For some, being a SAHW is ideal. Most women imagine SAHW as women who have plenty of free time in their hands, have high tea with other women of similar status, turn up for their weekly manipedi OPI treatments, have the ability to buy fancy clothing etc. As a freelancer, there are periods when I have no projects in hand. And during those periods I often get questions like “Are you not working?“, “When is your next assignment?“, “Why are you not looking for jobs?” etc. Thanks to women who have in history fought for our rights, I often find my “SAHW status” frowned upon by my own species.
I’ve met many highly educated women who had high-flying careers who moved to Frankfurt with their families. People expect us to be climbing the career ladder. However, it is not so much the expectation of others that puzzles me. Rather, it is when people devalue SAHW that pisses me off big time. Just because these women aren’t working doesn’t mean it’s a huge shame. Working women who have to manage a home after office hours should know better that it can be a demanding task and not judge SAHW.
Unlike the culture of employing maids (or helpers) in Singapore, people deal with their own mess here. I never liked the idea of hiring helpers. I don’t like the idea of having a stranger living under the same roof as me. But what I don’t like even more is that they are expected to clear the mess I’ve made. Of course, there are employers who treat their maids like family. However, I am only comfortable with dealing with my own mess and therefore, being a SAHW makes needing a maid redundant.
Even with a freelance job, some still think it’s a waste because it’s not a full-time permanent job which guarantees me a big fat pay cheque at the end of each month. To be fair, I do see their point of view. While I understand where you’re coming from, please do not go on about how sad it is for me to waste my “talents”. It can be rather insulting because you’re implying that being a SAHW is a brainless thing to do.
Some women have to be SAHW because of visa restrictions. I’m one of the lucky ones allowed to work in Germany because my husband is a British citizen and I tag on to the EU rights he’s entitled to. A SAHW told me she’s not allowed to work for 2 years in Germany because she’s on a Dependent Visa. Apart from travelling occasionally to neighbouring countries, she works hard to get her German up to native level so that she’ll be prepared for the job market when the time comes. See!!! We don’t just rot at home.
Occasionally I find women who leave their jobs because it was affecting their family time. Imagine getting a big fat pay cheque but never seeing your other half. There will be no time to communicate or have meals together if both parties lead hectic lifestyles. Feminist views aside, the women are the ones who usually quit their jobs. These women may end up setting up small businesses or do freelance work. Couples usually find themselves a lot happier since they’re able to spend more time together given the flexibility.
On the other end of the spectrum, I get women who are envious of SAHW. They reckon that we have all the time in the world to stay in bed till late in the morning, read a novel in a quiet cafe and have cakes. Really? I could do that for a day and then it gets boring…
And so, the BIG question of what I do during the day.
On non-working days, I study German in the mornings and clean the house (mop, vacuum, scrub, laundry) after my husband has left for work. We have an unspoken rule and that’s to have breakfast together every morning. It’s nice to chit chat over breakfast and have a few laughs together to start the day. We’ll still make it a point to have breakfast together on my working days. Even though I like everything to be clean, I do NOT do any chores in the morning if I need to be in the office or work from home. I’m not mad.
I attend a 3hr intensive German course 5 days a week from 2-5pm. That pretty much takes up my entire afternoon. It is a demanding course but I am loving every bit of it so far. If you’re thinking “Study, again?!”, I beg you to keep this silly thought to yourself. If we’re living in Germany, I strongly believe that it is ESSENTIAL and IMPORTANT that we try our best to integrate and speak the language. It is only polite to at least try to speak German when out and about rather than expect the locals to speak English when they really don’t need to. Who cares even if English is widely spoken. This is GERMANY!
I’m usually in a rush to get home after class to prepare dinner. And I don’t mean microwavable dinners. We haven’t owned a microwave for almost 2 years! I can’t believe it either. I admit it’s a convenient appliance to have but I see myself getting lazy and relying on prepared meals everyday. After dinner, we’ll study German together, watch DVDs, chat (yes, we still have a lot to tell each other thankfully!), be silly etc. Occasionally we’ll hang out with his colleagues for a meal or meet up with our friends outside of work. It is important for us to spend quality time together with people we care.
Sometimes I write articles about Frankfurt for other expats. I do it for the “exposure” which doesn’t pay my bills but I enjoy it a lot. I like the idea that someone else won’t have to go through the trouble we did if they read my articles. Every so often I get emails asking for travel advice around Germany or what it’s like living in Frankfurt by people who are thinking of relocating here. I am more than happy to reply to their queries because I sincerely want to help them, even if it’s for free.
I can’t control what others thinks or say about me being a SAHW. It wasn’t by choice to begin with since I have to be realistic about finding a full-time job without any German skills. For the past 2 years in the UK (excluding the year when I did my law degree), I’ve been struggling to come to terms with not getting a job I truly enjoyed. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the people I worked with but just not the nature of the job. I am slowly coming to terms that it is more important to do something I actually enjoy rather than just looking forward to pay day. Of course, not everyone has this luxury. And it wouldn’t be fair of me to tell others to simply quit their jobs if they didn’t have alternative income to rely on. Right now, I am happy where I am. I have a job which gives me the freedom to work from home and take time off when I need it for holidays. I am able to use my afternoons to equip myself with German skills to help make daily life easier.
I would like to urge people to have a little more respect for SAHW. I don’t think SAHW are a waste of talents for they could be applying their skills elsewhere outside the workplace. Last but not least, do not call us “housewives”.