Cover Photo: Ron Lach / Pexels

In this think piece, we reflect on how far we've come—or not—when it relates to judging women's choices and who (ahem) still bears the brunt of household and emotional labour

The world gradually evolves along with the people in it, but does that mean we always get progress? Even now in 2022, we find ourselves returning to supposedly-outgrown problems and stereotypes of race, class, and gender.

Lo and behold, people continue to find new ways to criticise women's role in society, even going as far as finding fault in their decision to become a homemaker or stay-at-home mum in the 21st century.

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"Don't you just want to be a housewife and stay at home?"

I've been posed this question a few times, mostly in jest, by peers who share my situation (that being a young professional working to make ends meet while dreaming of her future). Although I admire the thought of nurturing my own tot, I could never become a homemaker, because I cannot imagine giving up my career.

I'm not the type to sneer at those who make that choice, however. But there is a tad few who find homemaking in this day and age something to be ashamed of. It is frustrating to find out that the world has put pressure once more on women to conform to a new norm.

"It isn't fashionable these days to be a homemaker, and I can't recall the [number] of times when I've been asked what I do for a living and when I've answered 'I'm a stay at home mum' and it's stopped a conversation completely," stay-at-home mum Jet Acuzar shares. "We need to destigmatise homemaking because we need to allow ourselves to define what joy means to us and what fulfilment and success look like, and it is not going to be the same for everyone."

Georgia Schulze del Rosario would agree. She relates, "To me, all paths are honourable. Your worth as a woman shouldn’t be measured by whether you choose to be at home, or out building a career."

"I can see how it is easy to think that homemakers stay at home and do nothing all day but this is far from reality. A stay at home parent means working on the home and most importantly raising and nurturing its inhabitants—it’s a 24-hour job," adds Jessica Tan Gan. 

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In the past, there was an obvious labour division between the wife and the husband. But the line between the two has been increasingly blurred since more women began to join the workforce from the 1930s onward. Today, the pedestal that the working woman has been placed on by society, has in many ways contributed to the stigmatisation of being a homemaker. 

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"Before becoming a mum I thought I’d go back to work after one month but soon after I gave birth I realised how important it was for me to stay close to my baby—to nourish and nurture. Being a housewife or homemaker needs to be de-stigmatized because being a parent is a very important job," Tan Gan emphasies.

What some fail to see is that homemakers can also be providers who contribute to the household, be it through income by either earning from home while juggling both domestic and economic responsibilities or by taking care of the entire family plus household needs–which is by no means a small nor easy feat. 

Acuzar herself has set up a website and an Instagram account for The Forewoman (@theforewoman) where she shares lovely bespoke crafts she's made in her workshop. 


Schulze del Rosario also finds it freeing. "Having to answer to myself keeps me on my toes as well, and allows me to work on every facet of myself as a woman. I am able to hone my passion for food when I cook for my family and bake for my small home-based business. Professionally, I am still able to write—sometimes contracted, and other times for myself, whether for my blog or my children’s books," she says.

There are also other notable examples of Filipina homemakers who have gone beyond what was expected of them; the likes of Corazon Aquino, the Philippines' first female President, have changed the way we perceived homemakers. 

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Even so, traditional values about the responsibilities and roles of men and women have been proven tough to shake locally and globally. And the load has become more taxing for Filipina women during the pandemic.

An article from CNN Philippines revealed that the 2021 National Household Care Survey shows how Filipino women are "'still bearing the brunt of unpaid care work,' spending up to 13 hours a day juggling multiple activities versus only 8 hours for Filipino men, a minor improvement from 5 hours a day in 2017."

It was also mentioned that a Filipino woman puts in 6.5 hours a day "to do care work as their primary activity in comparison to an average of 2.43 hours per day for Filipino men."

There are various contributing factors to this; one would be that household members still tie chores to genders (washing cars is a man's job and so on), and another would be the internalised sexism in some women who were raised to believe that homemaking is mainly their responsibility. Apart from housework, there's also the mental load and emotional labour—which is often unnoticed by other members of the household and challenging to track.

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Homemaking is a full-time job in itself, and more should be done than mere praise. It also deserves support from both the family and the government. In July 2021, chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo proposed that housewives, single mothers and even working mothers should receive an allowance, but as of now, no legislation has moved forward.

One way to resolve this dilemma at home is for the household members, women and men, to communicate about how to divide up tasks, their expectations, and any frustrations. While it might be impossible to outgrow these traditional beliefs overnight, I have learnt to speak openly as early as now.

Growing up surrounded by several strong female figures in a Catholic home, I have always felt the pressure of becoming a woman who serves through housework. This does not mean that I don't enjoy it though. Admittedly, I've come to love the therapeutic effects of doing housework. Without shame, I imagine myself doing the same as I enter married life as a working professional—not on my own but with my partner because creating a loving home is a shared responsibility that benefits all.


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