I am getting a new car which will be insured in my name. For the past few years we have had a car which was registered in my husband’s name and I was a named driver on his insurance. This new car will be in my name, I will hold the insurance with my husband as named driver. I was disappointed when I found out that my no claims bonus of 9+ years would not be recognised by any insurance company other than our current insurers but apart from that so far so good.
Since my husband holds our current insurance he spoke with the insurers and completed an application form. When it came to selecting my occupation he chose ‘housewife’. When I had been looking on comparison sites – and learning I had lost the no claims bonus – I had chosen to identify as ‘retired’. I was surprised about how upset, offended and angry I was by being described as a ‘housewife’. My husband thought I over-reacted as what did it matter, it was just car insurance. But somehow it did.
After graduating at 21 I eventually found full-time employment (damn you Thatcher!) and have worked full-time since – no significant breaks for children, ill-health, nothing. Now that I have given up work I am enjoying the fruits of my labours – retirement. I admit that I spend a lot more time in the home now – cooking, cleaning and ironing – but have never thought of myself as transitioning to ‘housewife’. We have always shared domestic duties and for long enough my husband was the main cook and bottle washer after he downsized to part-time work.
I felt some guilt about feeling so disturbed regarding the ‘housewife’ tag. What is wrong with looking after a home that I should find it so not what I want to be seen as? I remember having conversations with friends many years ago about how they had not ‘done anything’ only got married, had kids and raised a family. Whereas I had got a degree, eventually a job and was living independently. These are two possible life paths, one is not better than the other, they are just different. I am old enough to remember campaigns about recognising ‘housewife’, and looking after a family, as a job title with the accompanying wages. I supported this as a feminist, believing in the rights of women to choose.
But it seems that my reaction to being described as a ‘housewife’ suggests that I don’t really believe it enough. Somewhere, deep inside, I seem to think it is better to be ‘retired’ from a job rather than be a ‘housewife’ (who doesn’t really have a real job).
It seems that we have not come far, well at least I haven’t, in the development of attitudes and ways of thinking. Housewives are those silly women who can’t/won’t get a job and would rather spend their days in a frilly apron, dusting and titivating their homes. I just don’t see myself this way despite all the evidence to suggest that what I do, day-to-day, is housewifely. I wash-up breakfast dishes, sort out the laundry, do the ironing, clean the bathroom, prepare the evening meal. And yes I do wear an apron – just not one with frills.
I recognise that the term ‘retired’ is equally loaded with potentially negative assumptions and so why do I feel more comfortable with it in relation to me – instead of ‘housewife’? Because, if I’m really honest, I think it sounds more professional and suggests that I was something, that my contribution mattered and that I earned enough money to be independent.
Thankfully car insurance only comes round once a year and so I won’t have to think about this thorny issue for another 12 months. In the meantime I can describe myself in any way I please – retired, housewife, layabout, cyclist, film buff, personal shopper and style consultant … the list is (almost) endless.