In Judy Brady’s article, “I Want a Wife,” she concludes with the question, “My God, who wouldn’t want a wife?” But after reading the article, which lists the numerous examples of all that is expected of wives, and reflecting on my marriage and subsequent divorce, a better question is, “My God, who would want to be a wife?”
It is no coincidence that the first paragraph connects motherhood and a specific type of wife – the homemaker; “I belong to that classification of people known as wives. I am A Wife. And, not altogether incidentally, I am a mother.” I do believe children change the dynamic significantly between a husband and wife. If there was any equality to be had, the scales dramatically tip once children enter the picture. From a biological standpoint, this makes sense. After all, women carry the child for ten months and are the only ones capable of providing nourishment straight from their bodies.
Whether a woman works outside of the home or not, every mother works in the home. If a woman does decide to stay at home with her children, her life is placed on hold, and everything relating to her dreams and ambitions falls behind those of her husband and children.
I was that wife Brady speaks of down to every detail, only instead of working, I remained in the home while my then-husband built his career. There is no compensation, no social security, 401k, or benefits for staying in the home. So, when the husband does decide to find a more suitable wife (in my case, a blond pharmaceutical sales rep sans stretch marks and career-driven), the wife is left with nothing to show for all the responsibilities and obligations she upheld: “If, by chance, I find another person more suitable as a wife than the wife I already have, I want the liberty to replace my present wife with another one. Naturally, I will expect a fresh, new life; my wife will take the children and be solely responsible for them so that I am left free.”
Now I do not object to roles. I find they provide structure and stability, creating harmony within the home. What I do object to is the inequality between the two roles and the lack of respect, consideration, and compensation for homemakers. I think it’s an honor to be the woman, a tremendous honor to be the mother, but given the lack of respect for the role and the uncertainty of the role given the amount a woman sacrifices, I still can’t help but wonder, who would want to be a wife? Is the investment worth the return? And in the end, I suppose Brady, in her clever article, is asking the same question.