Home-keeping is a science, and but who profess it really possess it? The more we accomplish with the least of money, and the smallest amount of work, the more science we exhibit. The woman who keeps her house so that it is home to the tired and weary husband and little ones, so that any and all the time they spend at home, until the very idea of at home is a happy thought, is a scientific home keeper.
~Western Garden and Poultry Journal, source
While I don't necessarily love all aspects of taking care of a home (I'd rather do other things like, say, knitting), I do think it's an extremely important and overlooked skill these days. I've realized what an art it is, a science even. There is so much to learn in order to do things better, faster, and cheaper in regards to cleaning, maintaining, and organizing a house. Women of previous decades were oftentimes the sole caretakers of their home (with husbands working outside of it), and this knowledge was considered essential for them. It was taught in schools and even college-level courses by women such as Mary Brooks Picken, and these courses had thousands of enrollees! During the Depression, these skills were put to the test as women scrimped and saved to help their families make it through. During WWII, domestic arts and savvy homemaking were seen as a patriotic duty and survival skill for families on the home front.
These days, as women have received more opportunities, this knowledge isn't necessarily considered essential for us any more. We have the ability to work outside our homes and build careers outside of traditional "women's jobs." This is fantastic! However, it also means that sometimes skills traditionally associated with women have been deemed old fashioned or sub-par in comparison to skills used outside a home in a career field. Or, viewing it from another angle, these skills are only seen as truly useful and worthy of developing if you can make money off of them in some sort of small business endeavor.
To me, this unintended consequence of the women's lib movement is a bit sad. Taking care of a home is no longer a point of pride for women; it's a necessary evil they sheepishly admit to doing or don't consider a "worthy" effort until it makes money. Men who take care of their homes often encounter social stigmas as well, as if that role was a womanly and, therefore, less important one.
This is crazy to me! While it is great that women are able to work outside of the home, a welcoming, comfy home is something everyone wants. However, society doesn't respect the work it takes to create such a home. Apparently, magical elves are just supposed make it happen while we all go off to our "more-important" outside jobs every day!
I think many women would agree that taking care of a home can be hard work. As I go through the rest of the series, I want to communicate dignity in the hard work of homemaking. This work, obviously, can be done by both men and women, but I recognize that the vast majority of my audience is women, so posts may be geared that way in language and content.
We should be proud of being competent in careers and homemaking alike, for one is not better than the other. Both are necessary, both are valid job choices, and both are unique skills. The amount we dabble in either one will depend greatly on personality and circumstance, but we can take pride in both! Domestic arts require perseverance, trial and error, ingenuity, invention, and elbow grease. The benefits to be reaped by these skills cannot often be measured in monetary value, but they help create the memories and feelings we carry with us throughout our lives: the clean, safe kitchen where delicious food was made, the Christmas candle that will always be the "official" smell of the holidays, the patches on our play clothes that made them last longer. Homemaking isn't something we should view as a cliche relic of the sexist past. We can take pride in the heritage of skills our mothers and grandmothers have passed down to us and honor their strength by being intentional and effective in our own homemaking today.
Here are a couple bonus vintage articles I enjoyed on the subject:
Housekeeping vs. Homemaking
Homemaker's Creed of the Home Legion
How do you view house work and skills traditionally associated with women? Have you felt like this kind of work isn't valued or considered as important as career skills, or have you found the opposite to be true?