I recently read a newspaper article highlighting the modern world of the new housewife. No longer perceived to be somebody tied to the home all day carrying out the household chores, these new generation of housewife’s are busy people. With packed diaries and personal trainers they also are great bloggers and write intelligent and thoughtful articles about all aspects of household life and much more.
This article reminded me of a book sitting on my shelf, bought earlier this year entitled” Can any Mother help me.” It is a fascinating insight into the world of the housewife in C20th Britain. It is a thoroughly well researched book by Jenna Bailey published by Faber and Faber, London, 2007 and illustrates the articles of a secret writing society formed by a group of housewife’s called the Coooperative Correspondence Club (or CCC).
I found this to be a fascinating read, as I wanted to find out how women’s lives differed in the C20th, (especially pre -second world war) compared to the lives of women today. Started by one person writing into a women’s magazine – Nursery World, the replies that followed launched the CCC. These women were needing a outlet to their domestic routine and many were lonely and isolated; with their husbands either working long hours or away on business etc. The writings could be argued as an early form of blogging, as each member wrote something for the magazine on a regular basis and this was circulated by post to other members to read and comment: How very foreword thinking!
They talked about all aspects of their lives from childbirth, the problems encountered during the war and the struggles of their everyday life as well as their older years. The society survived 55 years and the book concentrates on 11 members writings, whose families could be traced for consent, for their written material to be published. The author was fortunate enough to meet a few of the members whilst conducting her research.
So how much has really changed for the housewife past and present? I have given this thought and wondered if there were any similarities or contrasts to our present housewife.
Going back to the newspaper article I suppose the first question for me is how many women choose freely to stay at home or perhaps are pushed into this role because working-when raisng children would cost just too much in childcare to justify the return to work. Or is there a growing band of women who electively choose to be a “homemaker” who can afford too? I think obviously both apply.
Certainly women now have greater opportunities to earn their own money, be more independent and have greater scope for communication, via the internet.
For those who have stayed at home for awhile, there are education opportunities for women to return to work, or even change direction ;as well as the career women who then chooses to opt out of her working life for a career break, for example to have a family, who will return, picking up where she had left off.
I suppose what shouts out to me when writing this is the word CHOICE, whereas I feel the housewife’s mentioned in the book did not have much choice at all in their circumstances. Their writing was a kind of peer support and a purpose which made them feel as if they were contributing to a wider community. Some of their writing expressed to me the frustration of their own situation. By having others to share this with, it lessened the burden and responsibility many felt as they were expected to complete all manner of tasks.
Going now to the modern housewife I am certainly not disputing what is written about them. What I am saying however, is that I know none of them. No women I know has the fortune of a partner who can provide all the finances necessary to run a home. In my experience most women would secretly like the choice to stay at home but knows the reality to be very different. Whilst I enjoy my own paid work, I do not work full- time. For me working part-time suits my life style and my independence better.
I saw my own mother chained to house-keeping money, which she managed well, but I certainly would not want that for myself. I certainly think she would have liked more choice about her own future and how she could have influenced that. I don’t feel for her she personally had the confidence to do this. Now, I think women know what they want and are not afraid of hard work to get it whether she is a housewife or not.
Good luck to the women who want to stay at home and good luck to the women who want, or have to work too. Each person needs to feel they can live their life with purpose whether that is home-craft or otherwise. Besides, these homebird’s thoughts are being published into books. That in itself is clever. A career out of household tasks and activities that makes a living. Now that’s what I call smart. Pity I had not thought of it.
Oh well, there is still time to diversify.