Monday, March 15, 2010

Housewifery 101

“It is only in recent generations that society does not recognize the importance of the person making a home.”

This quotation from Brenda reminded me of something that I have been noticing the last several years as I read books more than, say, fifty years old or watch movies based on those older books. My observation is this: Until the feminist revolution, people generally regarded the home and all that goes with it, including children, as so undeniably important that they thought it necessary that someone~the wife~be there to oversee it, to guide it, and to guard it. The feminists have tried to convince women (and they’ve been largely successful, more’s the pity) that we have been held back and chained down through the ages by our homemaking responsibilities, but the reality is that women were given the privilege of performing the incalculably essential tasks of homemaking. Today, we tend to think of the home and all its attendant duties as unimportant, at least not as important as a career, but men especially regarded it as a sacrifice that they gladly made for the women in their lives to be the ones who left home each day for office, shop, factory, or fields. The women held the privileged position of getting to stay home.

This attitude is evident in many older books. An example that comes readily to mind is from Anne of Green Gables. When Anne is relating to Marilla the circumstances of her birth, she says that her mother was a teacher before she married, but of course, she gave that up when she tied the knot because a husband was enough responsibility. Dickens presents us with the a counter example in Bleak House in the personage of the slovenly and preoccupied Mrs. Jellyby. She is so busy doing charitable work for the unknown Africans across the sea that her household and children are in utter and complete shambles due to her negligence. The message is very clear: Don’t be like Mrs. Jellyby! Your family is too important not to receive your ample attention! Widowers and bachelors regularly hired housekeepers to maintain their homes in the absence of a wife because they knew they couldn’t do the job themselves. They valued their homes and domestic condition enough to hire someone to look after what they themselves couldn’t.

It’s not drudgery to make a home. It’s a privilege and blessing, and every wife whose husband values her work enough to give her that privilege and blessing ought to thank him for it!

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