Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why all the negativity

I have come across a lot of negativity surrounding the phrases housewife and housekeeping. And it actually really baffles me. I don't know if it is because I'm out of touch with society now, or if I'm just naive, but I really don't understand all the fuss.

Home Comforts begins with an introduction of sorts from the author titled "My Secret Life". Cheryl Mendelson is a lawyer, with apparently affluent friends who looked at her blankly when she told them she was writing a book about how to keep house. She didn't tell people she was very interested and actually got pleasure from house keeping because she knew she would get those blank stares.

What type of precedent does that set for people who are setting off to start keeping house. Obviously if they have bought a book of this magnitude, they have something invested in their interest to keep house. They are looking for something more from their lives and the space they live in. At least, that is where I am coming from.

How is it that housekeeping has become something that we should be embarrassed about enjoying?

Where is the pride in our homes? Why have we stopped creating an oasis of comfort and order? When did our homes become just a shell where we crash between work and errands?

I think that part of the answer is how women view their roles in society now. We are supposed to be the sex that can have it all. A job, a family, a large beautiful house, a multitude of friends and extra curricular hobbies and interests that we fulfill. What that has caused is all of this constant conflict and feelings of guilt because we feel we can't properly fulfill anything if we have everything.

Constant juggling wears us down and the first thing that typically goes out the window is the upkeep of our home. None of this is news to any of us.

But what interests me most is things I have been reading in parenting magazines and blogs. There seems to be this constant topic that comes up frequently in these two mediums. The feeling that it is currently ok to be half good at everything because that is all we can expect with so many things to juggle. In the blogosphere it is portrayed as comedic.

But is everything something that we really need to have? Can we really truly appreciate what we have if we have too much to deal with?

There was one article in a magazine this month that was discussing mom's that blog and it said that mothers most often flip on the lap top when they are "stuck at home" during their children's afternoon naps.

Another magazine talked about survey results that showed the majority of mom's didn't fully enjoy their year maternity leave because they found they didn't have enough time to themselves, and that they actually felt relief when they went back to work because they weren't being stimulated enough at home. The survey also showed that most of the same women felt guilty for wanting to go back to work and not spending as much time with their children.

Um, a bit conflicted. But do they feel bad because they really do feel that they are missing big moments in their children's lives? Or do they feel bad because that is what society has deemed proper if you are going to work and be a mom at the same time?

Back to housekeeping and all the other things that we juggle as moms (lets face it, women still do the majority of the housekeeping). Are women running themselves ragged because of two conflicting society views they feel they need to fulfill, and a lifestyle they feel they need to be happy? Are they really happy and living their (in the words of Oprah) Best Life?

I myself feel guilt, but backwards. I feel guilty that I'm not out making money. One of my biggest guilts is that I'm not taking care of our home, and creating the type of home that I want my family to live in. I want comfort and simplicity, a place to come home where when you walk in the door you feel that you can close it on all the activity of the outside world.

Could creating a home oasis for the family be the answer to some women's conflicted lives? Can we take the shame out of the title of housewife?

I know that there were a lot of questions asked here, many of them have been asked before, and none of them have easy answers.

Well, actually, that I don't know.

I think that maybe, things might be easier than we believe them to be.

I'm hoping this journey will help me find some answers.


  1. I hope you find your answers too. :-) And I completely agree that most moms don't enjoy their lives nearly as much as they should because they're too busy trying to fill it with the extraneous instead of focusing on the things that really matter.

    To be honest, when you started this I thought "Really? THIS is what she wants to devote a year to?!" but if it fulfills you, then so be it. My house is messy and I don't mind it. It doesn't bother me, it doesn't bother my husband. It's not unsanitary and 99 times out of 100 I can put my hands on what I need without spending more than a couple of minutes looking for it. However, the more I thought about it, the more I could see your point. Not that I want to follow in your footsteps, but see your point of view, anyway. Because my personal thing is cooking. I cook. It's the way I take care of my family. It's what I take pleasure in, what I take pride in, what I get joy out of, what I am teaching Matthew, what I share with Matthew - the way you were describing cleaning with Alexander is the way Matthew and I cook together. And I watch people grocery shopping and watch the garbage they're feeding their families and I think "You know, for the same amount of time and probably less money, you could actually COOK them a meal. WHY DON'T YOU!?" It drives me crazy, and I have been known to rant at my husband about it before. LOL!

    So anyway - I've been thinking about this and you and your decision to do this and while my feelings about it were truly negative in the beginning, I completely get it now. And wish you the best of luck! :-)

  2. Aw, thanks Deb! I love cooking as well, especially when it is with Alexander. I find it such a good bonding time. I'm more of a baker though so while dinner is something that I need to do, baking is where I have the most fun.

  3. And I'm the opposite! I bake things because it makes Mike happy, but that's NOT what I like to do. I love making meals, putting foods together, finding new dishes, new ways to cook things, etc. LOL! I do bake, and I'm good at it, but it's not what's fun to me. Do you know, when Mike was in school he turned 36, so I baked him a birthday cake, blah blah, the usual? He took some for lunch and one of the other women in his class - younger than he and I but still in her mid-20's - ate part of the cake. Her first question was where I bought it. Mike told her that I hadn't bought it, I baked it. She completely flipped out - she told him "OMG it's so much better than any of the store bought cakes, I've never had a cake so good! I can't believe there's such a difference!" Mike asked her, haven't you ever had a home made cake before?! And she actually said that far as she knew, she'd NEVER eaten a home made cake. How is that possible. I laughed when he told me, but then I started thinking and that's so sad. I understand that women are equal to men, women want to be the same as men, all that jazz. But if men aren't cooking and women aren't cooking, who's taking care of our babies? I know it's off topic to what you're doing, but I feel like it is similar. It just seems like ALL things female and motherly are something to be ashamed of now. You know, I cook for Mike, I fix his and Matthew's plates, I iron his uniforms, I do wifely stuff for him. And I get funny looks and eyes rolled at me, it's absurd that somehow taking care of my family is something that's looked down on?! I DON'T WORK! This is my job! I find it extremely fulfilling, I love what I do. I feel like I'm making a difference in the world, even if it's a tiny difference. Why isn't that enough?

  4. I totally agree Deb. Much of what we do is now frowned upon and seen as degrading work. I do all of those things as well and I love taking care of my family. It is very important to me. And you are right, who is taking care of our babies when no one is willing to do "women's work"? I watched a child once that I made dinner for and he wouldn't eat the veggies because they didn't come out of a bag. His mother had told him that veggies were dirty and she didn't have time to wash them! Seriously? What are you teaching your kid?