11 March 2010

Repost: 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.


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!

ETA: A year later the economic aspect of staying at home hits a little closer to home.  It is a huge sacrifice in so many ways to do so.  But I am not complaining.  I still feel certain that not just "householding", but family raising, is a noteworthy contribution to the world.  It's nod is coming, I can feel it.  It's apparent in the growing focus on the father as co-nurturer, it's apparent in the efforts to go green and live a more simple life.  We're slowly getting back to our roots, aren't we?


Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

Some great points in this. I know that I enjoy making our house into a home. MOST of the time. My issue is trying to convert that into ALL of the time, so that the disasters don't surround us and make it impossible for me to really enjoy the oatmeal cookies on my counter or the freshly cleaned backyard with tons of kids in it...

ann marie said...

I'm a little farther down the path than you. I stayed home and raised all 3 of my girls, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. Our theory was that we had only ourselves to blame, or congratulate,as they grew older and became contributing members of our society. My oldest is 29 and my baby is 21. I still enjoy taking care of my home, my husband and my business. As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't get much better than this!

An Ordinary Mom said...

So many great things to think about from this post. I had a friend ask me just the other day (he is more like a grandpa), how I make it work being a stay at home mom of 3 when my husband doesn't make a ton of money. An interesting conversation took place that got me thinking.

Brenda said...

Go, sister! I love being a 'stay-at-home' mom - although now I'm more of the 'grandma', but I still value keeping my home and having relationships with my grown children, after staying home (for the most part) to raise them, I am enjoying becoming more creative and being available to give service in my community and just enjoying life.