What “homemaker” means to me

My friend Molly wrote a post this week about a conversation we had, in which we talked about our feelings toward homemaking. She posed the question: Are you ready to reclaim the term “homemaker”?

It got me thinking, for all the time this topic has spent all up in my brain, I haven’t actually written about it here. Silly, eh? Thank you, Molly, for the friendly (and probably unintentional) kick in the pants.

The reason I haven’t taken on the word “homemaker” on the blog just yet is…my thoughts are just so big. My feelings about the word are complicated, because the history of women making homes is even more complicated. I want this aspect of it, but not that one. How do I explain why reclaiming this word is so important to me? Such thoughts can hardly be distilled to one little blog post, and certainly not by me, or so I’ve said. But alas, Molly has done it, and so I will try.

Without further ado, here are the things I know to be true about homemaking.

What does "homemaker" mean to you?

Part I: Where we’re coming from

 

1. Homemaking is an ancient art.

Homemaking is something women have been doing since the dawn of humankind. Since we “discovered” our need for shelter, people—primarily women—have through this art turned pure wilderness into the domestic glory we see today—delicious foods, soft textures in pleasing colors, beautiful tools, creature comforts and so many extraordinary joys (as Molly so accurately points out…the entirety of Pinterest) packed into this simple human necessity filed under “shelter”.

2. It is a sacred art.

I will go one step further, and make this claim: homemaking is a sacred art. All of this time, making a home, at its very core, has been about setting a stage…for your love story. A physical place for us to be alive. Stop and read that again, and remember: you are breathing. That’s magic, right there. None of us actually knows quite how that’s possible.

Maybe there’s sunshine streaming in the window, or rain pattering on the roof. The house you’re in keeps you protected from sunburns, and it keeps you dry. And supports your other needs, like being watered and fed and clean and rested. Your life has progressed beyond pure survival mode in great part because of the physical shelter and nourishment your home provides.

But homemaking is much more complete than that, of course. There’s pie, and blankets, and candles, and books, and couches, and love. All this and more, so you can go about this magic of breathing and living, and learning what it means to live well.

Look between the lines of your home, and see the magic there. Homemaking is tending the temple…for you, you glorious being. That magical body of yours, and the other bodies it chooses to love and/or create.

Home is sacred ground, and creating home is a holy act.

3. Homemaking has a shadow history, too.

Here’s one of the thoughts I simply cannot distill in a complete sense, so I will say this: It breaks my heart that women have been forced into homemaking, when their deepest selves wanted something else. Something more. Education, perhaps, or a career. A calling that existed elsewhere in the world than the kitchen.

This ancient art was twisted and used to put women into a box. They were told, in one way or another: Homemaking is what you do…and it is the only thing you do. You are not good enough for anything else.

This fact, I believe, is the root of many visceral reactions to the word. “Homemaker” has been a cage for many women. For some, it still is.

This wound is still healing.

4. It was created by women, but no longer belongs exclusively to us.

Women were the first to master the home, but as the world has changed, so has homemaking. Men are joining us in cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and taking care of the kids. Which is amazing! And complicated.

How do we share something that is so near and dear to our hearts as a gender (#s 1 and 2)—which has also been such a source of harmful patterns, baggage and strife in our history (#3)? How can I identify as a “homemaker” but overcome all the connotations I don’t want? Where is the line between what he does and what I do? Am I taking on too much? Am I asking too much?

This new kind of partnership and new way of being for women and men is beautiful, and it’s also complicated.

5. I started this blog because a part of me felt homemaking was becoming a cage…but in a different way.

Anyone who knows me will know that I’ve always exhibited “homemaker” tendencies. I was born to make things pretty, and I would spend hours as a kid knitting Barbie dresses, playing House (hello, cats in doll clothes), crafting or making apple stew in my little toy kitchen. (Which was sliced apples and lukewarm water. Can you believe my mother passed up the chance to taste it?)

When I grew up, I learned to cook and fell in love and got a real house with a real boy, and when we got married, I registered for gifts like it was my calling.

But somewhere in my mid-to-late twenties, all of these homemaking tasks I loved so well started to swallow me up. I think it was trying to do them all, and do them all so completely and perfectly, just like the pictures on Pinterest (and now Instagram).

And the stuff. Homemaking is complicated in a consumer culture. This generation is at once learning happiness is often found in less stuff, rather than more…but we are still constantly bombarded by a culture that tugs at our emotions, telling us we are not complete until we have this or that. Bigger house. Nicer couch. More expensive dishes.

The thing is, if you listen to all of the external voices about what you must do, what you must have in order to have a beautiful, wonderful home…you’ll fail. Inevitably. I know what it feels like to try.

It’s an entirely different kind of cage—but still a cage—when you realize you’re doing so much, pouring so much time and money and energy into creating and maintaining a place that is not being created from your own artist’s brush, but what someone—or many someones, a.k.a. culture—told you to create.

Part II: Where we are going

There are a lot of modern and historical struggles surrounding homemaking, but the reason I fell in love with homemaking, and continue to want to reclaim the term “homemaker”, is I’m seeking to unearth the most ancient and pure form of homemaking.

Homemaking is inextricably linked to who we are as women. AND: It’s not all we are.

We are homemakers, and more.

Perhaps it has never yet been perfected in human history; a combination of the best parts of what women and homemakers have already learned…plus everything we know now, about technology and simplicity and equality and being alive on this planet…plus that thing that’s unique to each individual, that spice you add that changes everything just enough to make it exactly right, even when it’s not perfect.

Getting from here to there is, of course, complicated. I’m sharing what I know about it here at Rosy Blu. (If you want to follow along, I invite you to sign up right here).

Three key elements I know for sure:

Ease.

If you are not feeling ease in any aspect of homemaking, there is space to change and improve your methods—perhaps you’re doing too much, or doing it someone else’s way. Your homemaking can and should feel easy and natural and beautiful…to you.

Sovereignty.

In order to own the term “homemaker”, in its purest sense, we need to claim sovereignty over our own lives, and make intentional choices from the root of what we actually want…not what someone tells us is our place.

Pardon me while I get a bit philosophical, because sovereignty has become a big word for me. It incorporates both being a source of power, embodying that power, and also recognizing in oneself, for oneself, that you deserve it. Then you can own your power, in every sense of the word. When you know deep down you deserve to sit at the table with royalty; you were born for it. This power is your birthright.

You have a completely different path ahead of you the moment you decide to seize your power and act like the sovereign you are, and apply that at home…and everywhere else.

Nourishment.

A home is a tool that exists to nourish you. Home is a stage for your love story, not a ball and chain. If it feels like you are being drained by everything that “making a home” requires, stop and think about how you deserve to be nourished by home. Let that be your new starting place.

Perhaps the answer is less stuff, more help, or different expectations. If you’re not sure what that looks like, you’re in the right place. We’ll find it.

 

There is so much more to say. But for today, this is where I will stop.

I’d love to hear your thoughts below—do you call yourself a “homemaker”? Why, or why not?

  • mogs

    All well-said, Michelle!

    I don’t call myself a homemaker, but I definitely am one. Few things in life are more important than a well-managed home.

    That said, I hate the one-uppsmanship that Pinterest and Instagram can incite. It’s gross and makes me feel bad, precisely why I limit my Pinterest time.

    PS do you think a man has ever called himself a homemaker? It’s funny, because “maker” is such a non-gendered adjective!

    • YES to the one-uppsmanship on Pinterest and Insta! I love them for inspiration, but I try so hard not to compare…remembering that the picture is a snapshot in time, and they probably spent a bunch of time styling and decluttering, all of which went right back to *normal* once the photo was taken. Plus, how many of those people are in debt from the expensive things they bought? (*cough cough* THRIFTING IS BETTER)

      Also, how much do you hate Pinterest’s “picked for you” pins? The home page feed kinda sucks now.

      Lastly: No, I don’t think men are calling themselves homemakers yet. It’s one of the leftover “homemaking is for less valuable members of society” connotations, I think. But it’s buried so deep, people don’t recognize/admit it in themselves. Part of reclaiming it is bringing reverence back to the task, I think.

  • Tricia Angst-Runningen

    I think the term “homemaker” is brought down by so many stereotypes from the 1940’s-1970’s. It conjures up the image of a woman only serving others for their needs, and not truly fulfilling her own. That in itself is a judgement because I am sure there were women back then who took their role very seriously and it brought them great joy. It is the twist that was spun after the Women’s Movement, I suppose. By your pure definition, I am the homemaker. I love the power to make all those decisions too, and I feel it is such a struggle to not feel inadequate from the messages of all the ways we are not doing it “perfectly.” You nailed it: there is no perfect. And if your house is perfectly clean, you are not having ANY fun!

    • “It conjures up the image of a woman only serving others for their needs, and not truly fulfilling her own.” –> Yes, this! And we are truly living with that warped expectation. The women’s self-care conversation is still dominated by “but I don’t have time for myself!” amid all the other demands of taking care of family and others.

  • Nataliya Semenovych

    I never really thought about homemaking the way that you describe it but I think your reasoning, for why homemaking is sacred, is beautiful and inspiring. My boyfriend and I talk about having a large family and I know that soon I will have the role of homemaker. As I was reading your post I got butterflies in my stomach as I thought about the possibilities! Thank you for sharing, I’m glad that you did.