Housewife, a full-time job worthy of compensation
When High Court judge Teresia Matheka, while presiding over a matrimonial property dispute declared that being a housewife is a full-time job, and it should, therefore attract some form of compensation, it elicited a hot debate.
Judge Matheka maintained that the services provided by a housewife should be considered work, as those tasks would otherwise be outsourced and paid for and stated that it would be unfair to constitute only monetary contributions to the household as valuable.
Brilliant Nyaboke Momanyi, a stay-at-home mum says it is a good idea as women do a lot of housework.
She breaks down how her day is mostly like. “My day starts at 5.30am when I wake up, prepare breakfast and set everything for my husband before he leaves for work. When my first-born son leaves for school, I am left with my younger son.
Between 8am and 12.30 pm, I am normally occupied with house chores such as doing the laundry, cleaning the house, folding clothes that have dried and giving my son a bath.
Sometimes the house chores are too much and I end up feeling tired to an extent that I do not find time to prepare lunch hence we just have to grab whatever is in the fridge,” she explains.
She has to fetch her son from school, prepare something for him to eat, give him a bath and help him do his homework.
“At around 4pm, I take a shower and head to the shopping centre to buy some groceries and other foodstuffs. At 7pm, prepare dinner before my husband arrives.
We have dinner together, put the boys to bed and after doing the dishes and having a chat, we finally retire to bed at 10pm,” Brilliant narrates.
She is a graduate from Technical University of Kenya having pursued a Bachelor of Science in Counselling Psychology. She is also pursuing her master’s degree and attends evening classes some days in a week.
Brilliant offers: “It is a good idea for housework to be recognised. The payment should be a token of appreciation for the good work that they do and the money will be helpful for them to even carry out some projects.
It will also help housewives not to be unfaithful to their husbands as they look for other men out there to give them money.
It will help both parties, that is, husband and wife not to have feelings of entitlement.
According to her, for housewives to be paid, it will all depend if the husband is able to meet that budget.
Caroline Bongo, a career mum of seven says it’s a catch 22 situation. “There are seasons I have found myself working and others as a stay-at-home mum when I had to look after my babies and had no income.
As much as my husband would provide everything I needed and was generous, what I would miss is the freedom to do things he would not take as a priority.
Currently as a working mum, I have my own money hence, some freedom to do some things in as much as we budget our finances together,” says Caroline.
“All in all, every relationship is unique and couples are different hence how they handle their finances is different.
If this issue has to be explored, there needs to be clear guidelines so as to avoid breaking homes instead of building them,” she adds.
“If one decides to be a housewife, there is no problem, but it’s also good to discuss at length with the husband how it’s going to work when you have to stay at home 24/7 to take care of the children and the home.
In many cases, men are known to refer to their stay-at-home wives as “doing nothing the whole day.”
If the driver gets paid, the gardener, the house help, the watchman, the secretary… why can’t the wife get an amount that she can use on herself, for her woman needs,” says Beatrice Kaari.
According to Victoria Rika, a counselling psychologist, the mental load carried by housewives has an impact on their mental health.
“They are fatigued, sometimes stretched beyond measure and rarely have time for self-care. They cook, clean, discipline, encourage, inspire and mould, to name a few.
When a woman who has settled into being a housewife feels affirmed by the rest of the family, motivation to run the domestic front goes a notch higher.
Is she shown love, respect by the rest of the family members? Does she have an equal say on the financial aspects as her husband?
Is there openness, transparency and accountability on these finances? Does she have her personal financial needs met?
What is her end goal as a housewife while having her husband and children in mind? What is the opportunity cost of being a housewife?
When we are able to answer these questions, then the issue of monetary compensation cannot arise as no amount can be sufficient for the role played by the housewife in any family setting,” she explains.
“For one, who will pay housewives?” poses Susan Catherine Keter, a transformation life coach.
“In Kenya, we are not yet at a place where the government pays people who are unable to be in employment due to factors such as raising children, being incapacitated by a serious illness, disability, advanced age, being orphaned among others.
In the meantime, domestic workers get paid to do the work housewives do. It would be reasonable to pay the housewives who do this work,” she adds.
If the husband’s income is low hence he is not able to afford to pay her, it should be handled the same way the family would handle a situation where the family’s breadwinner’s income is not sufficient for the family needs.
“Have the housewife do some work outside the home on part time basis, a few hours per day or per week to supplement the income or diversify the sources of income such as having a side hustle.
Nothing is cast on stone. Being a housewife does not mean that there cannot be adjustments to that arrangement,” explains Keter.