A Sparkling Vintage Life

Down to Business: Homemaking at its Best

housekeeping2 Here’s a bit of encouragement for homemakers, from A Sixpence in Her Shoe by Phyllis McGinley:

“A perceptive writer who has not always praised the modern women is the anthropologist Margaret Mead. Yet she, in a recent article discussing the results of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, has this to say concerning the home-centered career:

‘Through the ages, human beings have remained human because there were women whose duty it was to provide continuity in their lives–to be there when they went to sleep and when they woke up, to ease pain, to empathize with failure and rejoice at success, to listen to tales of broken hearts, to soothe and support and sustain and stimulate husbands and sons as they faced the vicissitudes of a hard outside world. . . . The young, the sick, the old, the unhappy and the triumphantly victorious have needed special individuals to share with them and care for them.’

“It is [Mead’s] conclusion that not too many but too few women keep their status as full-time housewives. Whether full-time or in part, however, the keeper of the home is the most important woman in the world. That willingness to “soothe and support and sustain,” to make at atmosphere in which the larger, if not the more vital, affairs of earth can get accomplished is singular to our sex. We should feel honored to have this dispensation in our hands. For both those who give it and those who take it, it is the soul’s chief nourishment.

“I have sung, then, and continue to sing the worth of a domestic career in an age when it is terribly needed. We crave light and warmth in this century. Only the mother, the wife, can supply it for the home. To be a housewife is not easy. Ours is a difficult, a wrenching, sometimes an ungrateful job if it is looked on only as a job. Regarded as a profession, it is the noblest as it is the most ancient of the catalog. Let none persuade us differently or the world is lost indeed.” –Phyllis McGinley, Sixpence in Her Shoe, 1960.

What do you think, homemakers? In what ways do you “soothe and support and sustain” and do all the other hard work of providing light and warmth where it’s most needed?

2 Responses to Down to Business: Homemaking at its Best

  • Avatar
    catherine marshall-smith says:

    Who soothes the soother? What happens to us when they grow up and move out, or grow old and die?

  • Avatar
    Jennifer says:

    “Who soothes the soother” is a great question. Ideally a homemaker gets soothing from the same people she soothes: her family. For example, they come home frazzled and tired, but we’ve made home life so pleasant that soon they feel restored and then can “give back” to us through their love. When there’s “nobody home” it can feel like nobody’s taking care of anybody, or family care becomes just another chore to tick off a list. That’s how it felt for me, anyway, before I started giving homemaking the respect it deserves.

    As for when they move out or die, that might be the time when we needed to widen our circle, to extend care to (and accept care from) friends and people in our extended family and community. Of course we can learn to do without this care–lots of people do–but the world seems colder for it.

    Great question, Catherine. I’d be interested to hear what others think.

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