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The Shame Of Being A Housewife

Housewives should be paid

BY Aisling O'Toole

Sep 14, 2021, 12:17 PM

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As Kenyan women, we were raised to aspire to get good grades and be self-reliant. The word that most women are told is you better aspire to be "Miss Independent". Being a housewife in the Kenyan culture is looked down upon. Actually, most stay at home moms (SAHMs) are looked down upon and the job they do is not accepted as a form of work that should be rewarded.

It's very common to hear phrases such as "Soma ndio ukiolewa na muende ushago Christmas utaambiwa ukatekate salad so kuosha matumbo (Get an education so that when you get married and you visit your husband's relatives in the village they will task you with making salads, you won't get messy washing tripe)". This is seen as the job for the women who do nothing but stay at home giving birth and labouring in their houses.

These are just some of the nasty comments made by parents, siblings, aunties and uncles etc when they see a daughter in the family not putting an effort into their education. To be a housewife is a job delegated for the uneducated or women who lacked funds to join a local University.

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This job is looked down on that some women think because they are educated and have good jobs, drive a loaned car, they live in some Nairobi suburb or the Eastlands they are better than their house managers. They look down on their house helps who takes care of their home because being a home labourer or child caregiver is not a fancy office job that they can add to their LinkedIn profiles.

Women who take care of the home either as a wife or girlfriend need to start pressuring the government to institute a law that will pay them. The modern man wants the benefits of the 1970s but they have neglected their wives. Women who stay at home are - in modern society- seen as less than human beings.

A study by Consumer Insight indicated that 52 per cent of women would reconsider marriage if faced with the possibility of choosing between well-paying jobs and marriage. The report indicated that women in Kenya would change their life plans if their husband-to-be asked them to quit their jobs and become housewives.

For moms who stay at home to care for their children and husbands, they need to get a share of the man's salary. Raising kids is no easy fit, moms want to relax but their child will be playing and needing attention, another will want to be assisted with their homework, their food needs to be prepared.

How are we not paying stay at home mothers? Can you think of the number of times you see moms escorting their kids at the bus stop and waiting for hours for the driver to pull up? Kids nowadays, as young as 9 are at the bus stop by 5:30 depending on where they live. It is the work of stay at home moms to wake up at 4:30 am and make breakfast, drag them out of their beds, help them get dressed and ready for school.

She will also get her husband's clothes for the day and ready his meal before he lives the home for work. After that the home is a mess she has to do laundry, wash the utensils, clean the house, make beds and figure out what the family will have for supper. Tell me who works this hard without receiving a single dime? Economists in developed countries have suggested that Stay at home moms should be paid based on how many hours they toil at their jobs. So to achieve how much moms should be paid we will have to look at the labour they provide in the home and childcare.

Do we think about what happens when the children are older and they are independent, then what happens to this woman who has dedicated her life to her home and children? Does she have funds to sponsor the life she wants to live, think of it as a retirement package, the money you keep away so that when you are done with blue/white-collar employment you can take time to pamper yourself and run some personal projects? SAHMs have to think about how to bridge the career gap even as they get attached to their children.

Although most people may look at SAHMs as not being workers the job comes with its own challenges. However, most mothers in Kenya say the job is rewarding since they get to impact their children in various ways and instil values that will remain with them for years to come. As a developing country, we need to explain in legal terms what work means and actually admit that stay at home parents are part of the workforce and they do matter in the progress of our nation.

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