Thursday, October 25, 2007

HouseHold Management ~ An art or Opression?

So I first heard tell of Mrs. Beeton through a knitting pattern. I had never heard of her and it peaked my interest. But with kids and life I didn't put too much effort in researching her. Less than a year later I watched a program on PBS entitled The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton. Then I was sold ~ I needed to get her book and hold it in my hands - the thing that this woman worked so hard and diligently on through so much heartache and trouble.
Finally this month I ordered the original unabridged edition and I also splurged bit and bought The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs. Beeton by Kathryn Hughes.
I find myself while reading both books amazed to how our opinion of the homemaker has changed over the years. During the Victorian era is was a highly prized thing to have wife that cooked, knitted and kept the house functioning and today we have fallen so far from that. In some ways its positive. I do believe woman have the right to vote and I think they should have every right that is afforded to a man. As well as the option to either seek employment or run the house. But I think Women today are pressured to do both and because of it I think they feel a sort of guilt - our families, friends, and society today want us to be "successful" in the business fields and they also want us to run our homes and make sure we have healthy happy families. I think its very very hard to do both and any one that has a couple of toddlers running around their house knows why. I wonder why we have put ourselves into that cage? Because I really believe that women really are the hardest to each other. The house Wife feels guilty over not seeking a successful career and the Working mother/wife feels guilt over not being at home enough.

Why do we do this to ourselves? I'm interested to hear your opinions.

Oddly enough woman have taken up knitting and other "female arts" once again. But I still think there is such a low opinion of the " Stay at home Mom". I myself a knitter am constantly confronted with women who see the needles and go "Cool! You knit?!?!" and then the women who look down their nose at you and say, "Your knitting - " blah.
In my opinion I think its sad that we have formed that notion that to be a stay at home mom is nothing. I mean we say its everything but how many people really believe it. I myself get it a lot unintentionally from my husband. If I ask him to help me with something after he's back from work I get the - "I've been at work all day...." To which I respond with - " And I haven't!" I am a stay at home mom and I think one way to get rid of that " your only a homemaker" idea is for our government to start giving some sort of support. I think that children who have a mother or father that is at home helps children succeed and I think that it makes for better stronger families.


teabird said...

Khadijha Caitlin, you have made so many important points (and you've made me long to read both books!)

When I first participated in the feminist movement in the sixties, I thought it was all about choices. Had I known that women would still be in no-win situations in the eyes of many men and women, I wouldn't have been so eager to join in. Instead of opening all choices to men and women, it seems to have created more complicated no-win situations for women.

Women who decide to have families, stay home with their children, and become capable and talented homemakers are not respected as they were before the movement.

Women who decide to follow careers and not have families are presumed to have little regard for families or social issues (education, for example, or child welfare) - or, at least, others have little respect for what we think of these issues.

Women who have careers and families feel guilty as moms, they may be held back in their careers, and they are exhausted. (Needless to say, everything I'm saying about these scenarios is black and white; most lives fall in grey areas.)

As for women who don't respect knitting - I posted here about an experience I had at a meeting of librarians when I took out my knitting.

Here's my take on the subject: if women and men, alone or paired in whatever way they wish, are not free to make the choices that use their strengths to benefit themselves, their children, and society, then none of us is really free, and the world suffers.

Would Mrs. Beeton be Martha Stewart today? What do you think, Caitlin?
Somehow, I think Martha is a creation of the modern age, but maybe Mrs. Beeton was, too!

And I'm curious - are any of Mrs. Beeton's homemaking suggestions useful today?

Khadijha Caitlin said...

I definitley think she was the Martha Stewart of her day. Of course she didn't have her own t.v. show but then t.v. wasn't invented yet.
I think she would have and yes I do believe she was very much a creation of the modern day.
Obviously we don't need to know how much to pay our scullery maids but I think the food tips are great and just reading her descriptions on everything from Sheep to Parsley is well worth reading.

Carrie K said...

I've been meaning to read both those books, thanks for the review and the reminder, Khadijha.

It's utterly baffled me how women's liberation has translated into having to work, having to raise your children, having to keep your house, having to please your man and having to look like some teeny bopper while doing all this. (Not that I've done most of that, but the pressure is there.)

Anna said...

I am a stay-at-home mom and homemaker, and for me it's never been too difficult to keep a sense of my own value. I have a full time job - it's being a housewife, and it has exactly the same kinds of demands on my time that any other job would have, and that's how I treat it, how I describe it to others, and how I expect other's to treat it too. People who can't or won't give my work the same respect they expect me to give theirs don't last long in my life (excepting inlaws).

I am, perhaps, not the best person to participate in debate or discussion over this topic - I mostly take the position "It's my life, I like it, and the hell with anyone who has a problem with it."

Carrie K said...

Actually that's about the best way to to take any comments directed at you.

Everyone makes choices. Not everyone will approve of said choices. Since they are my choices and I really don't crave your approval or need your permission, it really doesn't matter what anyone but me thinks.

As long as you and I have the ability to make those choices.

Last night, I realized I have not read a single page of Madwoman since September.

Booklogged said...

I'll try to keep my soapbox ranting to a minimum. I absolutely think that a stay-at-home mom is doing a great service for the community and for her family. And it's usually harder that going off to work all day.

I don't know how I got here, but I did so I thought I'd comment.

Angie said...

The book and the documentary both sound really good. I'm going to add them to my to-read and to-watch lists.