‘Just a housewife’: Debunking misconceptions about the African housewife

How many times have you heard people say, “she is just a housewife?”

Chances are that you’ve also said this so many times without realizing just how much you were undermining the value of someone who probably works way harder than the average human.

The world has a lot of misconceptions about housewives. Most of these have something to do with how seemingly easy housewives or stay at home mums have it compared to the ‘hard-working folks’ in offices. To help debunk some of these myths about housewives, I would like to take you through a day in the life of my friend, Jane, who has been a housewife for the past six years.

Jane had been working as a banker before she fell pregnant with her first child.
Sooner than later, Jane had to decide between keeping her job or losing her family. Naturally, she chose her family and for the past five years, she’s been working exclusively as a home manager. However, unlike other managers out there, Jane does not have the luxury of delegating work to others. She does all the work alone.

Under Jane’s care are her husband and three children (one being a stepchild from her husband’s previous marriage.) Here’s a breakdown of Jane’s work on an average day.

Image: @shutterstock

04:30

  • Jane wakes up to turn on the geyser, which is usually turned off when not in use to save on the electric bill.
  • She takes out all the cooking aids from the fridge that she will later need to use to prepare fresh meals for her family.
  • Some food that requires long cooking time is already half-cooked or precooked from the night before.
  • She goes back to sleep for about 20 minutes while the water heats up.

04:50

  • Jane is up for the day and goes straight into work mode.
  • She starts by preparing breakfast for everyone. No one in her family likes to eat that early in the morning so she packs the food into lunch boxes.
  • She then prepares lunch for everyone and packs into food warmers.
  • Using special food bags, Jane puts the lunch packs first into the bag and places the breakfast ones on top so everyone knows to eat the food in that order, top to bottom.
  • When she’s done with the food, and sometimes while some of it is still cooking on the stove, Jane wakes up the kids for bath time. She bathes the five-year-old twins, Josh and Glen, together and then moves on to Cynthia, her ten-year-old stepdaughter.
  • At ten, Cynthia has most her stuff figured out already, so she tries to help her mother wherever she can.
  • Jane helps the boys into their uniforms, which she ironed the night before.
  • She then helps Cynthia with her hair.

06:00

  • She runs a warm bath in the tub for her husband and goes to wake him up once it’s ready.
  • She lays out the clothes he will wear that day on the bed.

07:00

  • Husband leaves for work
  • Jane drives the kids to school, dropping off Cynthia first and the twins last.

09:00

  • Passes through the mall for some fresh grocery shopping

10.00

  • Jane is back home after bustling through the morning traffic.
  • With no maid to assist her, she gets straight to work, cleaning up chaos left behind by that morning’s activities. Her husband seems to think she doesn’t need a maid considering that her ‘only job’ is to take care of the house.

I didn’t get married just so I can pay a stranger to take care of my home,” he says.

  • She starts cleaning the living room first, the kitchen, dining room, three children’s bedrooms and finally master bedroom.
Image: @masterfile.com

2pm

  • She is done cleaning the whole house
  • She starts with the laundry. Her husband says he can smell the scent of dirty laundry from three blocks away so Jane knows better than to keep any dirty laundry longer in the house.
  • Some of it goes in the washer and the rest of it is hand washed.
  • Remembers to have lunch.

3pm

  • Jane gets ready to pick up the kids from school
  • Gets food out of the fridge in readiness for dinner
  • Cleans and cuts all the vegetables
  • Takes a bath
  • Goes out to pick up the kids from school.

5pm

  • Serves kids pre-dinner snack
  • Gets dinner ready in the kitchen

6pm

  • Serves the kids dinner

7pm

  • Cleans up after the kids dinner
  • Help kids with their homework
  • Prepare them for bed

8pm

  • Put children to bed
  • Read bedtime stories to all three.

8:45pm

  • Welcome Marvin home
  • Run bath in tub for him
  • Heat up food while he bathes
  • Eat dinner with him.

9:30pm

  • Clean up after dinner
  • Get tomorrow’s outfits and uniforms ready for wear
  • Pre-cook or half cook breakfast

10:30pm

  • Take quick shower before bed
  • Give Marvin a quick massage in bed
  • Attend to other bedroom duties

11:10

  • Finally go to sleep

04:30am

  • Wake up
  • Repeat all above steps

Somewhere in the unknown future

  • Get some much deserved rest. Or not.

Month-end

  • No income earned
  • Just happy and healthy husband and children as reward
  • And also the occasion “what were you doing all day?” from Marvin whenever she forgets to do something.

Jane is NOT JUST a housewife. She is superwoman.

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