Closer to understanding the domestic goddess

Those who have been paying attention know that The Man and I are attempting a 1-month no-spend challenge, the largest change for us being not eating out at all (excepting Chipotle once a weekend because hey, it’s hungry work shopping for a whole week, and it’s Chipotle). In attempting this, I have gone from cooking less than, on average, 15% of our meals (The Man cooked most of the other 85%, at least of dinners), to cooking rather more than 50%, simply because I’m the one home during the day.

In doing so, I believe I have discovered at least part of why the domestic goddess phenomenon is so popular. (Just to reiterate, I’m all in favor of upping the status of the domestic, and I do stay at home during the day, but there’s a phenomenon I’m not a part of in which staying home and raising the kids and keeping the house is the entirety of what one [a woman, generally] does and takes pride in. I’ve long been confused by it, having been raised by a mostly second-wave feminist WOHM, for all that I travel in the same social spheres as many who embrace the title, and have much in common with them.)

The Man and I have long maintained that in an ideal world, we would both be parenting the Boychick 50/50, even if I did all the milk-giving. Given that we do not live in an ideal world, his job 40 hours a week is to go earn money so we as a family can stay fed and housed, and my job during those 40 hours a week is to keep the Boychick and myself alive and (preferably) sane. Anything on top of that is non-obligatory and not expected. Everything else — the cooking, the cleaning, the house maintenance, the shopping, the getting the fuck out of the house– is stuff we try to do together, or at least split fairly (and him doing most of the cooking and washing the dishes is SO fair, because… it just is!). This has long worked for us.

But here I am, cooking during the day so we eat at home come evening. Chicken makhani with curried veggies, beef stew with garlic croutons, spaghetti with garlic bread, apple chicken with quinoa, no-knead bread with everything, stuffed squash, beans and rice, roast chicken, and more scones and cookies and muffins and bars than one should have in an entire year, all made at home, from scratch (even the croutons), mostly by me. And you know what? My days are kinda easier. I have, for the love of God/dess, something to do.

And I think that’s it. That’s why, when women are handed the vast burden of the childrearing by a society that says children and work can’t mix and men don’t matter in the early years, so many of us turn to being a Good Housewife, or better yet a Domestic Goddess (the good housewife for the new millennium). It gives her something to do other than stare at her (unbelievably beautiful and talented and adorable) child(ren), a purpose — keeping the hearth, 21st century-style — and a standard by which she can measure her success in real-time, not just wait around until her kids are 20, 40, 80, and declare, if they turned out right (whatever the hell that means), that she was a Good Mother, and It Was All Worth It.

Because really, am I doing my kid any favors spending half the day trying not to lose my temper with him, not because he’s bad or is doing anything wrong, but just because I can’t take it any more? I don’t know. I believe so, I believe that fostering attachment and providing milk and giving him the freedom to just run and play and cuddle and be free of time pressures and peer pressures and grow-up pressures is good for him, but I don’t know. What I do know is that in the last month I’ve made food that has sustained and been enjoyed by my family, helped us meet our budget, helped us pay off debt so home and working-car ownership is a possibility somewhere just over the horizon. I know I’ve made something, done something substantial and important, even if it is now nothing more than a memory and a sewage smear somewhere; and it feels pretty darn good.

It’s an awfully seductive proposition, turning that sensation in to a vocation, and I think I have more understanding now for why so many do it.

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6 Responses to Closer to understanding the domestic goddess

  1. One of the reasons I like working is that I come home to dinner made by my husband. I really don’t like cooking.

    I try to involve my son in my cooking adventures. It keeps him out of trouble, we spend quality time together and I hope he learns so that he can cook for me someday.

    My end goal: never to cook again.

    Good luck on the no spending. I’ve gone 3 days before. :(

  2. See, I don’t really mind cooking, though I like that The Man does (did?) the vast majority of it. And I do enjoy cooking with the Boychick, and that’s part of the appeal of it I’ve found in the past few weeks (although it has also had downsides, like the large glass mixing bowl with an entire batch of almond butter bar mix in it that was somehow shattered on the floor…). I’m very much in the idea that kids do best when they can observe us at work, which is much easier when one is working at something tangible, like cooking, than something a little less than tangible, and impossible for them to help or even “help” with, like, oh, blogging.

    You’ll be getting an update on the spending within the week…

  3. It’s such a difficult line to walk … when you are fairly type A, achievement-oriented like me, you want *tangible* signs that what you are doing all day as the default at-home parent counts for more than just the nonstop damage control that is toddler cleanup. But I don’t think that has to mean over-romanticizing the domestic goddess role, or making it fundamental or essential to your being. the way a lot of women tend to. (Some may have a religious background that validates/espouses that perspective, though, which can be pretty damn powerful — without that imperative, it’s far less compelling in my mind.)

    I try to look at it pragmatically, in the sense that I’ve got 6-8 hours alone with a young’un, and I can either feel craptastic and useless, or try salvage some sense of accomplishment and autonomy out of the deal before mah baby daddy gets home, even if it is domestic and not intellectual. Do I consider those domestic pursuits that occur before 4 pm my “role” and my “fulfillment”? Other than the fact that I do enjoy cooking and prefer a clean house to a sty, he-yall no.

    I think it helps, too, if we are able to then “shed” that role at night — with creative/personal pursuits like going to school, or writing, or whatever. Without those outlets (or an understanding partner), I”d go even more bonkers.

  4. Jenn — you need to blog more. Seriously. Stop bogarting the smarts, lady. Although I do thank you for gracing my comments with it.

  5. i hate the term domestic goddess.

    all i can think about is nigella pron comedy sketch i saw once with (someone who looked/sounded like) her deep throating fried pig’s ears and rubbing food all over her neck and breasts. (which is pretty much what her latest series portrays.)

    what about domestically-abled?

    (which i am pretty much not. i am domestically challenged. mostly because i see it as a pain in the arse and totally unenjoyable and a job i get lumped with because my 39 yr old husband of 10 years was trained by his *lovely* mother not to do ANYTHING.)

  6. I am not a particular fan of the phrase either, but I use it because many I know do embrace it, and I AM a fan of self-identification. If they wish to be called Domestic Goddesses, then so I shall, as a sign of respect for their personhood and right to self-definition.

    One can be a parent at-home most of the time and cook half the meals (me!) and not be a “domestic goddess”. I don’t identify as a SAHM either, but, for instance, my sister does, so I use that word for her, but not for me. *shrugs*

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