I have been a housewife for 40 years. It’s a job that consists of doing the same thing every day, which can be very emotionally draining, and requires arranging your activities to accommodate your husband and children. As a result, there’s just not much time left over for yourself.For a housewife, there’s also a strong feeling of having been left behind by the world, especially during the time before your children go off to kindergarten. And yet I finally realized that the role of a wife is extremely important, because she is the ‘light’ of the family.It wasn’t until a certain thing happened while my daughter was in grade school that I discovered this.Thirty five years ago, my daughter had a severe bone disorder and had to be hospitalized. When I wasn’t at the hospital caring for her, I had to be home catching up on household chores. My son was just a baby at the time, so I had to care for him as well. I just couldn’t keep up. And then when I’d ask my husband, “what do you want to eat?” he would only answer, “anything is fine.”
Over time I grew to hate making dinner: not just that, but I developed a sort of kitchen phobia.My daughter was in a cast from her chest all the way down to her heels, unable to move at all. But one warm spring day, she told me, “I want to go up to the roof.” When I asked her why, she answered, “I want you to throw me off the edge.” I was completely shocked.My daughter only ever saw anguish in her mother’s face, and she thought that it was her fault. When a parent is sad, the child is sad, too. Once I realized that, I decided I had to find ways to take joy in my profession as a housewife.For instance, suppose you’re making cookies. The trickiest part of the work is carefully measuring out all the various ingredients. So I would measure out the sugar and the other ingredients in advance when I had a chunk of extra time, setting aside a number of small containers for later.
Suddenly, the actual baking became much simpler and much more fun.I also found ways to turn my role as a housewife into a developing career. I poured my energy into researching recipes I could prepare that were simple, delicious, and free of additives, while taking advantage of seasonal ingredients whenever possible.I also spent 10 years teaching a cooking workshop for men in the further education department at Sakura no Seibo Junior College in Fukushima City.
When daikon radishes were in season, for instance, we would prepare a number of dishes that could be made from one large radish; then, when we were done, the students could take home any leftovers.
I remember one man in the class came to me and said, laughing, “you know, the days I come to the cooking workshop are the only days my wife meets me at the door when I come home!”There’s not a single person who gets upset when they eat delicious food, so cooking can get you a long way. Another thing I did at the further education center was to head up a 500-yen all-you-can-eat buffet. It was my chance to offer the people in Bible studies and so forth a bit of a break.And that’s not all. Our family took in an exchange student as a host family; we set up a coffee shop for parishioners after Sunday Mass; we handed out homemade cakes for free. All of this can perhaps be called ‘a housewife’s vocation.’And the future? My dream now is to take in people who are troubled, to let them stay in our home and feed them a delicious meal, to lend a friendly ear. I really hope I can do this some day.Chie Inaba is a housewife and parishioner of the Nodamachi Catholic Church, Fukushima City, Japan