AskDefine | Define homemaking

Dictionary Definition

homemaking n : the management of a household

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The management of a household considered as an occupation.

Related terms

Extensive Definition

Homemaker is a mainly American term which may refer either to:
  • the person within a family who is primarily concerned with the management of the household, whether or not he or she works outside the home
  • a person whose prime occupation is to care for their family and/or home
The term homemaker is preferred by some to housewife or househusband because it is inclusive, defines the role in terms of activities, rather than relation to another or gender, and is independent of marital status. The terms stay-at-home mom and stay-at-home dad are also used, particularly if the person views their central role as caring for children. The euphemistic term "domestic engineer" has gone out of favor, being seen by some as satirical, as if to give a sense of mock dignity to a role held in low esteem by the speaker. Likewise, the term "housekeeper" has come to describe hired cleaning help, and is no longer used—other than in a derogatory way—to describe homemaking.
Traditionally the role of "homemaker" has been filled predominantly by women. Even to this day, homemaking is perceived by many societies as the natural role for women. In recent years there has been some political and societal backlash against feminist criticism regarding traditional roles for women. This backlash may be attributed to the recent decades' progress of the feminist movement and its implications on society, and may be compared to the backlash that took place in postwar America. The backlash could be seen, at least in part, in both the increasing prominence of "professional" homemakers such as Martha Stewart, and a rise in Evangelical Christianity which views traditional roles as being conducive to the stability of the traditional family unit and the people therein. However, homemaking is not always a lifetime commitment: many homemakers, for economic or personal reasons, return to the workplace


United States

According to the 2000 Census (table QT-P26), half of all married couple families are dual-income, with both husband and wife working. In just under a quarter of families, only the husband worked. In 6.4% of families, only the wife worked.

Multicultural norms

In agriculture studies, the word "homemaker" is occasionally used referring to the person who does the majority of the chores within a farm's compound, as opposed to field and livestock work.

United Kingdom

The term "homemaker" is not used in the United Kingdom. Housewife is the preferred term in the UK and many other English speaking countries, and house-husband is commonly used to refer to a male stay-at-home partner.


In imperial China (excluding periods of the Tang dynasty when women had high status in society), women were bound to homemaking by the doctrines of Confucianism. When the husband was alive and able to work, the wife was usually forbidden to take a job outside the house. As Confucianism spread across East Asia, this social norm was also observed in Korea and Japan.
After the founding of the Republic of China in the early 20th century, these norms were gradually loosened and many women went out to make a living. During the rule of the People's Republic of China, all women were freed from compulsory family roles. During the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, many women were required by the government to do work for which many were not physically suited . This policy was later abolished.
Still, in modern China, it is not common for women (particularly those in urban area) to be housewives. Even in wealthy families, most women are aware that a housewife is stripped of financial resources and is dependent on her husband. In most modern Chinese homes, women work simply because one person's income is insufficient to support the family, a decision made easier by the fact that it is common for Chinese grandparents to take care of their grandchildren before they are old enough to go to school. Nonetheless, the number of Chinese housewives has been steadily growing in recent years as China's economy makes it possible, and as part of the global backlash, though househusbands are almost unanimously frowned upon.


Homemakers are usually financially dependent on members of the household who are employed; however, people working full-time (particularly under "at-will employment" arrangements) benefit from the unwaged work provided by the homemaker, the maintenance of such work in his/her absence would cost money (child care, cooking, housecleaning, teaching, transporting). As of May 2007, the average annual salary of a homemaker in the U.S, if correlated to the total cost of outsourcing each element of her work to an external contractor, would be approximately $138,000. Working Moms would earn $85,876 annually for the "mom job" portion of their work, in addition to their actual "work job" salary.

Formal education

In previous decades, there used to be a large amount of courses mandatory for young women to learn the skills of housekeeping. In high school, courses included cooking, nutrition, home economics, family and consumer science or food and cooking hygiene. Today, these courses have been mostly abolished, and many modern women would be more likely to explore resources on the topic of child development and managing children's behavior.

Male role in homemaking

Househusbands or Stay at home dads are seen in increasing numbers in Western culture (especially Canada and the northern U.S.), since the late 20th century. In East Asian nations such as Japan and South Korea this practice is less common.
There are several reasons why there has been an increase in househusbands over the past few years.
  1. Women are progressing into higher paying jobs. There are now financial ramifications in deciding which parent is to become the stay-at-home parent. In cases where the woman is the higher-paid parent, so it makes more economic sense for her to continue to work while the male stays home.
  2. The idea of fixed gender roles has become less prominent in the Western world of the recent years, allowing men to make their own choice of career, regardless of what used to be a requirement for them.
  3. The men who choose this role, may do so because they enjoy being an active part of their children's lives and do not want to be away from the family as much as their fathers may have been. Families vary widely in terms of how household chores are divided.
  4. The rising number of single fathers and gay couples raising children mean that there is no potential stay-at-home mother.
Depending on the country or region in which a stay-at-home dad lives, he might find more or less social support for his decision. In some regions where traditional roles prevail, a stay-at-home dad might be shunned by the stay-at-home mom peer group. In order to find support for their choice, men have created and joined many support networks
However, despite the gains of the acceptance of the househusband, there are still many men who are trying to find acceptance in this role.
One 2002 study suggested stay-at-home dads may face a higher risk of heart disease. The reasons for the alleged health risk, however, are not specified.

Modern mothers

Some modern women are embracing the role of full-time parent. Most of these women have left the paid workforce so that they can raise their children, particularly through their early years before entering kindergarten. There is considerable variability within the "stay-at-home" mom population with regard to their intent to return to the paid workforce. Some work from their home, some do part-time work, some intend to return to part or full time work when their children are in school, and others may never return to the paid workplace. Similarly, there is considerable variation in the "stay-at-home" mom's attitude towards domestic work not related to caring for children.
Some may embrace a traditional role of "housewife," where the woman cooks and cleans in addition to caring for children. But many modern homemakers see their primary role as that of child-care providers -- supporting their children's physical, intellectual, and emotional development. These homemakers can be found in cooperative preschools and volunteering in numerous community organizations. Other aspects of home care (shopping, cooking, cleaning, yard work, home repairs, money managing) is shared equally with their husbands or partners.

Feminist critique

Many feminists, such as Betty Friedan, have criticised the marginalisation of women as 'homemakers'. Feminists generally suggest that 'homemaking' should be an appropriate role for a parent of either sex, believing that gender roles do not have any basis other than social conditioning. Also, they maintain that women can become socially isolated by being tied to their home. While some feminists denigrate and insult "stay-at-home moms", at times coming as far as calling them slaves of the patriarchy, others argue that feminism respects all choices people make. They would argue that the goal of feminism is not to close off any options for women, but to create opportunities for women to pursue careers in traditionally male occupations, as well as providing males an option to pursue roles that so far have been perceived as "strictly female".
Some feminists as well as certain non-feminist economists (particularly historical materialists) also point out that the monetary contribution of homemakers' work to society is ignored in standard formulations of economic output, such as GDP or employment figures. Homemakers work many unrecorded hours a week, while depending on their partner's employment to provide health insurance and household income. Proponents of collective economics point out that homemakers' work does not contribute to the general economy, and should not be rewarded with tax breaks.


homemaking in German: Haus- und Familienarbeit
homemaking in Spanish: Ama de casa
homemaking in Esperanto: Dommastrumado
homemaking in Persian: خانه‌داری
homemaking in French: Femme au foyer
homemaking in Hebrew: עקרת בית
homemaking in Dutch: Huisvrouw
homemaking in Japanese: 主婦
homemaking in Portuguese: Dona-de-casa
homemaking in Simple English: Homemaker
homemaking in Swedish: Hushållsarbete
homemaking in Chinese: 家庭主婦
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