Sorry, a rather lengthy excerpt from a fascinating post at Patheos.com, but it’s all so good!
Understanding the domestic arts as, well, art, has almost totally disappeared from our cultural landscape. Technology (and the corresponding rise in collective wealth that allows most of the US to own it) has rendered many time-honored skills – traditionally passed from mother to daughter – superfluous.
Sewing is one of them. Hand-washing clothes and hanging them on a line to dry is another. Grinding our own wheat, making our own bread, making our own stock, making our own everything was largely shifted from the realm of the necessary to the realm of the optional by the late 50′s.
Suddenly, skills that were highly prized and highly necessary for women to have – skills that required years of practice to master – could suddenly be accomplished in a factory in one-tenth the time and purchased at a store at absurdly low costs. What’s more, the culture hailed these advancements as superior to the work women used to spend hours doing. Wonderbread was eminently preferable to hand-ground, homemade wheat bread. Making your own food and sewing your own clothes were considered a sign of poverty, not a sign of accomplishment.
As a direct result, the housewives of the 50′s and 60′s, by and large, did not pass these skills on to their daughters. They wanted them to have a better life, to reach the American Dream, to be the women who bought their bread and their clothes, the women advertisers insisted were the feminine ideal….
The daughters of the 50′s housewives made incredible strides to advance women’s access to higher education and professional opportunities. The work they did to promote the dignity of women and their inherent value to the professional and political spheres was extraordinary, and opened up a whole new world for the generations of both women and men that have followed. But like all good things, it came with a price.
That price was the cultural denigration of domesticity. Regardless of the personal mores of our individual families, the broader culture my generation was raised in place little, if any, value on stay-at-home mothers….
I’ve come to understand that the domestic arts really are an art, that it takes skill and virtue and mental acuity to be a good wife and mother. I’ve also come to understand that I’m woefully unprepared for this life that I once thought fit only for those women who couldn’t (or didn’t want to) make something of themselves.
Turns out, it’s a whole lot harder than anyone ever said.
A lot of young mothers are in this situation. They are overwhelmed by a life they couldn’t imagine, much less comprehend, before it hit them like a Mac truck. On top of which, they find themselves struggling to learn basic household skills that they weren’t taught because they have no cultural value (seriously, when was the last time anyone heard of a home ec class?), and facing an unprecedented amount of seemingly life-or-death parenting choices.
These are the questions we’re trying to answer while wiping a bottom, nursing a newborn, and fishing a cheerio out of a toddler’s nostril (and yes, we do all three at once in flagrant disregard for basic human hygiene, because the screaming). Oh, and don’t forget that we’re living in unprecedented isolation, in a time and place where we can’t even send our older children outside to play without getting arrested. Meanwhile, science keeps reminding us that we’d be so much happier if we’d just embrace daycare and go to work.
Your thoughts? Have technological advances coupled with feminism left Millennial moms unskilled in the “domestic arts”?
[HT: Monte Harms; graphics via Patheos]