Housewives in Australia

Sometimes my friends in Japan ask me about Australian housewives: what do they do during the day? What are they interested in? And so on. It is actually pretty hard to answer without changing the terms a bit.

Mother 1

If we take ‘housewife’ to mean a married woman who stays at home while her husband works who also doesn’t have children, these people are very rare. Perhaps an example might be a women who was unemployed before she got married, someone injured or sick, or the wife of someone mega-rich. I don’t personally know anyone in this category and rarely hear of any one like this in real life. Generally speaking, marriage is not a reason for women to leave work in Australia. Like many Western countries, women are expected to contribute to both the family and to society, and therefore staying home (without children) is hard to justify. Most people, upon hearing about someone who left work after her wedding would expect there was a special reason, and be curious about the situation.

Mother 2

If we take ‘housewife’ to mean a married woman who doesn’t work and stays at home to look after her children, then there are many, but we call them ‘stay-at-home mothers’. However, there are significantly fewer stay-at-home mothers in Australia than in Japan. Dual income families are the norm here, perhaps becuase the cost of living is higher in Australia than Japan. This is in large part due to a very long housing boom (housing prices have risen rapidly since 2001). It is often a tough financial decision for a mother to leave work to raise children full-time.

During the day, stay-at-home mothers in Australia do much the same things as they do in Japan. Most of their time and energy is taken up with looking after their children and doing house work. Where they can, some like to watch TV or Netflix, others might read. As the children get older many stay-at-home-mothers no longer stay at home, but take on part-time work or study.

Mother 3

My experience is that the role of stay-at-home mother in Australia has much less status here than in Japan, and it is a smaller segment of the population, further lowering its position. Being a stay-at-home mum is not a fashionable or enviable role. It is rare here to see a group of mothers out of the house enjoying each other’s company noisily at a cafe or park like in Japan. The flip side is that compared with Japan, it is easier for women to get jobs in Australia, to hold a high position in the company, and to make a salary more or less equal to men’s salaries.