Sunday, November 27, 2011

Are We Modern Women Or Behaving Like Our Grandmothers?

Julia Rothman for The Washington Post
I'm a stay at home mom. I have a lot of friends who are stay at home moms. I'm sure each of us decided to stay home to raise our kids for different reasons, but the fact is that all of us are what I think of as quite modern women who are highly educated and yet our careers were put on hold (or said goodbye to) in order to be full time mothers. 

I find it interesting how many families these days seem really happy with what is in many ways a very "traditional" arrangement with dad going to work and mom staying home. I remember when I was in my 20's and married to my first husband, I brought up the idea of staying home when we had children and he seemed completely put out. He not only didn't want the pressure of being the sole breadwinner, but he turned his nose up at the idea that his wife might no longer be the fancy fashion designer he married but would instead be "just" a mom. 

Obviously, he and I were not meant to be.

But the idea that just a decade or two later, so many women would be home raising their children fascinates me. Not only are so many of us staying home, but many are doing things our own bra-burning mothers might consider a step backwards and are actually homeschooling, knitting, canning, making our own cleaning supplies, and baking our own bread. Is today's mother ruining everything our grandmothers fought for, or is she actually starting some sort of new revolution? 

I read this really interesting article in this weekend's Washington Post in which the author asks if today's new domesticity is fun, empowering or a step back for American women. She brings up some really interesting ideas:
"You could say these women are simply homemakers searching for a purpose beyond driving carpool. As work-life balance scholar Joan Williams tells me, extreme domesticity can be a refuge for educated women who’ve left the workforce: “You’ve been trained your entire life in a high-pressure, high-achievement atmosphere, and you need somewhere to put that,” she says. “So you turn your household into an arena for dazzling performance." 
But these extreme DIY-ers are also voicing a fear and frustration that resonates with anyone who worries about salmonella-tainted eggs or BPA in their kid’s sippy cup. Which is to say, most of us. Their domesticity can be seen as an effort to repair on an individual level what isn’t being fixed at a governmental or societal one." 
As much as I don't trust supermarket labels,
I can't see myself as a
raise-chickens-in-my-backyard kind of girl.
Obviously, it's not only stay at home mothers who have embraced this do it yourself culture. I'm sure there are plenty of mothers who work outside of the home who strap on an apron when they get back from the office and churn their own butter. Well, maybe not...but you know what I mean. But I do wonder have we placed yet another layer of pressure on ourselves? Do women now also have the stress of feeling that if they don't collect the eggs from the chickens raised in their own backyard or cook every meal from scratch that they have fallen even farther from being the perfect homemaker? Or do women feel empowered, as the WP article suggests, by being able to do all of this themselves?

Do you do many of the DIY things mentioned in this article? Or are you the type of mother who is just grateful you can call in for a pizza at the end of a long day? Do you feel liberated by not having to grow your own food or does that kind of connection with nature and providing for your family sound appealing? Does all of this old-fashioned domesticity sound like a fun respite from today's high tech world to you? Or do you think that, as the author wonders, these quaint hobbies may one day become our daughter's burdensome chores? Leave a comment below, I'd love to know your thoughts!

Thanks for reading,
The Twin Coach
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