Season's Cleanings: Dignity in Homemaking

Flashback Summer: Dignity in Homemaking

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?


  1. Keeping a house is a lot of work! Ditto cooking from scratch rather than reheating or eating out. I definitely wish that the ladies in my family had passed on some more of these skills so that I didn't have to learn them on my own. That being said, there are a million and one great resources on pinterest to help with housekeeping which is awesome.

    1. So true! Pinterest has kind of become the Millenial's grandma, haha.

  2. Hear, hear! I think the shift in our current society is a worrying one. I mean most people look at homemakers as women/men who are too lazy to get jobs! However, if you are both career woman and a homemaker then you are more highly regarded than when you are "just" a career woman. So I think it is very contradicting!! I find that some people look at me funny when I say I don't want to pursue any more education as I am happy with my job now and it has the flexibility I need for when I become a mom. It's sad, really! We are losing so many skills nowadays because we somewhat have outsourced those skills. Sewing, cleaning, cooking - we can pretty much pay someone else to do it for us!

  3. Yes! Being a homemaker is important and something that can be done if you are a housewife or work outside of the home, it will look a bit different for everyone. For my family me being home is important. It means less stress for myself and my husband, we are able to eat from scratch, healthy meals every night, and my husband is able to relax more when he is home.

    I'm so grateful women can choose many paths now but I hate that the path I choose of being a full time homemaker is looked down upon now.

  4. I absolutely love digging in and giving my all to homemaking! I'm glad that those around me (especially my husband) see the value in it as well.

    Though, I won't lie, having magical elves would be wonderful! :-)

  5. Terrific post, Emileigh dear. I think that there is so much to be said for the role of being a homemaker, whether it is carried out by a woman or a man. So long as one is happy in this path in their life, I see nothing wrong with devoting yourself to tending to a home and those who inhabit it. Doing so is truly the oldest job imaginable and deserves far more respect and reverence, in my opinion, than it generally receives in today's society.

    ♥ Jessica

  6. Very well written! I am blessed to have a husband who lets me be a stay at home mom and housewife and I love it!! It is sad that the term "housewife" has such a bad connotation these days, but my "job" is to see to the efficient running of my home, keep it healthy and clean for my family, make nutritious meals for then to eat, and all that goes with it. For me, it is an awesome career and I love it!!

  7. There have been many wonderful articles about how the devaluing of traditional "women's work" and how only things that traditionally "men" did are worthwhile, and that by joining the "men" was only how women because worthwhile. The whole "value of your time" nonsense. Homemaking, cooking, cleaning, etc are incredibly difficult and worthwhile activities, no matter the gender of the person doing it.

    And worse of all is that it's still considered women's work, so even if both husband and wife have careers, it's still the woman who's "expected" to be the one supposed to juggle career and house. Work is work is work and it's got to get done! And even if we all lost our paying jobs tomorrow, we'd still have to clean the house and cook dinner!

    I'm looking forward to this series -- I always like getting inspiration for how to be a better housekeeper. Sweeping the studio before students come is about as proactive as I get. :-P

    -- Tegan

  8. I think it is a shame that schools don't teach home-ec as much as they use to. I think it is important to know how take care of your house, and it seems that kids these days don't do as many chores as in the past. I cleaned the bathroom once a week, I helped do dishes and make dinner. And there are other things that are important, like basic sewing skills (people bring in clothes to get buttons sewn on!) or fixing things around the house.

  9. This is so interesting and I definitely agree! However, as a working woman, I find that I don't have all the time I would like to have to keep my house in top shape, which is why I'm glad that at the same time women are taking on more and more career tasks, men are also taking on home tasks and helping out with the housework. I don't know what I would do without my husband's help around the home!

    1. I'm in the same situation, and I'm also hugely grateful for my husband's help!!!