It’s taken me longer than I thought to get through this book. Mainly because of the Great Canadian Cheese Festival preparations took much of my time and brain power. But I finally completed this book over a lunch hour this week.
I must admit, I began this book thinking I was going to find kindred spirits. I was going to see women that were similar in thoughts and needs as myself and what I discovered about me, and them is that there are a number of differences! I’ll start with what the book is about. Then on to my personal take on it.
Emily Matchar noticed a startling number of blogs, books and women (mostly, anyway) returning to the domestic sphere and opting out of the general workforce. She examines the history of woman’s work and feminism. She interviews women who believe it’s most natural for them to rear the children, bake bread and do the housework. She examines homesteading, frugality, parenting and the new hipster homemakers.
There is a wide variety of topics covered in this book and there were parts that intrigued me more than others. I am not (nor plan to be) a mother and therefore the section on parenting was interesting from a bystander point of view, but it was 20 pages too long for me since I couldn’t relate. I was, of course, very interested in the section on canning, DIY food and the culture surrounding it. All in all I found the book to be well written, well researched and a good mix of historical references and current opinions from women who are actually part of the New Domesticity movement.
At first blush, I’m in total agreement with a number of these hipster homemaker women. I wrote these thoughts last month and well, I can see the appeal. What started to unsettle me was towards the end of the book. Some of these women were totally and completely relying on their husbands to provide a paycheque to live on. In a day and age where divorce is at an all-time high, why were these women giving up their ability to be self-sustaining? And were these men perfectly happy to go to work all day while their wives stayed home? Don’t mistake these questions as a belief that these women do nothing all day (I may not be a parent, but I’m not naïve to believe that these women are Peg Bundy eating bon bons). What I’m really curious about is whether the relationships truly were fair and what would these women do if they found their marriage breaking down. I’ve see it happen and it’s wound up as a struggle for money and a (mistaken) belief of what one is ‘owed’ after a relationship ends.
I would agree that their choices to bake their own bread, make all their food from their own garden and from scratch are great ways to spend their time, and in fact, I would love to do that myself! But at the expense of not being able to contribute financially? I would love to opt out of the working world and become an entrepreneur. I want to earn my own money and I want to do it with My Guy. It is a romanticized notion of what would actually be a lot of hard work, time and effort. But I see us working together to earn a non-traditional living. Not him as the breadwinner and me as the home one who cares for the home.
I grew up with a mother who made a very good living, a father who worked hard but for less money. Both cooked, parented, struggled to make ends meet and both did house chores. My Dad was more traditional in that he took lawn cutting, repairs and the typically masculine chores, while my Mom did laundry and vacuumed. However both have and would pinch hit for the other when needed. The marriage and responsibilities were equal when being divided. Perhaps it’s this that has shaped my beliefs about why I would choose not to opt out of making a living.
I think Emily Matchar does a good job of representing both sides of this New Domesticity issue. She shows those who are embracing it whole-heartedly, those who are not and in her conclusion makes those of us who wish to embrace it, feel ok about only going half way. I strongly suggest every woman who has ever considered baking their own bread, knitting or throwing caution to the wind to grow all their own food and take a leave from the work force (permanent or temporary), to read this book. You may come to the same answer and walk away from the corporate world, but at least Ms. Matchar will give you a history lesson and some things to consider.