A little over a year ago I asked the question on my blog: is “homemaker” a dirty word? I had noticed many at-home moms shying away from the old-fashioned term, insisting that their job is not to care for a home, but raise their kids. I’d also noticed working moms bristling at the idea of being considered a homemaker, even if they were still doing much of the cleaning, cooking, shopping, maintenance, decorating, or other home-related tasks. Others rejected the term as sexist or a 50s throwback, or insisted that only people who spend all their time caring for a home – or who are uniquely talented in the home arts – qualify to use it.
I disagree. Even though I’m a working mom, I still take on a lot of responsibility for the “making” of our home. So if I’m not the homemaker around here, who is?
Of course, I don’t do it all. There are some household tasks I ignore completely, and other tasks (like every-other-week deep cleaning) that I hire out. But unless I hire my family’s version of Alice from The Brady Bunch, the vast majority of the homemaking work will continue to fall to me.
These days, homemaking has become as much about art and pleasure as necessity and function. After all, in 2012 few of us need to: bake bread, sew on buttons, or make our own cleaning products, so we are free to pick and choose the projects that give us the most pleasure or satisfaction (or save us the most money.) And there are still plenty of tasks that must be done by someone, from laundry to food preparation to swapping out the furnace filters, and the average family can’t outsource it all.
Plus, rather than the clear-cut gender role divisions of 60 years ago, where Mom usually stayed home and tended to the house while Dad went to work, we now have much more variety in what each family’s division of household and outside-of-the-household labor might look like. For example, my husband and I are both self-employed, often work side-by-side from home, and split up the household labor fairly evenly, though I still tend to handle the cleaning while he keeps the technology functioning properly (and that’s more than fine by me.) In other families both parents work in an office, but when they leave that office at 5:00, there is still a home to be made.
Since our personal and family and work lives are now so blended, it just makes sense that being a “homemaker” no longer need be a full-time, separate job. Like caring for kids, homemaking is a role we can divvy up in a way that makes the most sense for our individual families.
So maybe it’s time for the term “homemaker” to get a 21st-century makeover and some new-found love. The work of keeping a home clean, comfortable, functional and full of food is important, not frivolous or demeaning. That’s why I’m proud to say that I’m a working mom and a homemaker. And if you’ve got a home that you spend significant time caring for, you probably are one, too.