Last week I began a conversation about homemaking and the untapped potential I see for social change given a redefinition (and prioritization) of this millenniums-old mainstay. I explained the motivation behind my thinking, then listed ten things today’s homemakers have in common, posing the question, “Is this what we want to define us or simply what we feel helpless to change?”
This week (part two of three), we’ll look at a few of the reasons we seem to be stuck in this antiquated paradigm and then go about the business of redefining the word to encompass all that it is and can be.
I’ll be the first to admit, the list I’m about to present is idealistic — it’s big picture. Legitimized by most every mainstream standard and impossible to avoid participating in to some degree or another, it can be hard to imagine a shift in these rooted realities. But then again, the same could be said for slavery, a woman’s right to vote and the 2,000-year-old practice of bloodletting. The goal is not overnight change, but that each of us might examine these “norms,” poke holes in them from our unique perspectives and determine whether they serve us if creating culture by truer standards is what we’re going for.
6 Reasons We’re Stuck in an Antiquated Model of Homemaking
- We’re too busy to change it — We’re busy because we think we should be, because we don’t know how not to be and because everyone else is busy, so busy must be normal. The thing is, in order to keep up with this pace, we need more convenience — and there’s no shortage of it being sold. Then, the more convenience we become accustomed to, the faster we are able to live, the more we consume and the more stress we add to our perception of normal. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.
- “They” have us convinced they know what we need — Homemaking today is presented as a drudgery to be overcome or improved upon by products, creating an obsession with the latest way to clean, organize decorate and adorn. Marketers have even caught on to our desire for truer standards and responded with a giant boom in “natural” foods, “eco-friendly” goods and products that promise simplicity. Notice they aren’t saying buy less or get your food straight from the ground — they’re simply saying “buy our product instead.” Homemaking is big business if they can keep convincing us they know how to make it “better.”
- The emphasis on progression has us confused — Progressing, much like keeping busy is sold to us as synonymous with value and self worth. The issue here is twofold. One, much of mainstream “progress” is arguably disguised digression (factory farming comes to mind) and two, some things don’t need to be improved upon, simply revered, respected and protected. Homemaking and motherhood are two prime examples of mainstays adequate and invaluable in and of themselves — but they aren’t profitable as mere cornerstones of culture, so their value looks secondary.
- “The system” does not support balance — I have met countless women miserably conflicted by the longing of their hearts to stay home with young children and/or create rich home lives for their families and their equally intense longing to work outside the home, earn money and demonstrate capabilities beyond the kitchen. The fact that doing one or the other is seen as “compromising” (either our families or our careers) speaks to the idea that our culture has yet to create an adequate model that supports both of these invaluable endeavors simultaneously. Women are now accepted in what used to be a male-dominated workplace, but until homemaking is seen as equally valuable to society as money making, we’ll continue to see imbalance in both arenas.
- We’re already a generation removed from the land — Even if we wanted to get back to basics or otherwise change our homemaking habits, fewer and fewer people have the skills to pick up and do so, nor memories of the family farm to drive their motivation.
- Local communities are (or were) our collective voice — With the rise of corporate influence and the dismantling of local communities, what used to be the way a group of people made traction on a particular issue — joining forces with their neighbors — is becoming a foreign concept to us. So instead of creating the change we’d like to see, even though we have the freedom to do so, we feel isolated in our homes and alone in our perspectives.
SO, assuming that one, you agree — our children deserve a better model, and two, you’re with me in the “be the change” camp, let’s get right down to redefining homemaking altogether.
In doing so, I will break down the who, what, when and where of primitive homemaking models (still pervasive in many of the world’s cultures), antiquated models (those born in recent history and alive today) and finally, an intentional model (that which I believe to be worthy of our strivings).
The Three Models
primitive — being little evolved from an early ancestral type
antiquated — too old to be fashionable, suitable or useful
intentional — characterized by conscious design or purpose
primitive: mothers, grandmothers and children old enough to pitch in; men too, though in distinctly segregated roles
antiquated: women and girls; uneducated mothers; those of low-income status or choosing to “sacrifice” careers for family; women in conservative communities of faith
intentional: anyone and everyone who occupies a home, according to their strengths, capacities and interests
primitive: an assurance that the family will not starve, be eaten or freeze to death; the only option available as dictated by dire need, limited resources and oppressive social structures
antiquated: a woman’s obligation; her sole divine purpose; a resentful act of servitude; a compromise; a drudgery; a mark of lesser education; a way to display wealth and demonstrate social status; an experience of isolation; a competition; a choice ridden with guilt and doubt; a justification for excessive consumption; a backdrop for accumulated things
intentional: the creation of space for optimal growth of healthy humans, an opportunity to shape culture from the foundation, a place where rhythm and rest can be reestablished, an embrace of change and struggle and imperfection, an integral part in rebuilding communities, a chance to reconnect with our food source, an offering to the world as unique as we are, the backdrop for our accumulated experiences
primitive: from the time of reproductive age
antiquated: just as soon as she’s been wived to a husband and a house; for six weeks following the birth of a baby; in as little time as possible
intentional: as a lifelong engagement
primitive: shacks, huts, caves or other basic dwellings built with the limited resources available
antiquated: as big and fancy a house as one can “afford;” houses built for show, resale value and curb appeal; houses built from limited, toxic and wasteful resources requiring large monthly outputs of money and inputs of non-renewable energy to keep them running
intentional: homes built for efficiency, livability and with sensitivity to their surroundings, homes built with resources that take into account the fragility of the natural world, and homes that promote the creation of thriving communities
In summary, a new definition might look something like this…
Homemaking: the opportunity of individuals, as members of both local and global communities, to use our respective freedom, knowledge, skills, talents and resources to ensure a strong foundation for future generations while living well and honoring our planet.
As for the practicalities of manifesting such a shift (for those of you who want tools not just theories), here’s part III…