“I’m taking Spanish lessons, swimming regularly and working on my allotment. I just love the freedom, and I can be there for the kids.”Jill opted for a similar lifestyle when she left her promising career in law to have children at the age of 29. They’d just assume I was some brain-dead bimbo.” Another tells her friends that she is actively looking for jobs in part- time teaching. As one woman explains: “I wouldn’t dare admit to people at dinner parties that I enjoy staying at home and doing housework.
In London, both partners tend to work, but in the provinces many of them still choose to be housewives.” The British housewife has also had to cope with a drop in status and respect. In contrast to her high-flying career sisters, her life is perceived to be one of drudgery and under-achievement. As Ms Paul says: “After the feminist movement, women were made to feel guilty if they wanted to stay at home. The implication is that if you are a housewife you don’t do anything.”Whereas the Fifties paragon of cleanliness could be proud of her role in the home, the Nineties equivalent maintains a low profile, mainly through embarrassment. Her position depends upon family circumstance, the job market and personal choice. Ms Paul explains: “There’s no set pattern across the country anymore Each region is different. Where there’s high unemployment, say in Wales, women are often the main breadwinners.
After decades of filling our screens with bland female stereotypes, it wants to reflect the diversity and reality of British home-life But it may be ignoring some important home truths. It has targeted individual groups of detergent users, including young men who read GQ and Loaded. But that treasured icon of domesticity – the suburban British housewife – has vanished. Her image, along with her purchasing power, has been abandoned for good in a bid to appeal to a more diverse market.It could be said that Persil is finally catching up with other advertisers. “That word has been so downgraded over the years,” she chides, standing in her polished pine kitchen. “I think I prefer the term homemaker.” Whatever the terms – take your pick from housewife, full-time mother, home management executive even – from now on the marketing men will be calling her something different – extinct.At least that’s the message from the detergent giant Unilever, which launches its new Persil campaign this summer.