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20 December 2011

Is homemaking different for men?

I received this email from a reader last week and I have to admit I'd not really given the topic much thought until then.

"I was recently introduced to your blog by my husband and his mate, who has been a big fan for a while (they made your laundry detergent on the weekend!). I was wondering if you could do a blog about husbands being the homemaker instead of the wife? My husband is about to leave his stressful job in the new year and is so excited about being at home with the chooks and veggies, but I am wondering how different it will be having a male do the job.
I doubt there are big differences in how house work is done by women and men. The homemaker is the one who makes most of the decisions about how tasks are carried out, what products are bought, what food is eaten, how the cleaning is done, what kind of garden is grown, how to deal with household waste, and how much daily work can be done. The person who will do the work must make those important decisions. I think the differences are less about gender and more about values and the willingness and ability to do the work. Choosing what elements will take you to another level, like whether to add livestock, whether solar panels and water harvesting play a part, how much is enough for the both of you, and taking daily steps towards prudent spending and careful saving and how quickly debt will be paid off - they are usually joint decisions. 

If you're aiming to live as we do, there will be a period of adjustment as he transitions from a stressful job to more relaxed, but never-ending, work at home. He will have to learn the skills he doesn't have now but as long as the motivation to live this way is there, generally that makes you spring out of bed each morning because every day is part of a plan that will make your life better. You have control of your life.

I have no idea how skilled your husband is in the tasks he'll need to carry out, or whether he can cook, clean or grow food. I would suggest if he's just starting out that he does a skills audit. You could help him with it. If he can't cook he needs some good  books - I suggest the Common Sense Cookbook for the very basics and The Thrifty Kitchen and The Real Food Guide for interesting recipes with an eye on creativity and frugality. Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting by Lyn Bagnall is an excellent vegetable gardening book, and for a good chook book - I recommend Backyard Poultry - Naturally by Alanna Moore, you can get that at Green Harvest (on my side bar). Once he gets the basics under his belt, he can explore food storage, cob ovens, fermenting, preserving, dehydrating and many other old skills. For that he'll need The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency by John Seymour, which is his original book you might be able to buy second-hand, or if you can't find that The New Complete Book of Self Sufficiency, which is still on sale.

Your husband will have to consciously focus on jobs he doesn't like doing. Cleaning the toilets and mending clothes are as much a part of homemaking as the wonderful and enriching jobs like growing food and caring for chooks. There is an element of mental strength needed to be a full time homemaker. He will have the obvious questions from friends and family and he has to do most of the work, whether he wants to or not. From January on, his job is to shop for bargains, clean the home, cook, grow, preserve and whatever else you both decide you want in your lives. He will be in charge of driving your home life to where you both want it to be. That might be a simplified and mindful eco-home in the inner city or it could be a suburban home with a a little farm in the backyard, just like our place. Both are possible, many other types of homes are too. You will have to decide what you'll do in the home. Just like men who work full time away from the home need to take up a fair share of the work when they're home, you will have to do the same. You'll be the breadwinner, he'll be the homemaker. Both those jobs need to be done well but it doesn't mean he does all the work, it means you work together on your shared goals. You'll have to sort that out. Decide what you can do and are willing to do in the evenings and weekends and then do it consistently and in the knowledge that in addition to the money you bring in, you are making practical contributions to the life you're building together.

Deciding to live a more simple life is a big decision. It is for any couple. But it can work well and it's the best way to get some balance in your lives. Life should not mean accruing debt and then working till you drop to pay it off. If you work at it, it can be a beautiful balance of work, enjoyment and real living. It's not always easy, there are days when you wonder why you're shelling the fifth kilo of peas. There will also be days when you may want to be the homemaker or he wants to go back to work. That's normal - just work through those difficult days and the shared joy of a simple life will return.

I admire you both. There is a common view now that there must be a double income to support today's way of living. But there is a more unusual and enriching way to live. It involves hard work and the ability to step away from convenience and having many of the things that your friends might have. But if you can do it the rewards are significant and life changing. The daily work you do shapes the people you will become; you've already started that process simply by making the decision to start. So hang on to your hats, you are in for the ride of your lives.

And while I'm on the subject of men, I know there are many of you who read here. I get emails from some of you. I would love you to start commenting more. This is not a women's topic, it's a human topic - it's life. I am sure the women would love to read your point of view and it would help you connect with the other men here. We are all just sharing our own experiences, share yours too.


  1. Great post Rhonda. Yes, personally I would love to hear comments from male homemakers! Men often have different perspectives to us women and we could learn different approaches from them. I hope this couple have a ball creating their roles as they go along setting up their new way of doing things!

  2. Fantastic, lets see those homemeaker men share their tips too, the greater the pool of info the better for us all trying to make our home alittle greener, cleaner and healthy!

  3. Fabulous post. I love men that are able to create and keep house. I have a very versatile hubbie and we have two little boys. The requests for the school holidays are for learning to sew on my sewing machine, more cooking days, and making a city out of our craft stash. No wonder I love school holidays so much. We need more men to share their ideas, share their home making and be proud of what they do.

  4. Hi Rhonda,

    A great topic today! My DH has often remarked about how he would 'love to stay at home with the kids' only he thinks he would get very bored, very quickly. Movies and such would be a high priority, not tending the garden or mowing the lawn. It is a struggle to get him to do the latter as it is!! He works had for his family though, long days and little sleep are his life. In the last month I think he has had one day off.

    Encouragement is an obvious starting point, but to get our DHs, BFs and the like to jump on the Simple Living Train, what else could be done for those who think it would be nice, but just don't have or want to make the time? How can we mould or help change their opinions of home making and general maintenance? I struggle to get mine to do just the basics. Or should I, as a PTSAHM, step up to the bat and take over those roles?

    Thank you for another inspirational blog.

  5. Brian would be very happy to be the homemaker and before we know it he will be. Brians 10 years older than me so there will be a time when I will still be working and he'll be retired. He's rather looking forward to it. He is a wonderful homemaker.

    ps that dinner in the second pic looks wonderful!

  6. Rhonda, I'm beginning my transition into full time householding and I was simply over joyed at the beautiful manner in which you've written this response to your readers question. Thank you for this post.

  7. Hello Rhonda

    Great topic. I love the idea of more men taking on these roles. I find that there are a lot of people who still believe the man should be the one out there working.

    We are currently living on my wage only so my husband can finish restoring our old home. Amongst sanding and painting he also does a lot of domestics like washing, cleaning etc. We still share the cooking and other things. The thing is that since we've been on one income we've both loved the more simple life. If anything, it seems more stress free. Maybe it is because we no longer have to renovate on the weekends anymore :).

    I love this lifestyle. However, I think I'd also want to give up work as well and share in the home duties with my husband.

    Thanks again Rhonda, I love reading your blogs.

  8. I tried being the house husband when my daughter was a toddler. It was a disaster! The housework hardly got done at all. I spent most of my time playing with and entertaining my daughter.The rest of it wishing she would just take a nap, just for an hour please. Listen men, it is an extremely difficult job running a household,especially when there are children involved. I was pleased when the arrangement ended.

  9. I would love for my partner to stay at home and be the domestic god, he would be great at it.

  10. I sew and quilt and follow a few blogs by men that also do this. One great quilter has designed some wonderful quilt patterns that he's turned into quilts for his 2 daughters and other members of his family. Many daily things aren't 'gender based' anymore and I'm sure it gives a wider source of skills and variety of new ideas for us to be inspired with.

  11. I was quite sick recently and DH had to take over the domestic duties full time (for which I am very grateful). I found that he was disadvantaged in two respects: lack of training (his mum did everything for him and so did I come to think about it :) ) and lack of practice.

    After several weeks though, he's became a lot more efficient and a lot more aware of what needs doing and I learned that the worst thing to do is to tell him how to do things!! I think it's been good for him and he appreciates my role a lot more now, especially after having to come up with healthy meals day after day for himself and our son.

    There are definitely difference between the way men and women do things (at least in our household) DH is a statistical cliche when it comes to buying chocolates and junk food at every supermarket shop and never cleaning the toilet, but I also think he is much, much better than I am at getting the balance right between work, rest and play.

    I would also like to hear your thoughts on how to live simply when a partner isn't interested in the concept. It can be a lot of work doing it alone.

  12. I too, would like to hear from men also. This is not an all female road race here. I follow some men's blogs, and I really enjoy them. Men have a somewhat "technical" point of view, thus things that men do are more in order or have order than the fly by the seat of my pants order, which is me.
    Thank you Rhonda, for your eye opening post today.

  13. I think it would be radically different if my husband was the one staying at home. I don't think he would spend much time bargain hunting or researching kid-related things, like the best fish oil brand or how to potty train. Our meals would be very, very simple and kid field trips and activities would be minimal. The kids would get a lot of playtime but he already admits he wouldn't homeschool. On the other hand, all of the big house projects would be done, as that is what he likes to do. I really think the hardest thing would be for me to let go of control and not be bossy about how things should be done - but that's probably more of a personality issue than a gender issue.

  14. I found out that having a stay-at-home man meant a very different world from when I stayed home. We don't have children but he ran the house like a former solider, rushed through the inside chores and then went out to work in our three acre veggie garden (he liked being outside so much he just kept expanding the garden). No baking, quilts or knickknacks but we had a freezer full of meat and fish and the laundry was always done.


  15. I loved how you answered this question. Here are my thoughts. As Rhonda said there would be changes. No two people running the same house would do it the same..or have the same things they liked to do. It would also be a learning curve for some men who have to start from square one or 5. Just how good are we women at taking up tools or such our husbands easily work with? We too would have lots to learn if our roles were reversed. Have patience! :) They may do the job differently...but the job will get done. Each time anon does a task it gets easier too. I think the one difference would be perhaps that the women makes her nest. She usually likes to decorate and make places comfy and such and perhaps the husband would not think of such things. Like things are already in a household,.... you do some things, and he does others. That will not change but some will be blended in different ways. Rhonda had a post not too long ago about what they each do basically and it is a give and take thing..not rigid. Each person has things they like to do. One of us likes to plant and fertilize...the other likes to putter and rake and straighten the garden. One of us does the preserving basically alone but the other loves to bake bread. It works. That is all that matters. What will be the way things are handled this year will gradually change over time and get richer and better and easier. Such is life. Sarah

  16. My talented husband sews better than I do, cooks fantastically, keeps bees, would happily see to the chickens, and was the one who first got us gardening veggies. He is also far more efficient than I am. So he is more than capable of running things in our home. On the other hand, he hates any cleaning jobs and (as I've seen when I have been ill) would probably delegate most of the housework to our two children who already milk the cow, bring in the calves and do a lot to help. As it is my kind husband cooks dinner every Friday night - Special Night is my night off and always a treat. He also often does Saturday morning breakfast of fat pancakes. Sixteen years ago I gave up a promising career in Civil Engineering to be at home with my babies and ended up educating them from home too. As much as we would have probably been a lot wealthier if I had remained the breadwinner, I wouldn't trade places with him now. I love the art of home making.

  17. My dad has been the principal "homemaker" for nearly 40 years now, and I think his take on it is much different that what you'd classically think of. His wife has just recently retired from her job as a physician, and she has always done many of the things that are classically thought of as "women's work" but they have worked out ways that he does much of the labor that she doesn't have time for, and she does the parts she enjoys.

    He does most of the shopping, and can put anyone who thinks they are frugal to shame! But my stepmother still does most of the cooking. It's something that she enjoys. But they have a system... she cooks, and he follows her around washing dishes and cleaning up after her.

    He also doesn't do pretty, if you know what I mean. So there are no sewing or decorating projects etc, but he has remodeled most of their 150 year old house by himself, which has saved them many thousands of dollars over the years. And while my stepmother loves to garden, he does all of the hard parts so she can just enjoy it as recreation.

    I guess I think that no two "homemakers" will approach the job in the same way, regardless of their gender, because I think everybody brings a different set of skills to the table. And I think that's the beauty of it... you really get to make the job your own.

    And BTW, I just have to ask. Is it a common thing for people to raise chickens in Australia? It's quite a novelty here in the states, and it's not even legal in the city where I live. Just curious...

  18. My husband is the home-maker, and has been ever since we got together years ago. Then it was by necessity (he was on a visa that meant he couldn't work, and I had a full-time job) but he's always done an amazing job, and continues to do so now that I run my own business from home.

    He not only does all the shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry and gardening, he also helps me run some aspects of my business. We have carved a very satisfying simple life for ourselves - and honestly, he does a much better job of it than I ever would!

  19. I just returned from a trip to my son and his family in the U.S. I am so proud of the man, my little boy has become. Both he and his wife work academia and they have two children. They share the parenting and homemaking equally...well I think it balances out. Sometimes one does more than the other and visa versa. There is no deliniation of tasks...if it needs doing, it gets done. I think the problem many men face is the old 'womens work/mens' work' mind set. Not only must the husband (in this case) learn new skills but the wife has to be careful to be supportive and positive and not to undermine his progress with judgements, criticisms or carelessly given 'advice'. Your advice was excellent and I hope it works out well for them.

  20. Hello Rhonda,

    How funny to see women answering the question you directed towards men ;-)

    I live on my own in an appartment in the city. I'm not able to follow the lifestyle you blog about completely. It would take me to much energy. Yes, I do clean my house myself, but it won't be up to a womans standard most of the time. On the other hand I do like the simple life. It's really quite natural to me. So I don't have a garden but I do grow herbs on the balcony and started a wormfarm lately. I get my organic vegetables from a CSA just out of town. I get my dairy and flour & grains from a local source. I found local walnuts and I do collect blackberries and plums to make fruitpaste myself. I colleced appels from a tree nearby that otherwise go to waste. Local is defined as: can get there by bike on a saterday. On my way I'll look for edible plants to add to a salad. I make my bread and use partly sprouted grains. I make saurkraut. My challenge now: how much more can I do to live simple in my present situation.

    Professionally I am a food technologist. I work for (large) companies optimizing their productionlines. My perspective on the sector and on what is healthy food, is changing. Somewhere down the road a change needs to be made for a more sustainable line of work.

  21. If my husband was the homemaker, I think we'd still employ our maid twice a week to do all of the cleaning & ironing in the house. I'm serious--she uses environmental products and we like giving her paid work as there is so much unemployment in this country. She is the major breadwinner for a number of family members including her little granddaughter since her daughter sadly died of TB a couple years' ago.

    I'd imagine he'd continue to backwash our pool and do all of the (trees/flowers/shrubs) gardening except cutting the grass which we'd most likely still pay our garden service to do. He already pays all of our bills by internet banking.

    What he'd have to learn to do is to cook, mend, shop for bargains, iron (when maid is not there), buy or make gifts and then he'd be free to take up anything new he'd want eg house and car repairs that neither of us know how to do as we usually just pay professionals to come in....or any other thing like vegetable gardening or any craft he'd want to do.

    But, I know my husband would also use the time to exercise and hike/camp and do other volunteer things in the community or through our church. And travel.....hopefully with me!

  22. I recently was able to convince my wife to allow me to stop working after we had a kid. I think one of the main differences between what I think she would do and what I do is that she would probably do more child focused things. I have found my little boy enjoys watching me do chores. I save them for when he is awake. I think nothing entertains him more than me putting the dishes away. If we have other children, this might not work for them, but right now it allows me to read blogs like this, while he sleeps and still get a lot done around the house.

  23. As a stay-at-home man, here's my two penn'orth. In a real sense my staying at home was unplanned. I dropped everything in a hurry to move here to the Outer Hebrides (North West of Scotland) to be with my newly-found love, now happily my BH. I left behind my house, my car, most of my possessions - and my job. That was nearly six years ago and I haven't got a job yet. This means I stay at home, and take a fair share of the jobs around the house. I clean (yes, toilets as well), cook, garden, take out the rubbish, help BH with her crafting, do some of my own too (weaving). When the computer wants fixing I have a go, when light bulbs blow I'm on the chair replacing them and when we go shopping I kindly let BH push the trolley (she insists, honest).
    Seriously, it's a lot less hassle than the 9-to-5 rat race I left behind, and there is an awful lot of satisfaction to be had in saving money by making your own - whatever. I make lots of wine and other things, we make chutneys and preserves from the produce we grow, I make delicious (alcoholic) truffles, so I'm told, and I still get plenty of time to relax and do my own thing; usually reading a book or listening to music. We don't sit and watch TV (just the news and weather usually as the rest is so much rubbish) so we make our meals from scratch and don't care if that takes 2 hours. Tastes so much better too.
    We don't have much money coming in; it's a lot less than most folk would consider essential, and many couples on two incomes would say we live below the poverty line. But that's not the point. Because we buy only what we really need and don't spend out on luxuries (processed foods, meals out, entertainment) and grow and make a lot of what we consume, we can exist on what we have. No debts, and no big credit card bills either. I haven't had a credit card since I came to live here.
    We live in a fine, strong, village community on an island which retains that essential community spirit. Everyone looks out for everyone else, and most of the men of my age (coming up to retirement) are practical, hard-working and can turn their hand to just about anything.
    What do I like most about my situation? There's no rush, no sense of urgency. If something didn't get done today, well there'll be time another day.
    I have to say that this feels to me like the best time of my life so far, and I wouldn't go back to the way I used to live. I'm not saying it would suit everybody as I know people who have tried this way of life in this part of the world and hated it so much they had to leave. But those of you who read this blog will understand what it is in me which responds to our way of life so positively and wants to hang on to it for as long as I can.
    No, we don't have chickens yet, but that's in the plan for next year!
    Happy homemaking. :-D

  24. Eco cat lady, thanks for your interesting comment about your dad. As for the chickens, not everyone has them here but they're becoming more popular and I would say that probably most Australian know someone who has chooks in the backyard. City and suburban councils here won't let you keep roosters (because of the noise factor) but chickens are not a problem, even in the cities.

  25. I came across your blog this year midway though November & am enjoying it immensely! I read though all November posts in November & am now making my way though all December posts.
    It brings back wonderful memories of years ago when I was a stay at home mother.
    Now, I am a stay at home empty nester. I'm wondering if you might write a post on how one might live the same type of simple life, taking care of everything alone. Would you have less chooks, smaller garden, etc? We are allowed to
    have up to five chickens in the city, after inspection of the coop, but are not
    allowed to sell any eggs.

    (I'm having trouble trying to scroll up to the bottom of my post, so will end my comments for now)

    Since reading your blog, I have frozen individual portions of squash, made my own fresh cranberry relish & frozen double portions (for the cost of 1 can), & for the first time won't be tossing one-half to three-quarter bag of carrots due to rot. I'll be cooking up the batch before then to freeze in portions. At some point I hope to use your recipe for dog food. Again, I am making my own bread & loving it.

  26. Rhonda, thank you so much for addressing this topic. Gender egalitarianism is much needed in the home-making community (if there is such a thing :)). I am sure many men would love the opportunity to stay home and be more home-centered and I applaud you for creating an inclusive space to address that.

    My hubby is the domestic type also and we both try to balance home-making with career goals. Ideally, neither of us is consumed by 'work' so that both of us can find balance. It truly is about partnership and equality - and living intentionally to create a beautiful and loving home life!

    This Good Life

  27. I just wrote a comment but was unable to continue after a scrolling up problem to reach the end of commenting & to leave a name.
    I want to wish you, Rhonda & Hanno, & all your Readers a Very Merry, Warm, Peaceful, & Simple Holiday Season with many Blessings,

  28. At this point, while we both work full-time, my husband does much of the week-night cooking and housework since he's lucky enough not to have a long commute. I think he may be better at decluttering and cleaning than I am, though he sometimes forgets to add vegetables to the otherwise wonderful meals he cooks.

  29. It's great hearing from men who are involved in homemaking! My father always did so much around the house. He ran and emptied the dishwasher, made lunches for four children, helped us with homework, drove us to school, and still worked full time. Now he does even more. He does the cooking, grocery shopping, gardening, dog walking, and financials. He's 80! My mom does less but their house is still gorgous and spotless!

  30. I've done lots of the work around the house, been the cook, vacuumer, laundry dude, and generally made our home a wonderful place to live. I'm less "clutter tolerant" than she is, and when I get to a certain point, the cleaning begins. It isn't about who needs to do what, but what makes you comfortable. Sure, I'd like to be a stay at home, but my wife has disabilities that make it hard for her to hold down a job. I work full time, do the shopping, gardening, firewood splitting, cooking, and cleaning, and she pitches in when she can. It works for us because we've talked it through and made it a point to agree on what absolutely has to be done, and what can slide a bit when the stress gets to be too much. I'd love to have someone else come in twice a week, but with our goals and such, that just isn't going to happen. So remember that when you decide to be a homemaker, you do it. is an excellent source for all skills... and if there isn't a demonstration video there yet, there will be one soon. Skills are good, and remember that your home is easier to take care of if you don't buy into the "bigger is better" syndrome. No matter what your gender role may be.


Thank you for your comment today. I love reading your opinions and thoughts. We have built up a wonderfully diverse community here that I'm very proud to be a part of.

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