Collaborative Homemaking

Spring is here. Women’s History Month is over. And, today, the last day of March, marks my first post of the month. I had this mostly written several weeks ago, but had to step out of writing to navigate a family crisis. I bring this up only because it’s relevant to this “homemaking” post and the “making of people.” Thank you to those who noticed I hadn’t posted this month and asked, “What’s up?” Finally, here’s what’s on my heart and mind for March.

Etymology of Home

I wish I could say I am a wordsmith, in the sense that I “naturally” understand words—their origins, their meanings, their proper uses. Imagine my introduction at important gatherings. You know the ones. Where everyone gets a “quick” turn to say who they are, but with each introduction comes more boasty and big-bellied adjectives and titles, as if intros were a competition. 

Then, it’s my turn. 

“Hello. My name is Debby. I am a wordsmith.” 

Nothing more.

I hear gasps, followed by whispers, “A wordsmith is in our midst,” as if I were a neurosurgeon or rocket scientist or somebody else super brainy. 

Imagine. 

But alas, I am not a wordsmith. I must work hard at my usage of words. I do this because I like to understand from where words originate. It’s like reading about the author of a book before reading the book. You comprehend its meaning at a deeper level. You expand your perspective. You create more context.

Spring Cleaning

So, when I set out this month to do some spring cleaning of the word homemaker, I started with the word “home.” We cannot, after all, understand who the maker of a home is, if we do not first comprehend the word home. While perusing information that might enlighten me about this simple little word, I stumbled upon a 2013 blog post by David Marine that I think is still worthy of its virtual space, nine years later. 

“The English word ‘home’ is from the Old English word hām (not the pig),” Marine wrote, “which actually refers to a village or estate where many ‘souls’ are gathered. It implies there’s a physical dwelling involved, but the main idea is that it’s a gathering of people.”

“The Latin root word for home is actually the same word we use for human being, person and people. At its very core home is where not just your heart is, but the hearts of those you love and trust.” 

In other words, homes do involve a physical dwelling, but the making of a home has more to do with the making of people and creating space for those souls to gather. 

photo by Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.

I’m a Homemaker

This my friends is why I wanted to clean up this word homemaker. It’s a word that I’m both confused by and passionate about. It’s a word that has described a big part of me. A word that I didn’t always announce with pride when introducing myself.

On the occasion when I did reveal this title, “Hello I’m Debby. I’m a homemaker,” I often received one of two reactions. “Must be nice. I’ve always had to work.” Or “Oh,” followed by awkward silence. I mean, really, what follow-up questions does one ask about homemaking? When I say I’m a writer for example, most everyone perks up and imagines a romanticized profession that includes best-selling novels, which isn’t what I do at all, but at least there’s some respect with that title. Our culture however, does not know what to do with homemaking. It’s a title that doesn’t provoke prestige and curiosity. 

The Feminist Movement 

The feminist movement didn’t help with this either, with all its bra burning and liberating women from their homes. But did you know that the feminist movement actually included homemakers in its “advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes?” I had no idea until I watched a documentary about Gloria Steinem. I always thought feminism was solely about bra burning and liberating women, which is the bad rap it often received. Sometimes for good reason. For example, some of you may remember, the Enjoli commercial, “I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan.” Feminism, how I perceived it anyway, seemed too Super Woman. I didn’t want 8-hour perfume for my supposedly 24-hour female self. I did not want to do it all.

But, at its core—if we truly understand the word—feminism simply means women’s rights based on gender equality. And homemaking was part of that movement, as feminists advocated for homemaker salaries, allowing women to be compensated for their work in the home. They obviously didn’t get far with that one, but it’s an interesting concept deserving more thought than a sentence in a blog post. The point I want to stay focused on though, is that homemakers were part of the equality movement, recognizing their contribution to society too. But we never hear about that piece of the feminist story. 

Women’s History Month

As we recognize Women’s History Month in 2022 for example, I cannot find any notable homemakers in this month’s lineup. Kimberly Fletcher, a writer for a Cleveland publication, noticed this as well and wrote in 2011 and 2019, “It isn’t the liberation from our homes that is our greatest contribution to history; it is the freedom we have to mold our future from within them.”

I’d like to add that this doesn’t mean that this “molding” requires staying at home full-time. It simply means, that molding our future begins in our homes, with each and every one of us. We should all proudly embrace the title “homemaker,” and recognize our importance in the making of our precious people. 

Homemaking should not be about a lesser-than status, but rather a duty that all genders, both men and women, step into with collaborative dedication and pride, for our homes are the very backbone of our society. Healthy homes make healthy thriving communities. Homemaking is foundational to everything else we choose to do. Homemakers are we the people, not the places, for which we build. We are all homemakers, molding and making souls.

The Uniqueness of Homemaking

How we do this will look differently for each of us. Whether or not we need to be full-time in or out of our homes isn’t the point. Let’s get past, in 2022, comparative titles and recognize that each of us is important to the health of the whole. And that our value is not based on titles and pay scales. And that it’s not government who celebrates birthdays, weddings, and accomplishments with us; and who knows best how to advocate for loved ones in crisis. It’s human beings who know and care for and love other human beings best. And this begins in our homes with each and every one of us.

photo by Rajiv Perera

We are all homemakers.

As I watch—in horror and heaviness—Russians senselessly destroy Ukrainian homes, creating a refugee crisis for millions, I find hope in this: Houses may be gone, but homes consist of people. And those kinds of homes, built by people for the people, will prevail regardless of where they land.  

Hello. My name is Debby. 

I am a writer 
because I can’t help it,

a wannabe wordsmith 
because I happen to think words matter,

And a homemaker 
because I believe in the power of precious people. 

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