Remembering community amidst the 'new domesticity'

Enuma Okoro

August 29, 2013

Hm. I hear where you're coming from. I really do. As a stay-at-home mom, I do have an internal struggle, though it is not really about my decision as much as it is about how others perceive it, whether it be conservatives approving of me doing the "right thing" or feminists thinking I've given up and am just in it for the scones. I'm not going to lie. When I'm at home all day, I do occasionally do domestic things, but that's not why I made the decision. I made it because I think raising a kid who cares about the world around him actually is a contribution to our community, and because it gives us more time to serve others. So I guess I would argue that it actually can be a little bit revolutionary, to give up the luxury of two incomes and all the trappings that come with it and instead chose to live simply in order to have more time for neighbors, church, friends while raising children.

Of course, I can only speak from my limited experiences, and I really appreciate hearing your perspective on this. Thanks for bringing up the topic.

August 29, 2013

Thanks for reading Alissa, and for commenting. I usually don't reply to comments because that would keep me at my computer all day. But I appreciate your thoughtful words. I do hope you heard me say that I think choosing to stay home and raise one's own kids if affordable is a gift (and somewhat of a responsibility.) So I commend your choice. I think "parenting" is one of the most important jobs a person can have and fully commit to. But not everyone has the luxury to raise their own children as a stay-at-home parent. (And of course it is a decision when all other factors are taken care of.) But, I suppose I could see it as "revolutionary" within the context of a consumerist society that puts money and material game as the bottom line for everything. But not so much "revolutionary" in comparison to what happens in the world at large, especially in non-western societies. Thanks again for contributing to this conversation.

Maureen Garver
August 29, 2013

"But not everyone has the luxury to raise their own children as a stay-at-home parent."

I would respectfully question your use of both the word "luxury" and the phrase "if affordable" in your response. While I would absolutely agree that not all women can afford to stay home and raise their children, I do believe the, "we can't afford it" mantra is over-used and abused by FAR more couples today than it actually applies to.

While raising my own children (who, horror of horrors actually shared a bedroom) I was always amazed by my double income friends wondering "how we did it". Their rationalization of the decision to both work outside the home in order to "survive" seemed dubious at best, especially since the ones talking the loudest were making double what my husband brought home each month.

Yes, SOME families need two incomes in order to eat but lets not kid ourselves on how many are working for the 'stuff' the extra income provides for. We have lost the capacity to distinguish between wants and needs and our kids are paying a pretty high price for that inability. I think "revolutionary" is not entirely inappropriate in describing a movement of women deciding to buck the current trend.

And FYI...."glorified DIY projects like soap-making and baking cupcakes" is insulting as it relates to women staying home to raise children. I may have made more than my fair share of cupcakes as a stay-at-home mom, but that was hardly the reason I chose to stay home or the sum total of my contribution to our household.

August 29, 2013

Thanks for this thoughtful perspective Enuma! One thing I appreciate about the "new domesticity" and the folks who do it with more enthusiasm than I is that a lot of it does seem geared toward hospitality. Cupcakes are a good food to share, and some of my more domestic friends are the ones bringing food to new parents and sick church members, or organizing events that I appreciate, but I am not able to contribute to the details because of my different gifts and interests.

ThisWomanWrites -- Carolyn Henderson
August 29, 2013

My Norwegian Artist and I live on 7 acres in what many people would consider rural heaven. We were discussing potatoes the other day -- specifically potatoes that we have grown ourselves, organically, and the feeling we get from eating so much food that we have produced ourselves -- our produce, our milk, our eggs, chickens when they get old or naughty. We observed that, when God gave the Israelites the Promised Land, He constantly emphasized grain, olive trees, grapes, livestock -- rural, land stuff. People are missing that these days -- whether they work fulltime or stay at home, it's important to reconnect with the actual doing and making of the things we use -- whether it's bread, knitted socks, or potatoes in the garden.

When we distance ourselves too much from creation and creativity, we become a nation of people absorbed in our phones. The women you talk about -- the ones flocking back home -- are seeking freedom and empowerment from the workplace that promised them these attributes in the first place. They're not just making ticky tacky DIY stuff -- they're on the Internet, blogging, communicating, sharing ideas for how to take care of themselves and their families. I fail to see how this is worse than sitting in a cubicle, typing.

The work world is a brutal place, and it doesn't take care of its people -- male or female. If people can figure out a way to live that doesn't involve selling their soul to the cubicle, then society can only improve.

Branson Parler
August 30, 2013

I think it would be helpful to distinguish between true thrift, contentment, and self-sufficiency and the way that consumerism, capitalism, and our social media identities colonize even our homes and home life. That line may be hard to draw. But it would be a mistake to assume that just because the latter sometimes colonize the former, the former don't really exist.

Marta L.
August 30, 2013

I'm a big fan of domesticity. As a graduate student I have more control over my schedule than most people (I work hard but it is largely up to me <i>when</i> I work), and a few years ago I started cooking more from scratch because of health issues. I've learned the thrill of making something and sharing it with my neighbors, or receiving gifts of food in kind, and of welcoming my neighbors into my own home. Hospitality, generosity, community - these are all things that depend on creating a domestic sphere. And as a right-brained, tomboyish sort, this is never the kind of thing I thought I'd take pleasure in.

Even so, the new domesticity movement gives me serious pause for two main reasons. First, I've always seen an element of indulgence in it - there's such an outlay of time and money on something that seems more about the individual's well-being more than the greater good, as this post points out so well. And also I sense an element of sexism. There's this idea that women should be managing the family, should be the ones taking care of things at home - an idea which has much more to do with Rousseau and the Cleavers than it does with Moses, Paul, or Jesus. Look at the Proverbs 31 woman who manages her properties on top of managing the home, for instance, or look at the way it was Abraham, not Sarah, who set out the feast for the angels who visited his tent. Domesticity, whether new or old, should not be a uniquely feminine virtue, and so often the new domesticity movement assumes it will be the woman who tends the hearth. That bothers me as a Christian and a feminist.

Still, I will give the movement credit for this much: it points to the value of simple pleasures and the virtue of forming relationships with our families and those around us. I personally think sometimes the new domesticity movement makes an idol out of this effort or at least leans too far in one direction, but if done right in the proper balance, this kind of thing can be an important part of the good life.

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