Homemaker
Posted: 18 April 2014 10:06 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Checking the OED to find the earliest cite for the term. (It’s this: 1861 J. Vickers tr. J. Morata New Koran of Pacifican Friendhood 506/2 Ye who desire to have in marriage a good home-maker, seek out a wise servant.)

What surprised me however was a second sense, marked as North American.

2. N. Amer. A person employed to assist (esp. a sick, elderly, or disabled person) with domestic tasks. Also (and in earliest use) attrib., as homemaker service, etc.

1940 Washington Post 26 Feb. 13/1 An agency providing housekeeper or homemaker service to care for children in their own homes when mothers are away from home, ill or, for some other reason, unable to care for them.
1981 Maclean’s 29 June 21 Once or twice a month they [sc. old-age pensioners] get visits from homemakers who, typically, cook, houseclean, shop and help them to bathe.
1991 E. Rathbone-McCuan in P. K. H. Kim Serving Elderly ii. 56 The social worker’s first contact with the family may have been directed toward arranging for some homemaker assistance.
2008 E. Prieto Home Health Care Provider 18 Homemakers tend to household chores and cleaning routines that have become difficult or time consuming for care recipients

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As far as I know this sense is unknown in the UK. Is this in general use in the States? For example, if a woman (or man) said, “I’m a homemaker.” how would most Americans understand it? In sense 1, sense 2, or would they require disambiguation?

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Posted: 18 April 2014 10:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It’s in general use in the States, but only in contexts where what it means is clear. To say one is a homemaker without context or qualification would almost certainly be interpreted as sense 1.

In my experience, the professional occupation is usually referred to as visiting homemaker. It may be falling out of use, though; I haven’t heard this term for some years. Home health aide may be the more common term now.

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Posted: 18 April 2014 11:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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FWIW, I was unfamiliar with sense 2 of “homemaker” until reading about it here.  “Home health aide” is certainly common.  I believe “housekeeper/housekeeping” is much more common for this sort of thing in the US than “homemaker/homemaking.” However, a little Googling shows me that sense 2 of homemaker is in current usage in the US.  So, I don’t know if my unfamiliarity with it reflects regional differences, generational differences, or if it’s “just one of those things.”

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Posted: 18 April 2014 11:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I, too, was unfamiliar with this usage.

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Posted: 18 April 2014 02:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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FWIW, my former landlady here in SoCal had both a home health aide and a housekeeper. The health aide was with her every day and had formal training and took care of things like bed baths and checking blood pressure and various relatively minor medical procedures as well as changing her diaper and helping her with meals and had a lot of patient contact.

The housekeeper came twice a week to do laundry and clean the house and that was pretty much it for her.

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Posted: 18 April 2014 07:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Never heard Sense 2 here in the northeastern U.S.  “Home health aide” and “visiting nurse”, yes.  Although these days specific terms like “visiting nurse” may be used casually, and not necessarily by the agencies providing them.

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Posted: 19 April 2014 06:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Never heard Sense 2 here in the northeastern U.S.  “Home health aide” and “visiting nurse”, yes.

Same here (western Mass.).

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Posted: 19 April 2014 10:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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My earlier post is based on ads I remember as a kid for various “visiting homemaker” services, although I haven’t seen any for many years. I did a quick Googling before posting the above and determined that there are still services by that name out there.

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Posted: 19 April 2014 08:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Indeed there are a bunch of “visiting homemakers” serving various counties of my native New Jersey and elsewhere.  I’ve learned something.

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Posted: 20 April 2014 03:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Yeah, looking at the Googlits in more detail it seems that “visiting homemaker” is tied to a specific non-profit organization or family of organizations. They seem most active in New Jersey, which would be why I (a native of Ocean County) am familiar with it. But there are also a couple of visiting homemaker agencies in Canada, and these may well be older. So the term isn’t strictly limited to the Garden State.

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Posted: 20 April 2014 07:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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As far as I know this sense is unknown in the UK.

Just for the record, ‘homemaker’ isn’t really in use in the UK in any sense.

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Posted: 20 April 2014 07:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Syntinen Laulu - 20 April 2014 07:22 AM

As far as I know this sense is unknown in the UK.

Just for the record, ‘homemaker’ isn’t really in use in the UK in any sense.

I’m more confused than usual.  There are many websites with ‘homemaker’ and ‘.uk’ in their name.

BTW, my first thought before this thread was that ‘homemaker’ was just another word for ‘housewife’. One definition at Onelook.com “Quick definitions from WordNet (homemaker)▸ noun:  a wife who who manages a household while her husband earns the family income” Just checked. My wife thought the same.

[ Edited: 20 April 2014 07:45 AM by droogie ]
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Posted: 20 April 2014 10:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Perhaps not widely used in the UK, Syntinen, but I have most definitely seen and heard it many times in the British media in the housewife sense.

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Posted: 21 April 2014 12:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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It may be that they’re adopting it as a handy unisex word, now that the man (or one of the men) in a couple is now quite likely to be the one staying at home and minding the kids. I’ve also seen ‘homemaking’ used more or less as a synonym for ‘home improvement’. But both usages feel foreign to me.

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