While there's absolutely nothing wrong with being a housewife if you choose to be a housewife (there's this crazy feminist concept called freedom of choice!), just because some women work from home, it doesn't mean that they're housewives. Working from home means that you're working... from home. It neither means that you necessarily have the time to do all of the housework nor that you necessarily want to do all of the housework.
Yup, contrary to popular belief, remote work is still work. But, still, any women who work from home have not only their work to do, but they also have to take on the burden of others' constant asks and interruptions. Because they work from home, others often seem to think that they're available for favors and errands and chores and kids and everything under the sun.
So how, if you work from home, do you kindly let others know that you're not around to do the dishes or pick up the groceries or babysit the neighbor's kids or run to the post office because... oh right, you're working? That's precisely what one frustrated FGBer asks the Community.
"I have nothing against long-term housewifes/SAHMs — I was one for a couple of years, and it was wonderful and really, really hard work," she writes. "However, I am very much back in the workforce, currently working as a COO. Here lies the issue: Everybody, my husband included, forgets that I even work, let alone that I am the major breadwinner of our family (earn more than double my husband's salary)."
She works from home with her one- and two-year-old children, which keeps her busy, she says. Still, she gets heat for not taking care of the house while she's at home.
"My husband will come home and I haven't loaded the dishwasher and will ask, 'Haven't you done any work today?'" she explains. "My MIL asked why my son goes to nursery twice a week when I'm at home anyway, and I constantly get calls from family asking if I can quickly run errands for them as I'm 'home anyway.'"
She reached out to FGBers for advice, expressing that she doesn't want to be "rude" to her loved ones but is frustrated that she feels like she does everything when everyone seems to think that she does nothing. Of course, FGBers are chiming in with their own similar stories and words of wisdom. Here are their top pieces of advice:
"It's time to sit down with your husband and have a direct conversation about how what he may see as innocent comments are impacting you," says Jackie Ghedine. "There's some great language to use like, 'I'm in back-to-back meetings all day, which means the housework won't be touched from 9-5 — how can we work together to divide the responsibilities?' With your MIL and your family members, I would bluntly say once, 'I'm not WFH — I'm working in my office that happens to be at home.' Continue to set boundaries and say no to any and all requests."
"An assertive, practical action would be to set and adhere to office hours, and do not take family phone calls during that time," says one FGBer. "If someone wants you to run an errand, do not open your response with an apology. There is nothing to be sorry for. A simple, 'No, I can't,' would do the trick. Sometimes we want to over-explain things, but the reality is that you are not obliged to answer any questions about what do you do all day, why children are in daycare, and so on."
"I've worked from home for years at this point and, when dealing with family, [my] spouse, and [my] extended [family], I've found a few things that helped me," writes Amber Lee. "The first was setting and communicating my office hours and what that meant. That I would be in meetings and on the phone, that I would not be available for errands, phone calls, or favors. Would I be able to toss a load of laundry in or run the dishwasher? Possibly, but it also might be a day where I barely get a bite of food in my mouth between putting out fires."
One FGBer shared a promising story, suggesting that perhaps her husband and MIL just aren't aware of how much their words affect her. After all, Melissa Halfon's parents came around immediately after she clearly communicated with them.
"Communicating with your family about the reality of your workday is crucial to set boundaries and demand the respect you deserve," she says. "I had this happen a bit when Covid hit back in March, and I starting working from home full-time. It was not my husband, but my own parents who live in an adjoined unit who needed it spelled out. They would ring our bell in the middle of the day asking for favors, and I had to say with utter simplicity, 'I'm working. I can help you at 6 when the workday is done.' Luckily, they got it immediately but, unfortunately, a lot of people (esp those of a previous generation like your MIL) just don't understand that working from home is working full-time and you're putting just as much work in as if you were in an office. Spell it out for them."
"You can be firm and remind people who ask you to run errands that you are at work and, if they take it as rude, so be it," says Joana Poe. "What's more, simply don't answer the phone during your working hours; change your personal voicemail to remind people that, between x and y hours of the day, you are at work and cannot take personal calls. Being unavailable will remind people that you really are at work, even if that work is done from your home."
Another FGBer put it bluntly: "Be rude to them. Surely you didn’t make it to the C-suite by being everyone’s best friend and favorite assistant."
"You have all the power, you just need to recognize it," Ashley Fishbein writes. "Standing up for yourself is not being rude. It's respecting yourself and insisting that other people respect you, as well."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.
Our employer partners are actively recruiting women! Update your profile today.