18 March 2009

Somebody needs to bake the cookies.

Check out this article somebody recently shared with me (and tell me what you think in your comments):

It’s funny, the way I get so cerebral about homemaking. You’d think that, after talking to my mom and her friends — now in their 80s — I’d be more down-to-earth about it all. Certainly that’d be the case when I heard what a chore it was and how happy they were when they could finally stop cooking, cleaning, and raising kids (not all did, to be sure, but enough did). Right?

Having been raised in an era of über-options for women, I might never have looked back, never considered homemaking a thing to be valued. Or, at the very least, I would understand the socio-political consequences of relegating any one gender to a life without many translatable career skills. It’s risky, to be sure.

I mean, how many women found themselves on the short end of the stick after their husbands took off for greener pastures? Or even if they didn’t leave (and many wished they did), how many women found the daily chores of homemaking brain-numbing to the extreme?

Certainly we know the stories of lonely and frustrated suburban women downing cocktails and Valium in their meager stabs at freedom.
Someone needs to bake the cookies.

So why do I keep revisiting this thing called “homemaking” (or, more rightfully, “householding”) in my head? Well, because I believe we threw the baby out with the bath water.

I believe there is much to be found in a life of home stewardship, but to find it, we will have to challenge many of our assumptions and stereotypes. We will have to question our notions of success and how they have been dialed into an otherwise unexamined economic doctrine.

But mostly, I make the case because I am a woman with enough chutzpah to do so. Without a doubt, if this movement gets any traction there will be legions of naysayers to challenge “the right of return” I am calling for. But I am not afraid. I’m butch, and I bake cookies.

I’m a mother and wife, but not because I’m afraid to be otherwise. I am making a case for revisionist gender politics as it relates to homemaking. Some are good at it and some are not, and it has nothing to do with what’s under your skirt (as it were).

Now that I’ve made that clear, I want to connect the dots, or revise the dots:

1. Householding is not a gender-specific act
2. Householding seeks to revise small-scale systems of home economics
3. Householding eschews fast food, fancy packaging, and marketing hype
4. Householding requires a connection with natural systems
5. Householding sees value in the domestic
6. Householding eschews “economies of scale” as maligned systems
7. Householding seeks a healthy environment, family, and community as a barometer of its success
8. Householding refuses the commodification of everyday skills
9. Householding is something I’m trying to understand.

In essence, I am making a call for a return to the home as a political act, an economic stance, and a spiritual movement. I am making a call for a return because we need one. I am making a call because the more creative minds we put to the task, the better the solutions. I am making a call for a return because someone needs to be home when all the “important” work out there is done. Someone needs to meet our children at the door and listen to their stories. Someone needs to create the quiet, safe, and unhurried spaces of our inner lives.

Who shall it be now?

Let me be honest: Sometimes the effort is brain-numbing, but other times (most of the time) it’s infused with the renewed logic of home stewardship and sustainable economics. Certainly our current economic crisis has shown us just how fragile/corrupt the mainstream system is, but we did not need the crash to see it. Not if we wanted to think through it.

These days, when I go to the grocery store I look at products with new eyes. From an anthropological perspective it amazes me to see how effectively they (whoever they are) have turned everything I can do for myself into something they will do for me — for a price.

But what is the price? What has been the price of jobbing out our lives? What has been made of the environment? What has been made of our families? What has been made of our spirits, our economy, and our souls? Those are rhetorical questions, because most of you know the answers.

Certainly some have found themselves returning home for reasons outside their control and are struggling. Others (and their numbers are growing) are making a conscious choice to do so. Whatever the reason, I believe a great opportunity for transformation is upon us.

Creating new economies, home economies, economies based on reasoned and prudent systems of supply, demand, production, and consumption, will take a hands-on, homemade revolution. It will take a stepping-down from the mainstream marketing matrix. It will require a re-evaluation of wants and needs. In the end, it might well require a radical new legion of butch cookie makers to challenge the dominant economic paradigm.

Oh yeah, now that’s what I’m talking about.

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I've been thinking a lot about my decision to be a stay-at-home-mom lately. What has worked for me, to keep that "brain-numbing" feeling at bay, is to find time to do things that I enjoy, that utilize my skills, and that make me feel whole. I could also say more than "just a mother" but nobody is just a mother. Motherhood isn't "just" anything. It is, as Fasonfest said, a contribution to society. I have found joy in balancing motherhood with a life outside of it. But I have always put my family first. And feel it is close-minded, after all women have been through, for this choice to still be challenged on many levels. Which I find interesting, because also as Fasonfest said, I may not have valued the choice I went on to make without having so many more options open to me than perhaps were open (or at least welcome) to generations before me. I feel more open-minded because I've embraced the possibility that "homemaking" just might be a noble cause. Get around the fact that I have 4 (gasp) kids, and look at the fact that I take pride in what I do, in being a woman for which the world is my oyster. My friend Catherine is working on a dissertation and in her research shared with me that there was a brief movement of cultural feminism in the 70s, in which the nature of a woman was glorified, the idea being that spirituality, intelligence and power emerge from the essence of (undervalued) femininity.

Well put an apron on me and call me Donna.

8 comments:

Allysha said...

Loved this. Nice thinking, Lei!{And whoever bakes the cookies usually gets to choose which kind to make!}

An Ordinary Mom said...

Very eye opening post. I love the idea! Although I must admit that I probably am enjoying householding much more today than I would have 100 years ago ... I do appreciate my washer and dryer and dishwasher, etc. :) !!

Swimmingmom said...

Well hey, since my name IS Donna, maybe all I need is an apron ;-)

Good thoughts. Much to think about.

Code Yellow said...

WOW.

I'm reading the autobiography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton - she was a mother of eight. I've felt inspired by some of her original thoughts on womanhood and housekeeping, and chagrined at some of the things other ideas set in motion. But you said it so much better than I was formulating. :)

Also had a conversation not too long ago with my MIL in which she expressed the disappointment that the decision to stay at home was so ridiculed and thought to be less, when there really are so many capable, educated, talented women who have not decided to stay home by default, or because they couldn't do something in "the real world", but by conscious and careful choice, because there was a whole world that they feel needs their personal expertise. And wasn't that what women were fighting for: the right to do what they choose?

Beautifully written, especially for a cookie-maker;). I think I will have to come back and reread several more times, to catch it all.

Michal said...

i want to join your movement. it bothers me that feminism has led to the rejection of so much that the world (and our families) needs, to the rejection of the feminine. not only do i believe that we can make the world a better place by staying at home, but i believe that we can make OURSELVES better by embracing principles of self-reliance, healthy lifestyles, and being the ones to nurture and teach our own children.

well said, lei.

txmommy said...

I too am proud of being a cookie maker. Being in the home doesn't mean being stuck, not when it's a choice and when the devine importance is understood.

thanks for writing that.

Yvonne said...

As always, so well written.

(I must have read this and done something wrong with the "word verification" because I thought I left a comment last week. No regrets about my being home--not a one!!!!

Shellie said...

Whether one has another econimic "job" or not, I think we need to support the idea of the importance of "householding" as she put it. She said a lot of things I've thought about too.