reclaiming domesticity

If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would find myself tip-toeing up to my 29th birthday, married, expecting a baby and living as a housewife, I would have scoffed.

I started university young, a wide-eyed 17 year old, and spent my time there making art firmly rooted in a feminist tradition, taking classes about the women Art History 101 forgot to mention, writing papers on The Cult of Domesticity.  My coffee cup back then proudly proclaimed “Domestically Disabled”. And I was, no word of a lie.

I am still a feminist, through and through, and (I hate to admit it) am still slightly handicapped when it comes to efficient housekeeping. And yet, here I am.

I have always believed that feminism is about choice. Empowerment. And yet, as my goals have slowly shifted from those of a career woman to something rooted closer to home, I’ve been shocked at the reactions of some the “feminists” around me and by my own unexpected discomfort.

Last summer, having used a weeks vacation from work to do all my canning and arriving back to the office with a lunch bag full of fresh tomatoes and homemade bread, one female lawyer chastised me – You’re so  . . . domestic. She spat the word, something distasteful and full of shame. Other friends warned me that if I chose to stay at home with children, I would be wasting my education, as though raising a child was somehow less worthy of my knowledge than pushing meaningless paper in a cubicle.

How on earth did we get here? (Ok, I know how we got here – I did write all those papers, after all.) But why are we so accepting of it??

Why am I so uncomfortable telling people that I’m not working outside the home, as though the dozens of loaves of bread, jars of preserves, the baby growing inside me, the bountiful garden, happy chickens, endless home-cooked meals and mounds of laundry count for nothing? Why is the work that I did in that cubicle downtown, that made me too tired and sad to tend my family, more important than the work done at home? Work full of meaning, love and immense, simple pleasure?

I come back to myself on days like today. I remember that domesticity needn’t be a dirty word.

It’s raining. I have spent my morning in slippers with a cup of tea, fresh bread and butter and a cat warm on my lap, writing this blog. My afternoon will fill the house with the smell of baking bread for dinner and perhaps an apple crumble for dessert. I will seam up the little cardigan I have knit for our little butter bean, scrub the floors and fold what’s left of the laundry. My husband will come home to a warm, hearty meal and a wife who is finally present and content in her own life.

I can be a domestic feminist. I can take pride in my home and the work that I do here. It’s silly, but I realize that it’s radical to say so. Maybe it needs to be radical. What if women (or men, for that matter) could truly own their domesticity? Claim it for themselves as something of pride and value, to wear boldly – a badge of honour? What if knowing how to bake bread, knit and mend, cook from scratch, grow food and preserve the bounty, tend chickens and raise children was a skill set that was held in equally high regard as those of doctors or lawyers or corporate executives? Wouldn’t that be radical?

3 thoughts on “reclaiming domesticity

  1. Lynn

    What a lovely post…I can smell the bread, feel the warmth of the kitty and feel the love that surrounds you! I lived through the era that brought about all the changes….and I bought the whole there-must-be-something-better-to-do-with-my-time that was sweeping the nation back then. So my little boys were basically raised by other women….and it wasn’t until I was nearly 40 that I woke up a smelled the stench of that lie. Seriously….you are a young woman who is content and focused on what is important. Does it feel wonderful? Does it feel so right? Of course it does! Enjoy!!

  2. kim

    As a culture we need to value the life work balance. Yeah, I want successful business career, but I want to get home in time to bake a cake and eat it too.

  3. Julia

    I just stumbled upon this and amen, I feel like I could have written this!
    I am just breathing after the first 2.5 years of raising my first child (while building a coop, learning to raise chickens, and all the like) and pregnant with my second.

    I have done SO much thinking, observing, and philosophizing on this subject, and know a few things. Like, parenting in the first year can be INCREDIBLY lonely. Especially in the city. It’s easy to feel like some po-dunk domestic sideshow, especially around friends without kids.
    I have realized, over and over again, just how marginalized and misunderstood parenting is in our culture. Add to that your exhaustion and confusion about whether you’re making the right decisions and you have a recipe for lots of tears, learning, and on the other side of it, growth and integrity. It is a battle, and if you ever want a rad mama friend who cans, bakes, makes babies, but hasn’t turned into a Stepford Wife just yet, email me.


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