Friday, November 20, 2009

Why I wanted to be a Domestic Goddess, and where it all went wrong...

At the best of times I’m prone to considering feminism and what I expect and get from life as a woman. Book Snob's recent post about these very subjects has set me of again, as has my polyester induced reading of ‘The Housewife’s Handbook’ – not I notice the householder’s handbook – like most manuals on domestic matters this book is aimed squarely at women.

Rachel’s comments fascinate me mostly because they closely reflect mine at a similar age, certainly closely enough to make me examine how and why they’ve developed. She’s also made me examine my life other the last year, as did some of the comments. I go through phases of domesticity, normally accompanied by some sort of book purchase – food, garden or flower arranging generally. They phase soon wears off although I’m vaguely interested in lots of the ‘domestic arts’ – anything which encourages or demands creativity really. If I feel myself getting down in mood I try and cook myself out of it, the combination of concentration on the task in hand, and the basic fact that if I follow the rules good results will follow is something I find tremendously soothing.

I suppose that most women feel that they are judged in some way on their housekeeping skills in my case mostly by my mother who is much more conscientious than I am and recently I have felt very answerable to her. My work situation being what it has I found myself in the really uncomfortable position of relying on my family for help again, I never considered myself as much of a career woman, or as being defined by my job, but until I lost it I didn’t realise how much financial independence meant to me. Job seeker is far below stay at home mum in the social scale. There are sound financial as well as emotional reasons to being a full time mum, as well as an implied choice.

Job seekers are short on choices so I feel we have to take control where we can find it, in my year of underemployment I baked and preserved, sewed, borrowed a garden, polished, started blogging – anything in fact to feel busy, useful and in control. Anything to have an answer for the question ‘What did you do today’. Apparently Nigella Lawson has a theory that people coming from a less secure or happy background are more likely to want to create domestic harmony in their adult lives. I tend to think she’s right, and I think it’s the general uncertainty of the times which makes a sanitised version of fifties domesticity so appealing today – it’s a game to play, but definitely a role that can be cast off at will for most of us.

I grew up with the idea that I could do or be anything with the result that at 35 I still haven’t made up my mind, but I do now know how important my independence is to me. However tiresome work can be, however much time is taken up by it, time which could be more enjoyably spent, it gives me the means to be myself. There were a lot of things I loved about having that time, but feeling that I had no control over what might happen next was not one of them. Of course one of the best things about being back at work is that I can buy more books...


  1. There is so much in this post that strikes a chord with me. I have been underemployed for the past year and have faced many of the same issues. Being male, I don't have to deal with the societal expectation of domestic proficiency. But being in a same-sex relationship does mean that traditional gender roles don't apply unless we want to live like pigs or hire a full staff.

    And like you, I realized how important financial independence is to me. I could stay part time and we would be just fine, but after a year I am ready to get back to full time. Not because I don't like the extra time at home, in fact I love it, but because I really want the independence and security of full employment. We will see how I feel after I go back to full time in early December.

  2. Good luck with going back full time, the time to do your own thing is wonderful, but I suppose everything has to come with a price.
    Maybe this way you can hire the full staff to free you up for all the other stuff...

  3. So much of this strikes a chord with me right now, because I am struggling with not just staying busy while looking for a job, but feeling like I'm actually DOING something that matters. I've noticed I'm knitting a lot more than I used to, and that I've become the unofficial hostess for my group of equally un- and underemployed friends. I wish I had a garden I could borrow, but I've even been container gardening, which I've never done before. Like you, I don't relish the feeling of no control over certain areas of my life, but I also know it's fleeting. And someday I will buy books again!