The new age of the homemaker:What it means to be a real ‘housewife’ in Jersey.
What it means to be a woman, a wife or a mother, is evolving. Housewives no longer dote on their partners, presenting dinner on the table at six o’clock sharp every evening, and they don’t spend hours slaving over housework or having their only social occasion being a ladies’ lunch once a week. Now, thanks to women around the world of the past and over the years doing their bit to smash the glass ceiling, there’s no end to the possibilities in a woman’s reach. You can have it all, if you want to, and you don’t even need a man to make it happen.
Now, to be a homemaker means so much more. But what does it mean to be one here in Jersey? Whilst our island is an idyllic and beautiful place to bring up children and raise a family, the reality is that being a housewife, homemaker, whatever you want to call it, is not as black and white as it once was. And the glamourous champagne lunches and day trips on yachts that will soon be making their way onto our TV screens on ITVBe’s new reality show The Real Housewives of Jersey, is not a representation of what it means to be a homemaker in Jersey in 2020.
So, we went and found three homemakers in Jersey who are living that reality, to find out what it’s like.
“I would call myself a full time mum, but I also work full time – I just don’t do it 9-5, I fit it in around my life”. Sophie is a single mum, who works for herself and provides everything for her and her 1-year-old daughter Margo. In her sunlit sea view home, you couldn’t find a more aesthetic image to counteract the assumptions many people have when they see a young mum parenting solo.
As Sophie and Margo relax on the sofa, with her little dog Nero at her feet, she tells me becoming a mother has been a journey. “I never used to have time or energy to be a homemaker. I’ve previously lived in furnished places, so was never able put my stamp on it and make it personal”. You wouldn’t think that sitting in her calming, perfect pink and grey themed home, but Sophie says now she has the time to be house proud the way she wants to be. “I’ve really taken the time to furnish it how I want to, and make it mine. I love that I can call myself a homemaker.”
Like a lot of Mums with little ones, Sophie is a fan of routine. “Every day is different, but on a good day I get us up for breakfast, do an online fitness class especially for mums – because we can’t bring our babies to the gym! – and then we head out for a walk before a playdate or activity”. Whilst for some this might sound like a relaxing day, it’s not so easy. “Not every day is like that. It’s a rollercoaster, and I don’t think people know just how hard it can be being a mum. Especially when you’re juggling working, housework and keeping her happy. People seem to think it’s a walk in the park, but finding that balance is hard.”
Parent or not, there’s something in all of us that plants seeds of doubt about whether or not we’re actually doing a good job. “I beat myself up if I feel like I’m not doing well in everything, but it’s important to not feel like everything has to be perfect because it’s not realistic.” Whilst family and friends are around to lend a helping hand, Sophie says that parenting alone can open the door to a lot of judgement. “I’ll be walking in the morning with Margo, and she’s quite happy in her pram so I utilise that time to get some work done.” Sophie’s job can be done from her phone, which is what allows her to fit it around her duties as a mum. “But I’ll be walking along, typing out an email or sending a voice note, and I can feel people staring at me probably thinking ‘look at that mum just ignoring her little one’”
At just twenty-three-years-old, Sophie’s journey in motherhood has been a tough but rewarding one. Moving back to Jersey shortly after Margo was born having lived away in the UK was a big step and one that came with sacrifices. “When I first moved back to Jersey, as a single mum, I was on income support as I lost my business and was just trying to figure out how to be a mum. I needed to do that, and Margo was my main priority, but I felt like people had this perception that I was taking the easy option and choosing not to do anything or work. But that’s not the case.”
Sophie speaks so candidly about the trials that being a single mum brings to life, but is always backing it up with how grateful she is to be in her position. “Shows like Real Housewives are there to entertain, they show the glamourous side of wherever they’re set – but that doesn’t represent the majority of islanders. The show is a form of entertainment and to promote this beautiful island we’re so lucky to live on.” As she feeds Margo to settle her, she laughs and chats about what it’s been like to have friends who are on the show. “I think it’s a great opportunity for people to get that exposure, and it’ll open up a whole new world to them so what’s the harm in it?”.
As she sits with Margo, who hasn’t stopped smiling all afternoon, it’s clear to see that Sophie represents what an independent and modern mother and homemaker looks like. She’s creating a life and home for herself and her daughter to be proud of, and not letting assumptions or criticism get in her way.
“People seem to think that I spend my days doing nothing, just because I’m at home. The reality is my days start earlier and finish later than most people’s jobs, but that doesn’t mean what I do is harder, it’s just different.” It’s not hard to see sitting in Mikela’s beautiful countryside home that she takes pride in it. From the freshly cut flowers to the family photos perfectly sitting atop her console table in her sun filled lounge, you feel instantly welcome.
“Falling pregnant at a young age meant a lot of people made assumptions about what I’d do. I got a lot of raised eyebrows and questions when I told people I wasn’t going to work.” Describing herself as a full time stay at home mum, Mikela looks after her two boys Freddie who is four, and Isaac who is six, full time. “I hate saying that though, because any mum no matter if they work or not is a full time mum. Raising a family is a job in itself, and to be a mum is such a privilege.”
Mikela and her family made the decision for her to stay home full time to raise the boys because it suits them best. Like many women, however, she’s faced criticism for her choices. “I don’t like the term housewife, because I’m much more than just someone’s wife who keeps the house tidy! It’s hard work, and I love raising my family but I find it so frustrating when people criticise me for NOT having a 9-5 job.”
Like all of us, Mikela has that voice of self doubt creep in from time to time, but doesn’t let it take over. “Sometimes I’ll see friends who work hitting their career or life milestones and think I’m missing out. But, I think nowadays, there’s no stopping you going after those big goals and still being a stay at home mum if you want to. I’m just going with the flow and trying not to compare where I am to where other people are.”
The personal touches throughout her home along with the clean, neutral colour palette that you’d expect to see in interior magazines, suggest that Mikela is not only house proud but passionate about making it a home. “I am a creature of habit, I love routine, I love being organised and keeping my house tidy and looking nice has ended up feeding into my creativity. I love photography and posting pictures on Instagram, so combining the two things has meant I’ve found a real love for it.”
When it comes to being a homemaker, Mikela feels the Real Housewives show isn’t an accurate representation of what’s involved. “I think if you’re incredibly wealthy, and get to have that kind of lifestyle then it’s accurate to you. But, if you’re like me, or you’re a mum who works and is juggling it all, then the parties and lavish lifestyles just don’t truly show what it means to be a homemaker.” She feels it’s important to remember there’s more than meets the eye when you get an insight into someone’s life, especially online. “There’s this pressure to be perfect, and have the best bedtime routine or update your Instagram with polished perfect family pictures. But, it’s just a picture on social media. It doesn’t show every element so it’s important to remember being perfect isn’t the norm.”
The way the world has turned upside down this year, as we face a new age of normal, has had an affect on everyone. But for Mikela it brought on a new way to look at how she parents too. “I love routine, but the pressure I felt during lockdown to keep up with everyone else and home-schooling them just got overwhelming. I realised I had to do what worked for our family and not worry what other people thought”.
Whilst she is only 27, Mikela speaks about motherhood with the wisdom and balance of someone twice her age. “I’d always say to any young mum, that the most important thing is to not let someone else’s opinions get in your head. Make your own decisions based around what’s best for your family and stop worrying about people judging you.” With a mixture of friends of different ages, some who are also mums and others career focused, she said she was worried she’d end up the youngest mum in at the school gates. “It’s always a thought I have! But now, I have such a mix of friends of all different ages that I wouldn’t have it any other way. From friends with no kids, to friends I met picking the kids up from nursery, I have such a strong support network around me. It’s amazing when women help each other that way.”
Mikela shows that being a stay at home mum does not mean you’ve chosen the easier option. It doesn’t come down to not wanting to either, it just means that it’s the best option for your family. She knocks out the stereotype that women who don’t work a traditional job have it easy, and represents the reality that they’re just juggling life differently.
“I’m lucky to be able to work flexibly now, so I get to focus on work and being a mum. But I do have times when I’m worried I’m not doing a good job at either – but that’s just how it is sometimes.” Sophie is a soon to be mum of two, with her little boy Cole who is 2 and another baby on the way. She works flexible 30 hour weeks that means she works 4 out of 5 days, which allows her to look after her son. “There’s nothing wrong with staying home, and it’s not easy like people think. I got a taste of it during lockdown and its hard work!”
Nestled on the west coast down a rural country lane, Sophie’s family home is a real escape destination for some clarity and headspace. Sitting in her cosy living room, with Cole making us pretend cups of tea in his play kitchen, you can see why the change of pace a few months ago made her want to rethink going back to the office. “My partner was furloughed during that time, so we were juggling everything under one roof for a while. Luckily due to the way I work, I was able to fit my hours in around our family routine. Nap time, early morning and after Cole went to bed was when I’d get my work done.”
Now, with baby number two on the way, Sophie says as much as she liked being home with her family, she’s ready for another change of pace. “I was actually really happy to go back to work and have him back to nursery so we could have a normal routine again. But I know that having another baby now will mean another two year set back on my career path, which is fine because I’ll get there in my own time.” Sophie’s mix of being a homemaker and working means she’s subject to two sides of criticism. “People will make comments about me being part time and having it easy, but then also ask why I don’t stay home full time. There’s no one way to juggle it all, and I actually only work 5 hours a week less than the average 9 to 5 person so I get it from all angles. You can’t please everyone I’ve learnt.”
At just 28 years old, high expectations and the pressure to do it all is something Sophie has learnt to balance early on. “I feel that pressure to be perfect, and you see so much of people’s best bits online that it’s hard to not compare yourself to other mums. I feel like I should be able to have my career, look after my kids and still keep my house in order but even a few years ago it was more of a you can have one or the other mind-set.” She believes that the way the world has had to slow down and change this year could open the door to more people looking at flexible working options going forward. “You can do it all, if you do it in a way that works for you and are given the opportunity to give it a go.”
The majority of Sophie’s circle who are mums juggle work and motherhood at the same time the way she does, and she feels that reality is as much a part of the island’s image as the affluent glamorous side. “Like any reality show, Housewives is there to be entertainment. No matter what you think of it, I think it’ll make for good watching! There’s already a stereotype that if you live in Jersey you’re well off, and maybe the show will play on that. But I think it’ll be a shame if they don’t portray the realities of the wholesome lives a lot of people have raising a family here.”
As Cole sits next to her on the sofa, Sophie talks about the constant back and forth in her mind between what she feels she should be doing, and what she wants to do. “One minute I want to focus on my career, the next I think how much I’d love to be at home looking after Cole. But I am still a homemaker, I look after my home with my partner, and we raise Cole – but I also have my own aspirations outside of that.” She says a lot of people don’t seem to understand the realities of what it is to be a homemaker. “People think it’s the easy option if you want to be a stay at home mum. But it’s not any easier taking care of little ones, the house, getting enough sleep and keeping up socially and with your partner than it is working a 9-5 job and looking after your family. You can’t clock off from that job, there’s no finish time and people need to remember that.”
Sophie shows us what it means to be a modern homemaker, and carve out your own path. She shows you don’t have to be in keeping with a stereotype to fit the bill, and that having a career goal doesn’t mean you any less focused on being the best mother and homemaker for your family.
These amazing women prove that what it means to be a mother, a wife or a woman in 2020 can look very different depending on which house you walk in to. Everyone is doing it their own way, and that should be celebrated. Whether you work a 9 to 5, don’t work at all, have a nanny or look after your children full time, it doesn’t make you any better or worse than the rest. Whilst the stereotypes that follow the term ‘housewife’ might not match up to what the majority of women do with their days, one thing’s for sure; being a woman and a homemaker means so much more than just cooking, cleaning and changing nappies. It’s about creating a life for yourself, and doing what’s best for you.