‘Oh darling, I just love being a housewife like Princess Kate’
As the new Duchess of Cambridge stays at home to look after her man, Stephanie Bell meets Northern Ireland wives who love doing just that
She was the most modern of Royal brides yet Kate Middleton has chosen to follow a very traditional role as a housewife, staying at home to look after her husband.
It’s a decision which will disappoint the global fans desperate for every glimpse they can get of the gorgeous new Duchess and one which sees her start married life in a world which is a million miles away from the opulence of her Westminster Abbey wedding.
Instead of a Royal palace, the newlyweds have settled into their modest rented cottage in North Wales where Kate intends to play the role of “ordinary housewife” while Prince William continues his career as an RAF Search and Rescue pilot.
According to reports, Kate wants to follow in the Duchess of Cornwall's footsteps after her wedding to Prince Charles in 2005.
Camilla vowed to have a “supporting role” after her wedding six years ago and Kate hopes to do the same — and wants to enjoy life in their farmhouse in Anglesey. There is an obvious element of easing the future Queen of England into her new life as a royal and no doubt a protective Prince William has had a hand in it.
Undoubtedly Kate has given ammunition to her critics who have already accused the 29-year-old as being “work-shy”.
But the fact that the young couple want to spend a few years enjoying being newly-weds and living as normal a life as possible, reflects Kate’s strength of character.
And her choice to be a housewife may not be as out-of-touch with the times as it appears.
A recent report by the eminent LSE sociologist Catherine Kakim suggests that feminism is dead and most women now want to marry a rich husband and stay at home.
This sparked a huge media debate with Grazia magazine asking its readers to choose between ambition and “man-bition”.
With equality of opportunity for women so hard fought for, the pendulum now seems to have swung so far in the opposite direction that even though we now have the luxury of choice; there is something of a stigma attached to those women opting to look after hubby and home.
We talked to four happy housewives who each gave up careers to be at home and asked what they think of Kate’s decision and whether it might help change public perception of the much maligned role of the housewife.
‘The financial sacrifice is worth it’
Heather McKew (27) a qualified nursery nurse from Dollingstown, Co Down, is married to a labourer and has four children, Jodie (6), Jessie (5), Jaxon (2) and Jayden (1). She says:
I always had it in my head that when I had children I would stay at home and mind them. Especially given my field of work, I didn’t see the sense in minding other peoples’ children while sending my children to be looked after by someone else. People do think that you are sitting at home drinking coffee when that couldn’t be further from the truth. Being a housewife and mum is a busy life but it is more relaxed than for women who are working.
Instead of spending the couple of days off you have at the weekend cleaning and catching up on household chores, by being a housewife you can spread them through the week which makes life a lot more stress free. There is a financial sacrifice but weighed against the advantages of me being at home, it is worth it. We pass the clothes and toys down through the children and there isn’t much spare cash but we get by.
Neither of us smoke or drink or go out — all the money goes into our home and family. You just have to be sensible with it. The way we look at it is if we both were coming home at six to pick up kids and start making dinner and doing homeworks, it would just be chaos. I’m happy the way things are and we wouldn’t have it any other way. While it’s not easy, it is pleasurable and you don’t miss out on the all the firsts with your children. I think Kate Middleton is very gutsy to have decided to be a housewife and I admire her for it.”
‘My family keeps me so busy I don’t get time for lunch’
Tammy Thompson (38), from Dollingstown, is married to Nigel, and has two children, Nicola (7), and Haley (5). She says:
I have known since I was in my early teens that I wanted to stay at home after I had kids. I remember telling everyone at 14 that I wanted to be a housewife and the reaction was one of shock. I grew up in Canada where going through university leaves you in debt of around $200,000. I was very bright but decided against university because I knew I wanted marriage and a family and to me there was no point getting into all that debt.
My friends were really shocked by my decision. Growing up, everyone in Toronto was very career-orientated but I have noticed in the last 10 years that there has been a real change.
A lot of my friends who went to university and had good careers have now given them up to be at home with their families.
I worked as an accountant administrator and trainer on stage accounting software before I had my first child. My husband and I saved my wage to pay off the mortgage as we knew we would only be living on his when we started our family, so we wanted to get used to living with one wage.
He works hard and I am happy to be a housewife and do all the things like cooking and cleaning and washing and ironing as he brings home the money.
It is really important to me that my children grow up with my morals and not someone else’s which is why I want to be at home for them. It is important for me to put what we believe as a couple into their lives.
I remember when I did leave work I used to volunteer for a church youth group and they commented on all the free time I must now have as a housewife and I just laughed as most days I don’t even get time for lunch. I do the school runs and the housework and grocery shopping, and then homeworks and running the kids to their various after-school activities, then prepare dinner — it never stops.
Leaving work has meant sacrifices but to me they are worth it. I have lived in Northern Ireland for 17 years and used to get home every year at least once to see my family, now it’s maybe every three years as we can’t afford it. I also try to shop around for cheaper insurances and things like oil.
I’m proud of Kate Middleton for her decision to be a housewife. It definitely has a stigmatism attached to it but to me family is the most important thing. |People might expect so much more of Kate which makes her decision all the more admirable.
I think the Royal family has learnt from mistakes of the past and she no doubt doesn’t want to make the same mistakes.”
‘I am not fluffing cushions and baking bread every day’
Cathy Law (39), from Bangor, is a former public relations consultant and mum to Jamie (8), and Ben (5). She recently gave up work to become a housewife after moving to Canada because of her husband Gregor’s work. She says:
My husband was offered the opportunity to work in Canada and I felt it would be a chance for me to stop working for a while and spend more time with the family. To me, family comes first and this break from work is a chance to support my husband as he embarks on a new challenge in his career while also spending some quality time with my kids while they are still young enough to appreciate it.
The small things that were stressful when I was working have become easier and as a result much more enjoyable. When the kids are doing homework I can take more time to really go through things with them without my Blackberry buzzing in the background.
If they are sick I can pick them up immediately and take them home rather than having to phone round friends and family. I have more time to play with them, which is great fun. I am relaxed and I think as a result they are happier.
In the traditional sense of the word I am not a natural housewife and never will be. I can’t say that housewifery fills me with joy. I am not fluffing cushions and baking bread every day.
I definitely think the role of a housewife does not get the recognition it should and even the term housewife is somewhat antiquated and slightly derogatory.
My day is quite hectic. I get everyone ready in the morning, pack lunchboxes, get schoolbags ready and — as I am not rushing on to a meeting — I am able to walk the kids to school. A few household chores, a cup of coffee, maybe a run and then I pick up Ben at 11.20.
I am involved in a number of projects at the school that can take up my mornings and after lunch the next pick-up is due, followed by after-school clubs.
Then it’s home for homework, dinner and more fun before bedtime. And finally it is time to start getting ready for the next day.
“I think that Kate Middleton is confident enough not to need a career to define her and is happy to support her husband is a testament to her personality. I don’t think it marks a return to form for the perfect housewife — just a modern woman making a choice for the benefit of those closest to her and who can argue with that? We are lucky today to have the choice — something that the 1950s “perfect housewife” did not have.”
‘You make it work for you’
Cheryl Hall, from Lurgan, is married to Ashley, a builder, and has three children, Ross (13), Rebecca (12), and Leah (10). She says:
I became a housewife and stay-at-home mum after my third child was born. Before that I worked as a secretary. It just didn’t seem feasible to be paying child-minding costs when I could be at home and I was happy to do it.
My husband earns a modest wage so it did mean tightening our belts a bit but we are happy to make do for the sake of the children. I’m kept so busy in the house and with the children that I sometimes wonder how I managed to work before.
I have two school runs at the minute and in September there will be three, plus all the after-school activities. My days are busy but that’s the way I like it.
It is important to me to be there for the children when they come home from school and have that time with them.
I feel a bit self-conscious when people I don’t know ask me what I do and I tell them I am a housewife and mother. I worked for 17 years and now that I am not, I feel that is frowned upon and people think I couldn’t have much ‘get up and go’ if I don’t have a career.
I think Kate Middleton is a modern young woman and I think women need to be strong like her and make decisions which are right for them.
At the end of the day, you have to make it work for you.”
- Anthea Turner’s TV show and book, How to be the Perfect Housewife: Lessons in the Art of Household Management gave Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, first published in 1861, a modern twist.
- American super-housewife Martha Stewart made the domestic arts into a multi-million dollar business, with typical website features including potato salad recipes, planting the terrace at Skylands (her summer retreat) and What to give Dad for Father’s Day.
- Kim (Woodburn) and Aggie (MacKenzie) turned a nation on to old fashioned spit and polish, a key tool in the housewife’s armoury, with their How Clean is Your House? programme on Channel 4.
- Nigella Lawson coined a more glamorous term, domestic goddess, for the housewifely role but as her 2000 bestseller and TV programmes showed, it was really the same job description.
- Good Housekeeping magazine arrived in Britain from America in 1922. Famous writers who have graced its pages include Virginia Woolf and Evelyn Waugh.