Ever since Judy Syfers wrote "Why I Want a Wife" in 1971, people have been using the word "wife" to refer to non-spouses who perform traditional "wifely" chores, like cleaning. The latest culprit: a service called The Occasional Wife.
Sociological Images brings us screenshots of and commentary on The Occasional Wife, which promises to "Organize Your... Home, Office, Projects, Events, Everyday Life." Services offered include "holiday decorating and un-decorating," "preparing a home for a newborn and childproofing a home," and "anything you do not have time for." Sociological Images helpfully explains:
First, the business relies on and reproduces the very idea of "wife." As the website makes clear, wives are people who (a) make your life more pleasurable by taking care of details and daily life-maintenance (such as running errands), (b) organize special events in your life (such as holidays), and (c) deal with work-intensive home-related burdens (such as moving), all in while perfectly coiffed and in high heels!
All of this seems ripe for critique — do we really want to keep perpetuating the idea that a wife is someone who does "anything you do not have time for?" We're aware that, as Sociological Images points out, "women have increasingly participated in wage labor" (their whole analysis of the socioeconomics of the family sort of sounds like it was written for aliens), and that most actual wives don't have the time or inclination to spend their days "un-decorating." But is it really that funny or cute to keep describing people who basically do our dirty work as wives? Doesn't this sort of imply that we wish we still lived in a world where marriage still provided men with someone in high heels to clean up after them? Uh, yup. Sociological Images doesn't critique The Occasional Wife's use of the term 'wife'; they just say, "it'd sure be nice to have one."
Occasional Wife founder Kay Morrison writes,
The Occasional Wife is a concept born in my kitchen [sounds messy] during a morning discussion with my husband. It was one of those days when neither our schedules nor our two young children were cooperating. At that point we realized that this family, our family, needed a wife.
Or how about better work-life balance, or more affordable childcare? Or, at least, some new words?