Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The housewife

'House keeping has been mostly aptly described as the "oldest industry." It is certainly the most important, the very lynch-pin of life's daily round...Woman [since the War] has extended her influence in every sphere and in that which has always been peculiarly her own her position is more unassailable than ever. To use language appropriate to this volume, it may be said that while statesmen may carve nations, good cooks alone can consolidate them.
There are those - not many nowadays - who hold that housekeeping is a matter of instinct and the light of nature. Many women have, it is true, an inherited capacity; but like all other arts, this of domestic management must be cultivated, and even the most self-reliant of brides is generally willing, after a short experience, to concede that she is glad of such counsel as a well-tried book like this can give.'

I was thinking about all of us here in blogland, all with various different housekeeping or cooking experiments going on, and I was wondering why it is so prolific. What is it that we are missing from our ordinary lives that we need to search out old books and manuals to teach us? Obviously, it's nothing different to what they used to do 'back in the day'. sounds like it was perfectly acceptable to ask for help or get a book if you needed it.

Anyway, let see what else Mrs B has to about the housewife...

'Whether the establishment be large or small, the functions of the housewife resemble those of the general of an army or the manager of a great business concern. It is hers to inspire, to mould, direct; vigilance or slackness on her part will alike inevitably be reflected back. The most successful housewives are those who, as in other walks of life, make themselves felt rather than seen or heard. Constant nagging never yet made a good servant: on the other hand, a too-easy rule and undue familiarity are bad alike for housewife and for maid. In every household there are occasions when the housewife can, without loss of dignity and without suspicion of intrusiveness, show that she is interested in the lives of those about her and genuinely concerned for their welfare. Servants, for their part, can always give "that little more, and how much it is," which raises the relationship from that of mere wage-earning to one of respectful friendliness and willing co-operation. On the day that mistresses and maids realise their common humanity, their mutual dependence, and their mutual interest, the servant difficulty will disappear.'

Being a housewife was more that just slobbing about at home while your servants did all the work. And it was more that working your fingers to the bone in a flurry of housecleaning activities with no greater purpose or plan. The housewife is a general, directing and planing the battle against dirty and unclean elbows. She is the CEO of Home, Inc. making sure that all the quarterly projections for health, happiness and domestic tranquility are met.

Interesting that now homemaking and the domestic arts are such underrated skills, huh?


Jitterbug said...

Undervalued these days to the point of danger. Society in general is forgetting how to cook, for instance, and instead relying on eating at huge servings at restaurants and eating pre-packaged foods that make us obese and raise our cholesterol and blood pressure. Many families are no longer meeting at the breakfast and dinner tables except on rare occasion. I was in the supermarket the day before Thanksgiving and overheard a woman asking the man who was with her what they needed to make mashed potatoes. I cringed as I realized that Thanksgiving and Christmas have rapidly become for many families - in just a single generation - the only meal out of the entire year that is actually homemade. And an event. Like Sunday dinners were once every week. It's frightening how quickly society is losing basic skills in caring for ourselves. (Like me!)

And despite all the time that all of our expensive appliances and frozen dinners are supposed to be saving us, we seem as a culture to be busier than ever.

weenie_elise said...

yes, i'm also disturbed by the number of apartments built recently without a kitchen at all... only a little kitchenette with only enough space for a bar fridge and a microwave

50sgal said...

I love this post. I have been wanting to comment, but I have so much to say. Though, I guess I say it everyday in my blog, I am beginning to realize what a very REAL and very REWARDING being a housewife is. It only dawned on me recently that it IS a career. I am amazed everyday, through my study, how much is involved and how much nicer a place home is when you MAKE it. Being a homemaker is such a great amalgamation of artist CEO fashion/interior Designer, chef, people manager, hostess. I wonder if people will begin to return to it, or if those of us who do will just be a random bunch of 'oddballs' connected by technology.