6 January 2013

Is homemaking different for men?

I was going to resurrect some old posts while I was away but I forgot all about it until now. I hope you enjoy this old boy - it's from last December. I'll be back tomorrow with my first new post of the year.   :- )


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.


See you all tomorrow!



  1. Hi Rhonda, This repost has been perfectly timed. I am a male, and with my wife and I expecting the arrival of our first baby in June we’re planning for me hang up my necktie and join the ranks of male homemakers.

    As a boy I was put to work in every aspect of running the home – a regular statement from my mother while growing up was that “there are no gender based roles in this house!” So I consider myself at an applied level in most things domestic, but your advice to perform a skills self-assessment is very wise, I believe.

    On that basis I think one of my biggest unknowns regarding this transition will be around social acceptance. I’d like to say I don’t give a hoot about the opinions that may form. But, at minimum, I’m expecting to get some quizzical looks when I am meeting new people and the question arises - “so what do you do with yourself?”

    I accept that I’m no trailblazer here – there’d be plenty of men who have swapped traditional work for managing the household and I’d be quite interested in their actual experience around this matter.

    It will be an interesting period, but one I am so much looking forward to. We really can’t wait to meet our new baby. I look forward to reading more of your wise words in the year ahead.


    1. Hi Michael. I can feel the excitement in your comment. What a defining moment for you both - a baby and you being the homemaker. We all get the "what do you do with yourself?" question. It seems that homemaking is a real mystery to most people. They wonder why anyone would do it voluntarily because there is no pay attached. As you and I both know, there may not be a wage but it is certainly a very good way of saving money and creating a sustainable home and lifestyle.

      Stay in touch Michael, it would be great if you joined the forum too, and let us know how you transition towards your new role. I can see a male homemaker thread at he forum being very interesting and popular. ;- )

  2. I enjoyed this post very much, thank you for sharing your insights and knowledge!

  3. I take a day off a week to spend with my daughter and to make things easier on my wife who works full time. By doing things like the weekly shop and it's also a day I can sort out any problems or bills not having to do it on the weekend like everyone else!
    Ideally I'd like my wife to take a couple of days off a week as well and then we could share the jobs and both get to spend more time with our girl, but her current employer won't let her (whereas I'm self employed), sometimes it's not just income that stops people being homemakers.

  4. Hi Rhonda,
    For years before we retired my Hubby was on shift work...9/12 hr days on and 5 days off. When he was on his breaks he would cook the evening meal and do some housework to make it easier for me.
    He did wood turning as a hobby and we shared the gardening...worked out very well.
    Now, in retirement, he likes to cook our meat on the BBQ while I do the veges inside.......sometimes he does veges as well on the barbie. We like thick sliced veges...especially the chokos he grows himself. He supplies the whole family with these.
    Have a good day
    Barb from Australia

  5. For the last 2 years I was a Nanny for 2 young girls whose Dad works at home. The wife is in Hospital administration. The father still "works" but is clearly not the major breadwinner. I noticed that the girls look to their father for all the homemaking skills. Daddy does the wash, he folds the clothes, he grocery shops and he cooks half the time. Plus before hiring me for part time work (his work is computer graphics) he took care of the girls while they were babies.

    It works if the one staying home loves what they are doing and he clearly has the knack for it while Mom is in love with her career and loves that she can come home to a well kept home, that otherwise, she wouldn't be able to.

  6. It sounds like their way of living is working well for all of them.

  7. Love this post, it reminds me of the article in the paper the other day about men parenting http://www.essentialbaby.com.au/being-dad/fatherhood/dads-want-parenting-equality-too-20130104-2c8ew.html Men are just as capable at parenting and working in the home as women are capable of working outside of it! I have a hard enough time getting my husband to read my blog Rhonda but I should really try to get him to read yours too ;) He'd love to be a stay-at-home Dad. Ideally we'd both like to work part-time, maybe one day!


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