Housewives of the 21st Century

7 Apr 2008

I've been thinking today about why we look back nostalgically at the housewives of years gone by . Some hark back to the Victorian era, some prefer the 1950s as the place they would like to settle. Some look to groups such as the Amish for inspiration.

I think it is because we see these eras as times when the job of homemaker and mother was treated with respect which many of us feel is lacking today. Everyone wants to feel they are valued for the work they do and many of us crave some kind of public recognition.

But most work done in the privacy of the home will never be widely celebrated. We do the work out of love and respect for our families and ourselves and really that should be enough.
People who do philanthropic work often don't want to be identified. The knowledge that they have the ability to help and have helped is reward enough.

Society as a whole seems to only give status to occupations that are well paid. People are said to " have done well" if they have achieved financial success and recognition. This makes those who don't receive the accolades feel inferior.

As mothers and homemakers, full time or part time we need to remember why we are doing what we do. We love and care for our families and our homes because we love our families, we want to enjoy a decent home life , we want to be able to enjoy time together. We do things around the house and for our families because they need doing, we take responsibility for our lives, think about how we want our lives to be and just get things done.

It's not done for public accolades, that's a fleeting triumph at best. The way you run your home, love your family, work at your marriage, care for your own parents and siblings forever lives on in the lives of your children and grandchildren.

Those housewives from days gone by , the ones we admire were doing the same job. The 1950s was the beginning of the massive push to control the spending habits of the number one consumer, the housewives. There are so many images of them because they were so constantly portrayed in advertising worrying about the whiteness of their wash or marvelling at the wonders of their new stove. There have always been housewives and always will be. In this era we can choose if that is what we want to be, in past times it was not always so easy.

Although there have always been some strong, driven women able to go against the current in all historical eras the majority of women in those times had far fewer choices than we have today. By choosing to forgo financial gains and instead choosing to be home focussed we are being those strong women paddling against the current. We do it, not so people will admire us but because we can see no other way to be true to ourselves. We have rewards every day if we only look for them and appreciate what we have.

And , as it should be, there are seasons to our lives , times when the care of our homes is all consuming as we try to manage small children and housework, times when rhythms and routines have fallen into place and extra activities and hobbies can be guiltlessly enjoyed, times when home seems the safest place, a haven and times when we feel we can take on the world knowing we have a safe base to return to.

Home life is an organic, ever evolving life that can allow us to learn and grow. It is a wonderful gift and we should be quietly grateful that we live in this time when so much is open to us. We should acknowledge those who came before us, learn from them and use the best that they have handed down knowing that by using these skills and making them our own we too are handing them down the generations.

We can't live in any time but where we are. We can't live any life but our own. See it for the gift it is and make it your ambition to truly live your life.

16 Responses to “Housewives of the 21st Century”

  1. Hello Jen, thanks for the wisdom. Today,is a very busy day for me as Sunday's are always filled with Church and worship,...A.M.and P.M...with lunch and a nap in between.Some Sundays we go visiting are out to eat. So my Monday's are always filled with catching up on laundry and housework. Really,no different than any other week day.I also babysit my granddaughter who is four,so in between the cleaning and folding laundry we play babies, read storys,etc. My days are blessed and full as many other mothers and grandmothers,not to much unlike those before us.

    Bless you and your lovely home,Jen...Shelley

  2. ahh, thank you, well said!

  3. I'm trying to live my life...I'm trying!!! I love when you write about this subject. I feel so valued and inspired to do a better job! Thanks! :o)

  4. Having a home of my own and a family was what I wanted to grow up and have while I was a child. I remember how we pretended this way when we played. That is the way I was brought up and it was the same with my husband. He has always wanted to be the sole provider. In the 70's though when we would get together with couples he knew through work, and I was asked what I did, they always seemed to look down on me. I began to be disatisfied and want a career. Now it seems that we homemakers who have raised our families by being in the home instead of paying child care are finally looked at with envy by some. In my later years now, I have so many things I want to do and I am limited by difficulties of age and health. Finally, I am content with my lot and feel worthy and even admired for the years I sacrificed for family.
    This is a timely piece. Not all working wives and Mothers do it because they have to for the money. Some do it for their sanity. Not everyone is cut out for the job and I can appreciate that.
    Mama Bear

  5. In church one time we were discussing how no government includes unpaid domestic work in its Gross National Product, yet our countries would collapse if no one was doing the work the parents and caregivers do at home!! No one puts a price on my hours spent in housework and childcare. I'm not saying I need that economic affirmation, just pointing out that we stay-at-homes are the bedrock of society (hmmmm - or I am overstating that??).

  6. Amen Jenny. Thanks for this. Wise words indeed,

    Love, Tina :)

  7. Thanks Jenny, for your very timely words of wisdom on this subject.

    I always wanted to be a SAHM with my own home and a wonderful husband ~ and God has indeed blessed me with all of my heart's desires. But since my last child went off to school I've struggled to have a full day at home!

    This week I have been praying through whether to drop a commitment to a Bible Study class I attend (not attached to my church) and have finally decided that next week will be my last week. I can't wait to 'come home'. I get stressed and uptight when I don't get to spend enough time in my own home.

  8. Some very wise words. We are indeed lucky that there are choices and if women want to work then they can. I love the fact that I've been able to be a SAHM and also a working mum. Both have their advantages. But of course the housewife never gets the recognition they truly deserve.

  9. Thank you for the reminder of the wounderful gift I have been given as a SAHM!!! I appreciate your blog! Looking forward to the warm spring and summer here in the USA.
    Ruth, PA

  10. I had to come back to this post today and tell you I think it's wonderful. I also love the pictures!

  11. What a wonderful post...thank you.
    I know that growing up I had "BIG" dreams of doing other things, but I knew that after all was said and done, being a wife and mommy was what I wanted most of all.
    And that's what I became.
    There have been times I was told by outsiders that I was nothing more than a "babysitter" to my own children, and that I did not "work;" many things are not apparent to those who choose not to see.
    Lately this has weighed heavily on my mind; your post is a blessing to me today.
    Have a wonderful week,

  12. Fabulous post, Jenny.

    I totally agree with you. We shouldn't idealise the past too much but live as fully in the present as we can. I think this is what is meant by the expression 'mindfulnesss'. Mind you, I *love* vintage pictures and images and often post them on my blog.

    I also think that we can learn a lot from the techniques and methods of days gone by. I love old cookbooks for this reason.

    Kate xxx

  13. Kate I absolutely adore all the vintage pictures as well. I collect vintage knitting patterns and sewing patterns. I love the look of the mid twentieth century from the thirties through to the fifties.Just gorgeous.

  14. thank-you for such an inspiring and wise post, i've just found your blog via down-to-earth, and i'll definately be back.

  15. Have you seen this site? They have some fun vintage cookbooks.


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