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A housewife is a wife whose prime occupation is to care for her family and home. An at-home-mom refers to any mother fulfilling this role, including single mothers and mothers who have not married their partners. Sometimes the term hausfrau is used, too. The term homemaker can be used for anyone who fulfills this role.

Many men and some women view that this is the natural, appropriate and most fulfilling role for women. Reasons for choosing the occupation of a housewife vary, but many women choose it because financial benefits of a job are reduced by possible additional costs of childcare, food and transportation and many families simply appreciate home quality (including, in the case that there are children, being with them) above additional material goods. In many countries, including the United States and Japan, housewives can further claim certain tax deductions.

Recently, many feminists have criticised the institution, claiming that the husband being the only financial supporter makes the wife economically dependent on him. Also, they maintain that housewives can get socially isolated by being tied to their home. Feminists suggest that homemaking should be an appropriate role for a parent of either sex. They have also stated that the label "housewife" is sometimes intended to be demeaning and is sometimes perceived to be demeaning, whether intended to be so or not. However, many housewives claim they take pride in their chosen line of work.

A trend (especially in western societies) during the late 20th century is that some men are adopting the role of a homemaker. However, a large majority of homemakers are still women, possibly because it is still seen by prominent traditional beliefs as being a "women's work" (see gender role), and possibly because in most societies the career opportunities and salaries for men are still better then women's, thus it may be economically advantageous for a family, and society, that the woman be the homemaker.

A range of educational and practical experiences can prepare someone for an occupation at home. In high school, they may for instance study cooking, nutrition, home economics, family and consumer science or food and cooking hygiene. However, many of these skills are acquired by experience and observation of domestic routines during childhood.

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