too small? Do you have debts? Well it's all that plastic crap you buy, isn't it? If you were just pure of heart and put more time and energy into repurposing, recycling, decluttering, you wouldn't have any of these problems. Look at the shining example of your forebears!

It's bloody women's work again, though, isn't it? All the women I know spend time decluttering, thinking about our houses, repurposing furniture (ok, that's fun, but still), scouring charity shops and flea markets for things to use, we swap coupons and keep mental lists of sales cycles, we meal plan and we start threads on websites about all of it. It just occurred to me yesterday how much mental energy, and in fact physical time, I spend on this. My husband, who has always done loads of housework and childcare and been about as Nigel as one can be? He does not think about this. At all. Ever. Yes, I spend more than he does. Because I do all the kid purchases, all the food purchases, all the home decor purchases. All on sale, or thrifted, or freecycled.

I suspect that even in households where the husband is the earner, and/or controls the finances, the minutaie that I'm talking about is wifework. Do you think I'm right?

StewieGriffinsMom Thu 04-Aug-11 08:30:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Wallissimpson Thu 04-Aug-11 08:34:45

Well yes, I do all that because my DH is out working an 80 hour week and then some.

I know whose life I'd prefer.

snowmama Thu 04-Aug-11 10:07:40

I work an 60 -80 hour week out of the home, and as I don't have a SAHW.. we are not big on any austerity measures or wifework of any sort... I generally buy online (full price to get what I need rather than what is on offer)

All labour saving/time saving devices welcome in this particular household!

CaptainBarnacles Thu 04-Aug-11 10:55:30

Yes, completely agree, blackcurrants. I think this is spot on.

Also agree with snowmama: I am a single parent and work FT at the moment, and it leaves precious little time for this sort of work.

tethersend Thu 04-Aug-11 11:02:15

DP does all the budgeting in our house as I simply can't add up. We built a relationship upon a mutual love of crap from junk shops, and both spend a lot of time hunting for bargains on ebay and second hand shops (I promise we are more interesting than this suggests), so it's not true for me.

However, I do agree that it is the case for most other couples/families we know.

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Thu 04-Aug-11 14:16:05

Captain, did you just mistake me for Blackcurrants? I'm all sorts of flattered.

I do like doing this stuff. But I like cooking and housework, too, it doesn't make it any less 'women's work'. And as snowmama says, it's very time consuming. It takes a fair amount of my leisure time. I carry a mental record of the sales cycles in Australia, the UK and the US for clothes. That's exactly what I mean by wifework, it's yet another invisible thing that women do to support the family lifestyle which either goes entirely unnoticed, or is used ^against us^- oh, bloody women, always worrying about the price of eggs. So trivial. You know?

HerBeX Thu 04-Aug-11 17:48:27

What is sales cycles?

TimeWasting Thu 04-Aug-11 18:13:24

Frugality without minimalism will undoubtedly increase wifework.

I don't do anything that could be construed as home decor. So not only am I saving more money on it than you, I am also saving myself all that time too. grin

TheRealTillyMinto Thu 04-Aug-11 21:17:55

Yes. in many (unequal) relationships, men get the choose their contribution to the household so are likely to choose the 'important' tasks than the unnoticed, repetitive things.

Wallissimpson Thu 04-Aug-11 21:30:38

Do you think Tilly?

We chose our roles together.

It went something like this.

Me : After the baby is born, shall I SAH and you carry on working at your extremely well paid job which you love or shall I go back to work at the job I loathe that pays me £30 K a year?

Him : OOh, I don't know. Oh ,hang on, as we have an unequal relationship I must insist on you SAH and swanning about quite a bit if I'm honest doing the boring wifework -- don't mention the cleaner-- okay, downtrodden bitch?

TimeWasting Thu 04-Aug-11 21:34:16

You see where Tilly used the word 'many'? Not 'all'?

Cleverything Thu 04-Aug-11 21:45:41

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Wallissimpson Thu 04-Aug-11 21:54:58

Well that's a result then Clevery.
One less job for her.


TimeWasting Thu 04-Aug-11 22:09:12

hmm I think we may shortly be accused of thinking too much.

Wallissimpson Thu 04-Aug-11 22:36:52

Oh no, you go ahead and think as much as you like. grin

Just don't presume to think for others, is all.

Plenty of women, given the choice between wifework at home and husbandwork out of it, choose the former. Yep, plenty choose the latter too but both are choices many women are free to make.
There is no comparison, in my family, between my DH and I on who has the harder job. He does. Without question. Shoving the vac around a couple of times a week and looking after four kids is a doodle in comparison with his life.
I have no idea why so many think menz have it easy compared with women. That is and has never been my experience or the experience of the women I know.
Maybe it has far more to do with financial status or social class? I don;t know. But I am genuinely interested in hearing why wifework is harder/a drudge/ etcetc.

TimeWasting Thu 04-Aug-11 22:39:43

Are you genuinely interested? Really?

HerBeX Thu 04-Aug-11 22:45:25

It's very nice for you if you think looking after kids and doing shitwork at home is easier than having a high status well paid job outside the home Wallis.

But many women don't find it easier so that's why we're discussing it. If you're here in order to tell everyone that their feelings about it being harder aren't valid, then you're not really here for the right reason.

Wallissimpson Thu 04-Aug-11 22:54:14

Why is it not easier? Seriously?
Okay, mine are all in school now so it is super easy but even when it wasn't my days were relatively relaxed. I did the basics of housework then met friends for chats and to socialise. Got home, kids napped or played while I made dinner.

Now, they go to school and I ride do horseshitwork all day . wink

DH leaves the house at about 5 am ( when he isn't in the arse end of some other country), works through lunch, gets home about 8 or 9. Repeat until next trip to the arse end of nowhere.

Why is my job ( and I have FOUR small children) harder?

I will add this. I think it is disingenuous to lump all SAHM together. There are vast differences in stress levels and enjoyment between well off women who can outsource teh worst bits for a start. SAH in a comfortable, large house preparing food you haven't had to budget for and knowing that you have childcare to do what you want to do when you want to do it is very different from being a SAHM on a low wage struggling on teh bus and to get by.
I think financial status is hugely significant in how we deal with this and how we are viewed by others.

StewieGriffinsMom Thu 04-Aug-11 22:58:39

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TimeWasting Thu 04-Aug-11 23:03:12

I find the lack of intellectual and creative output quite hard personally.

Wallissimpson Thu 04-Aug-11 23:03:55

Perhaps because I am tired of hearing how shit womens lives are ( and you insist on lumping us all together as some uniform mass), how downtrodden we all are.

That is simply not the experience of most of the women I know. I Know that is not what you want to hear, but it is the experience of many ,many women whose voices you don't want to hear because they don't chime with what you want to believe.

HerBeX Thu 04-Aug-11 23:04:05

No one is lumping all SAHMs together.

Why is it not easier?

For many reasons. As you rightly point out, people are individuals and you also point out that income levels, social status levels, etc. are also important in how people feel about their situations. Also, whether you have actively, happily chosen to be a SAHM or whether you have been shoe-horned into it because the workplace and wages being structured as they are, it was a no-brainer.

Being on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with no time off, no renumeration, no recognition and a crap pension plan (the continued goodwill of your earning partner) is something many women find unbearably hard. Also many find housework deeply dull, difficult and repetitive.

Lots of SAHMs don't have that experience and love being SAHMs and wouldn't have it any other way. But for those who don't, it is valid to discuss the issue.

I hope that goes some way to helping your understanding so that people who want to discuss the subject matter of the thread, can do so without having to continually explain why it's valid to discuss it.

Wallissimpson Thu 04-Aug-11 23:05:51

Timewasting, valid point. Are your kids not yet school age?

TimeWasting Thu 04-Aug-11 23:06:51


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