Well, I have to admit that I am only on page 56 of the book and I did cheat and skim through the last chapter. And I also have to admit that my thoughts so far have me feeling like a crabby old lady (which I use as a term of endearment because to me it signifies a lack of interest in the pretense that pervades so much of our life and I can see the wisdom in that midset), but here goes...
Sachi checked out Homeward Bound from the library - a book we've been anticipating since we first heard about it. Well, I don't know if anticipating is necessarily the right word. We've been curious about it anyway.
from the author, about her blog, but it also applies to the book: " This blog is a look at the social movement I call ‘New Domesticity’ –
the fascination with reviving “lost” domestic arts like canning,
bread-baking, knitting, chicken-raising, etc. Why are women of my
generation, the daughters of post-Betty Friedan feminists, embracing the
domestic tasks that our mothers and grandmothers so eagerly shrugged
off? Why has the image of the blissfully domestic supermom overtaken the
Sex & the City-style single urban careerist as the media’s feminine
ideal? Where does this movement come from? What does it mean for women?
For families? For society?"
Certainly these are some trends we have been watching ourselves. In general, as people who like to make things, there are many aspects that we appreciate. I see the slow food movement, the DIY movement, the backyard chicken movement... all these things working together to create a different sort of world, one where people are more connected to their material world, which is a good thing. We feel strongly that the more people try to make things with their hands, the more they will connect with the work of other people making things with their hands - a connection which is oftentimes sorely lacking. And perhaps it is just a question of time, yet there are ways that I see the particulars of that sort of world not really meshing with the particulars of our current world. Just for example, the IRS does not accept eggs as payment. Now, if you truly manage to create a world that is off the grid, that might be one thing, but I don't necessarily see these things happening off the grid, and I certainly don't see myself as an off the grid type of person. I also see many of these movements happening in a world of relative luxury - even though people would say they are canning and growing their own food to save money, there is a luxury of time that is required. And not everyone has that. Is the single mom working two part-time jobs canning the tomatoes she grew? I doubt it.
Given the qualifiers first mentioned, here are my thoughts so far, which I have the idea of setting apart in numerical order, but I can see the points are all interconnected. But perhaps overarching it all is my sense is that the book isn't really speaking TO me... I don't know, somehow I thought that it was going to. But I think I am going to have to read this book as observer, and save myself the next 200 pages of saying, "but that's not me...."
1. I'm too old. That's right, I said it. At 42, I definitely don't qualify for the Generation Y that the author speaks of. That's fine. But I do see people of all ages embracing domesticity so I don't think it is an exclusive purview of Millenials. More significantly, I find that I fall closer to the category of the bra-burning 1970s woman than the jam-making 2000s woman. I have very serious concerns about the role of women and their income-earning potential in the world today. I have seen supposed happily-ever-afters end in such a way that I wish all women would have some source of income and security that is completely their own. I have major concerns about how we as a society value certain skill sets over others and "I just do this because it is fun, I just want to earn enough to pay for supplies" has always MAJORLY grated on my nerves. Perhaps the point of this book is that people are reclaiming the valuation of skills - and I can't argue with that - but there is still so much of life that is on other (monetary) terms that I have my doubts about how effective this valuation is when you still have to pay your mortgage, your taxes, your electric bill...
2. Am I really the only person who doesn't have a computer at home? I love the internet, don't get me wrong. And the author is certainly correct to qualify this current domesticity as "new," based largely on the fact that there is now the internet. Women who stay at home are not isolated as they have been in previous generations, they have blogs, they have ways to connect to a larger community of people experiencing similar frustrations and triumphs. But they have to have an internet connection. To me, that is a luxury and it slightly narrows the category of person to which this new domesticity can apply.
3. I think government does good things. I am happy to earn money to pay taxes to fund things that I like that I cannot pay for on my own. I have some concern about the ways this domestic focus reflect a turning-inward of our lives - a focus on what we CAN control (how clean the bathroom is or how well our curtains are sewn) away from what we feel we cannot control (which, I believe, is just a ploy on the part of larger organizations to make us feel helpless and powerless and thus turn away from what we actually *should* be participating in). Government is made up of people, people are not perfect. But anything that looks perfect should be suspect; I am quite sure that even those bloggers with their perfect photographs have their bad hair days. Overall, I seriously question the anti-government rhetoric of today (which the author links to the inward-turning domestic focus) and I believe strongly that the role of government and church are the same and equally valuable - to pool our resources to accomplish larger things that are beyond our individual ability.
Now, in the book, the author talks about the community that is created through the internet and through blogs - that is community which is created through your individual connections. That is very powerful stuff, no doubt about that. More powerful than just geographic proximity, because you share some major life events with such people. Aside from the fact that not everyone has internet connection, not everyone has a blog with thousands of followers. I am reminded of a story that our Dad tells about a Boston Bishop who was sick. The Bishop -obviously not one to deny the power of prayer - was also somewhat cautious, essentially saying that he didn't really believe God worked solely that way; otherwise the Bishop, as a renowned man on the receiving end of thousands of prayers, would be so much better off than some anonymous person equally ill. And yet, the Bishop said, those anonymous people are as important to God. So, too, while it is wonderful that someone with thousands of readers can receive $100,000 after she is seroiusly injured in a plane crash, what about that person who has no such connection? It is precisely for such people that our larger government and church organizations exist.
4. I'm single. I'm quite sure that someone would say this is the talk of a bitter spinster, but please don't feel sorry for me. I pretty much have my life exactly as I want it, and I don't have room for much more. I realize that everyone makes their choices and sets their path, and there are pluses and minuses to any course - there is many a time when a couple comes into the shop and I think to myself, "see, that's why I'm still single." That said, SOMEONE's gotta pay the bills, and in my case, it is me. I am not the kind of person who would last well off the grid. I like the luxuries that my salary pays for. I believe that I am equally capable and deserving of being paid for my time and expertise as anyone else. I wouldn't say that I am envious or resentful of other people's lives, but so far what I see of New Domesticity is that is often accomplished because there is a spouse who works in the non- domestic sphere. And when a woman, whose life is in some way underwritten by the salary of her spouse, devalues her time and work, I do feel that generally downgrades all such time and work and reflects back upon me - that has an effect on the collective worth of such activities. I believe I read somewhere that if all the tasks of homemaking were outsourced for a year, it would cost a household well over $100,000. Doing such tasks for oneself should not detract from their value and in some ways the New Domesticity does indeed re-value such tasks. But IRS still won't take your chicken eggs in payment. Furthermore, much of this is still "women's work" and aside from principles of feminism and equality, I have some personal interest in making sure that it is valued on ALL of the scales we weigh our work and worth.
5. I'm not a mom. Thank Goodness. Seriously, I invest a lot of time and energy in my adorable niece - but I'm always happy to have the other 6 nights a week to myself. Perhaps if I was a mom, I would pace myself better. Though I kind of have a feeling that I would be wracked with guilt about all the other things that other moms are doing and would be in danger of completely losing my sense of self. That's fine... but I like my self. And I also know that children grow up... and THEN you'd have to find your sense of self all over again? I don't know, the chapter about attachment parenting has already lost me. Also, is this just because our mom was of a different generation? Were the Baby Boomer parents really that involved in their career to the point of not parenting? I hadn't really had that sense. The author definitely speaks to a particular woman who is reacting to a lack of a traditional mother figure in her life by becoming supermom themselves. Did all those moms really hate their jobs that much? Were they really that deficient as parents? Now, I know that our mom loves us but she was pretty clear from early on that there were other aspects of her life. I guess I've always felt that no one or two (or more) people can be the end-all, be-all of your life, even if they are your children. But then again, I'm not a mom.
6. I'm a Capitalist. My brother-in-law comments on this often, but it is true that Sachi and I often think quickly about how to monetize something. So, clearly, I'm not the one to lead the charge to a new economy. I think there are many ways that we can use our money differently and for the better, but I'm not really ready to give up on making and spending it.
7. I LOVE my job. Just yesterday we were walking with our Dad and out of the blue he says, "I never really worked my whole life." This was a familiar refrain when we were growing up. The fact is, he was employed (mostly through grant money) through the University of Wisconsin for decades, well past the time when other people might have retired. He always expressed it as Play, not Work, and considered it somewhat embarassing that someone would actually be paying him to do that. Meanwhile, our mom would come home from her work at Steenbock Library with stories about various research projects that she helped students and professors with. Both of our parents always expressed a great curiosity about the world, which was satisfied through their jobs. So I don't really think of a job as a drugdery or something to escape from. Even though I am an extreme introvert and might be well suited to a life of domesticity, there is so much that I have gained from a life in the public sphere, so much that I have gained from creating our store, that I can only encourage other people to do likewise, and somehow the New Domesticity feels counter to that.
So, there you go. Only 56 pages in and apparently I had a lot of pent-up thoughts. This started because I asked the question of Facebook friends and fans and someone replied that they were interested to hear my thoughts. What was a 4-point Facebook reply became this.
How about you? Have you read the book? Do you have thoughts about the various trends in domestic arts? Where do you feel your generation stands.. if there is such a thing as being able to speak for a large and diverse group of people....? How do you feel the smaller act of creating fits into the larger world?