Caitlin Flanagan, in her new book To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing our Inner Housewife, makes a useful distinction. She is not a housewife, but an at-home mother. The difference is that a "housewife," defined herself "primarily through her relationship to her house and her husband," while "an at-home mother feels little obligation to the house itself." This distinction is especially valuable for women who are wives and mothers, like their own mothers, but unlike their own mothers, have full-time careers even when their children are small.
I am grateful that, among the many forms of compatibility that my wife and I share, we have about an equal tolerance for clutter. We have had to adjust to one another's quirks in that regard – the symbol of which is that one side of our bed gets made each morning, but not the other. And we have hugely increased our mess threshold with each child. We have hopes that that will get better when everyone is grown.
As I think about this distinction, neither of us was an at-home spouse for very long, but both of us have seen our primary family obligations to be to the people – spouse and kids – and not to the house. We are blessed with a goodly place, but only essential work will get done on it until the last tuition is paid.
At-home mother is a workable status. A clean house is gravy.