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?