What is a housewife these days?

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Lori Welbourne / Guest Columnist

 Someone I didn’t know called me a housewife the other day and I immediately thought of June Cleaver. As much as I adored the perfect mom from the TV classic “Leave it to Beaver,” I never imagined I’d turn out like her. And golly gee, I sure haven’t.

I’m not a good cook, I don’t like to dust and I can’t remember the last time I wore an apron.

To me, a housewife has always meant a wife who doesn’t bring home the bacon, but fries it up in a pan and then scrubs the pan clean. The fictional June Cleaver did all that and more with a smile on her face looking as pretty as can be.

But I don’t think the term is quite what it used to be.

Shows like Desperate Housewives and the so-called reality series The Real Housewives of Orange County, New York City, Atlanta, New Jersey, Beverly Hills, Miami and a threat of more cities to come, has changed the meaning forever.

So just what is the definition of a housewife these days?

“My mom always took it as a compliment,” said the fellow who referred to me as a housewife. “But the women of today take it as an insult.” That wasn’t my reaction, it just surprised me because it didn’t feel accurate.

“Housewives are lucky,” a newlywed told me later at a party. “I wish I could afford to stay home and lunch with my friends and go to the spa every day.” See what I mean? June Cleaver isn’t everyone’s version of that term anymore.

My mother stayed home with us for most of my adolescence and I had no idea how tough a job it actually was until I had my own kids. I remember wondering how my mom could possibly be so busy when she didn’t go to school like us or work like my dad. Now, I get it. The tasks of a stay-at-home-mom never end. I know, because I did it when our children were younger.

And I’m kind of doing it again. Able to do the majority of my work from home, I feel lucky to see my kids more often and be so available to them. That is, until they drive me bonkers and I wish our imaginary nanny would just take them to the beach for a while.

“You can’t consider yourself a housewife if you’re still working,” my friend told me when we were discussing the subject. “It’s not like you’re cooking and cleaning all day.”

True. But I still need to fit those tasks in at some point. Or my husband does while I lunch with my friends and treat myself at the spa.

The fact is that the term housewife has a broader meaning now. Technically, I am a wife who lives in a house – so maybe it’s more accurate than I realized.

Not even all of the housewives from the reality series can make that claim.

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