On November 25th Emily Matchar wrote an article for the Washington Post called “The New Domesticity: Fun, Empowering or a step back for American women?” I eagerly read through her whole post because the title of the piece gave it away; “a step back for American women.” The condescending tone of Ms Matchar’s article was peppered throughout the piece, and as I continued to read, my stomach began to mix into a bunch of knots.
To turn the tables a bit, I think it would be humorous to change the title of her piece to “The New Workplace: Fun, empowering or a step back for American woman?” At first blush her article sounded endearing, then demeaning, and finally politically correct for women in the workforce, but as she pined on about the difference between freedom and obligation and posed questions she wasn’t willing to actually answer, I become both angry and saddened by her plight.
Ms. Matchar states, “But in an era when women still do the majority of the housework and earn far less of the money, “reclaiming” domesticity is about more than homemade holiday treats. Could this “new domesticity” start to look like old-fashioned obligation?” How condescending! “Old-fashioned obligation?” What obligation is that? Cleaning the bathrooms? We all need to do that. Cook dinner? We all need to eat. Or is it sewing and knitting? We need clothes don’t we? What’s wrong with a family that chooses to empower themselves to create their own clothes instead of being tied down to what the fashion industry says we should wear? What if I’m the next Prada for my family? What? No label means no good? How is any of this an obligation? I think getting up everyday, putting on your best dressed clothing to impress people that don’t give a rats ass about you, who you slave away to please and get paid less than you’re worth is the REAL forced obligation!
She also divines by saying, “But lately, many women (and a few men) are diving into domesticity with a sense of moral purpose. The homemade jar of jam becomes a symbol of resistance to industrial food and its environment-defiling ways. This view has been brewing for a while, a thick stew of Slow Food and locavorism and DIY brought to a boil by recession and anxiety. Suddenly, learning the old-fashioned skills of our great-grandmothers seems not just fun, but necessary and even virtuous.” A sense of moral purpose? Of course its time to put that on the back to the land movement right? On homesteaders? Like they are in someway being subversive because they want to know what goes into their food, and also because they want to know that they aren’t hurting the earth or people! Why is this a moral imperative? Its juxtaposed against a backdrop of corporate greed that says “anyone who’s anyone feeds their kids Chef Boy Ardee” and if you don’t follow their idea of what nutrition is, then you are a terrorist, second class citizen, ignorant, extremist and someone that wants to buck the system. DIY? Why not do it ourselves if we have the skills and know how? What the hell is wrong with that? And finally the old fashioned skills of great grandmothers NEEDS to make a comeback not as some sort of vapid virtue, but because the knowledge is just as VALUABLE today as it was back then. We’re not stepping backwards in time because we take up these things like a mantle, instead we are choosing NOT to be lazy, inept people that want to claim plausible deny-ability in not knowing how to care for themselves or their family because they work all day.
I’m angered because so many women out there think like her. They believe their value is tied to the dollar, purchasing power and/or the accumulation of ‘things.’ They have an unwavering work ethic which will make them bend over and take a big one right up the rear end to ensure they still get paid. No, I’m not talking about sex, I’m talking about losing every part of who a woman is to get ahead in the workplace. I’m talking about the guilt that mothers feel being tied to a job when they desperately want to be at home with their children. I’m NOT talking about those mothers who say “I love my kids to pieces and I wish I could be at home with them” because they are looking me in the eyes in that moment trying to relate to me as a stay at home mother.
I can see right through those mothers with their dragon-lady ways. They are harsh overachievers who push their children to lose their own identities and worth…in the end it back fires on them. These are the women that think they can have it all; jet setting, child rearing, career making and then cry about being a working mother and how hard it is with both parents working full time, like I’m supposed to feel sorry for them! They chose that life, just like I chose my life. I’ve met my fair share of women who looked down on me because I’ve been a stay-at-home mother for the last 24 years. One quarter of a century worth of cooking, cleaning, drama, sewing, fighting for my rights, fighting for my children’s rights, enjoying my home, bearing children, writing, art, music, sculpture and having great friends. Oh the humanity! OMG! What have I missed out on? A promotion? Drinks with the boss? Trying to budget my vacation and still find time to get away from it all because my life is so hectic I need that weekend in another state or country? Screw that! How complex and ridiculous it all sounds! Again, I’m not talking about women who need to work a job or even two jobs to make ends meet and STILL find time to raise their children. I adore these women for their tenacity to make their children’s lives better, themselves better and the world better. There isn’t anything finer than that. These women are heroes in my book. They are tender and loving with their children, find time to cook beautiful nourishing meals, can help their children find balance in their lives, and genuinely care about their home life and family.
I know it seems like I’m going off on some crazy tangent, but I promise I do have a point. For a woman with children, she is always torn between work and home life. Some women will never be stay at home moms mainly because they secretly can’t stand their children and they, like children themselves crave constant attention, praise, “the next big thing” that will bring them a little higher in their self esteem. Self esteem and self worth can not be found in the mouths of others, it must come from within. No one can build a man or woman’s self esteem and self worth. It sounds cruel to think that a working mother could despise her children right? Its not, and for these mothers they should stay at work and let the daycare center and schools raise their kids. At this point you may be wondering what the hell all this has to do with Emily Matchar’s article, and right now I’m about to tell you.
In Emily Matchar’s article, she talks about a few generations of women in her family. Emily writes,
“My baby boomer mother does not can jam. Or bake bread. Or knit. Or sew. Nor did my grandmother, a 1960s housewife of the cigarette-in-one-hand-cocktail-in-the-other variety, who saw convenience food as a liberation from her immigrant mother’s domestic burdens. Her idea of a fancy holiday treat was imported lobster strudel from the gourmet market.
My, how things have changed.
My grandmother died nearly a decade ago, but I can imagine how puzzled she’d be to behold my generation’s newfound mania for old-fashioned domestic work.”
Isn’t that who Emily Matchar is? Oh, I forgot she does can jam! No really, who the hell is this woman to not only write an article about something she knows nothing about, but to go further than that, write a BOOK about it? As I write this I’m laughing! It would be like if I were to write a book about freelance writing because I have this nifty blog that I write on daily! It doesn’t mean I know a thing about freelance writing, let alone writing in general. I actually have homesteading friends that ARE FREELANCE WRITERS making a damn good living! So where does that leave poor Emily? Writing a vacuous book about the virtues of domestic life? Only someone in the workplace would refer to an entrepreneur working from home as “domestic.” How absurd. How can she not see the value of what we do? Oh, I forgot, because its “pro bono.” When my kids were young, we’d dangle an allowance in front of them if they helped out with things like cleaning their rooms or doing dishes, but early on, I stopped that practice. Why? Because there is VALUE in actually doing the work. It doesn’t always come down to a pay check. Doing the job right the first time because of integrity is the most important virtue here! Cleaning up because it needs to be done, not because someone is watching, giving you praise or money. Nope. Do it because it needs to be done. Even people who are in the work force need to take care of their homes. How come they aren’t called domestic? Its so freaking crazy. If I clean my house I’m a homemaker, but if a working woman cleans her house its an amazing feat of skill and dexterity. She works so hard don’tch’know and then she comes home and vacuums and heats up a meal in the microwave…or takes it out of the bag from the restaurant. Why? Because she’s entitled! Here’s another quote from the world of Emily Matchar, “Women like me are enjoying domestic projects again in large part because they’re no longer a duty but a choice. But how many moral and environmental claims can we assign to domestic work before it starts to feel, once more, like an obligation? If history is any lesson, my just-for-fun jar of jam could turn into my daughter’s chore, and eventually into my granddaughter’s “liberating” lobster strudel. And as . . . delicious as that sounds, it’s not really what I want on my holiday table in 2050.” But here’s the interesting thing, we never told her that she should quit her job, make jam, raise a family and so on. We never told her the virtues of making money for your family instead of making money for a corporation or other entity. Why haven’t we? Because this kind of life is a CALLING. It isn’t a career, it isn’t a job. Its a calling, and for those who hear their calling, take it up! Do it. No money, or lack thereof will ever persuade you otherwise.
I would hate to live in a household where the only time I was praised or viewed with value is if I was bringing home a pay check. My pay check comes with every single meal I prepare. Why? Everyone knows it costs more to go out to a restaurant than to make the food at home. But not just any food…gourmet food. Yes, I love to cook and I LOVE to make food that my family could never get in a restaurant, including a fine restaurant we couldn’t even afford to eat in. My skills as a chef are that good. Where did I train? At home. I’m a chef that learned how to cook ever since my Aunt Janie taught me when I as only 11 years old. It was her patience, love and quiet joy to show me how to bake and cook. I cherished the time she made for me. She would come over to show me how to sew also. How valuable that her legacy still continues to this day. My mother never taught me anything except what NOT to be, and neither did my grandmother. I had the pleasure and horror of meeting my great grandmother once as she laid in the hospital bed and all she could do was yell at me in French. LOL Yet somehow I’ve always had the bug in me to take my life to the next step. No paycheck could ever even compensate for the time, excellence and execution of what I do on a daily basis. What I do isn’t domesticity, it is the amazing part of being who I am, a phenomenal and liberated woman. I believe in women’s liberation so much that I actually believed that women can be whatever they want! What a concept right? Women’s liberation changed the fabric of the workplace and there were female trailblazers that made it possible to rise to the top of the corporate ladder. Cream of the crop, women at the top of their game giving their personal best (and then some!), and where does that leave us obligated lowly women of the earth? Down at the bottom of the food chain? Nope…better yet HELL NO! I didn’t come all this way in my life to be condescended to. I’m damn good at what I do and of which I could write many books. Would I then be viewed as valid if I wrote a book? I could have another title then right? “Author”. I take offense to the word domesticity because its a label that implies mindless activities at home where women are now door mats once again, bowing down to their drunk abusive husbands…NOPE. We are entrepreneurs brainstorming on how best to bring our products to market, establishing our brand, discussing our marketing strategies, deciding what our niche is and forming a business model that isn’t based on fads and trends. That isn’t domesticity, that’s business. I am a working woman who’s salary requirements are top dollar and because of my specialties, you couldn’t afford me. That’s the extravagance I lay before my family. To give them the most nourishing fantastic food, wisdom as a mother, planning out our gardens and business, finding time to have a deep and meaningful life with my husband, writing this blog (and other lots of other things that need to get done around here) and pushing myself past my comfort zone into new and deeper parts of myself.
Emily Matchar has belittled our endeavors by labeling what we do as “Domesticity” and no doubt since she’s coined the phrase “new domesticity” or “extreme domesticity” I’m sure it will become trademarked. Don’t fall for it! That would be like me calling her a slave shackled to the corporate world. Neither of us are slaves to anything. We have chosen our own way of life, we embrace it and invite others to partake. Write about something else Ms. Matchar…something you’re more familiar with like women in the workplace. And if you really want to write and blow my socks off (because right now I’m unimpressed with what you have to offer) take the next 5 years and become the meaning of “domesticity” so that you can show just how pithy the word can really be. Don’t ride on the backs of our achievements, condescending to us and thinking it will bring you luck. What comes around goes around.