“Woman . . . was the hostage in the home,” claimed Barbara Welter in her influential 1960’s article, “The Cult of True Womanhood.” Welter critiqued the expectations of piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity she felt that society placed upon women in the early 19th century.
But is “domesticity” really a prison one needs to be freed from? Are the homemaking stereotypes of an earlier era still applicable today? Could it be possible to envision a different type of domestic woman than the hostage Welter describes?
Reimagining a modern, domestic woman
Rather than the stereotype of a pious, domestic lackey and child-bearer, I’ve come to see a “domestic woman” as a woman of any age who is simply proud of her home and all who live in or visit it. This woman cares for her home by creating a feeling of warmth and welcome, often through visual, social, and edible delights.
Today’s modern, domestic woman is anything but a prisoner! While taking pride in her surroundings and caring for the people in her home, she embodies power, organization, creativity, and tenacity. No matter what size or zip code, she’s proud of her accommodations. She may or may not have children to care for. She could be single, in a committed dating relationship, or married. She may work with dedication in a career outside the home or may be a stay-at-home mom. She could be a retired woman or one who is taking care of an elderly parent. Whatever her age, stage of life, or family structure, she’s a woman with a passion for her home and a deep desire to create memories and foster comfort for herself and her loved ones in a place she cares about.
Passionate (but insecure?)
I’ve always loved my home—I’ve found a passion for décor and for providing a cozy space in which friends and family could gather. But in our era of Pinterest, the Food Network, and Real Simple, it’s easy to fall into a never-good-enough mindset. There are so many women in my life who seem to have mastered the role of “domestic goddess”! And while I long to be the epitome of homemaking, I often question my natural domesticity.
Insecurity can often run rampant in our lives if we buy into the ideal we read about online or in magazines: a perfectly-styled home that’s spic and span, laundry-free, and full of well-balanced children (all the while maintained by a woman with a flawless look, manicured eyebrows, and amazingly toned arms). It seems like every social media outlet echoes a never-ending stream of items for our domestic to-do lists, promising this perfection will be quick and easy:
Keep your house clean in five easy steps!
Make all of your children’s party invitations by hand (and in 10 minutes)!
Organize your life in one day!
Get out of debt by using coupons!
But while aiming to improve our homes and families, are we falling prey to a dangerous idea? Can we really do it all?
Improvement or discontentment?
I am beginning to think that, along with all the good of focusing on our lives at home, all this “improvement” can actually distract us from the peace and fruitfulness God desires for our lives. To be frank, I’ve grown tired of trying to measure up or to be like everyone else. Succumbing to the pressure of doing and having it all leads me nowhere closer to Christ—and even further away from contentment.
Perfection? It’s not attainable. But if I’m honest in the presentation of my home (knowing the complete picture will never measure up to the world’s definition of creating a perfectly decorated utopia), I can rise to a place of serenity, even with an unfinished to-do list.
Beyond trendy color schemes and adornments, we can focus on deeper matters of making a home. Consider: What brings true delight to your home? Does your content heart make it a place of love and community? Or, conversely, does your domestic discontent make your flawless façade whither?
Beyond decorating skills or culinary expertise, the true hallmarks of a Christian modern, domestic woman are, ultimately, a desire for contentment in all she does and the realization that what Christ has done for her should not be taken in vain. It is from this place of inner peace that the relationship between God and home is found, producing far more than visually delightful décor, but a spiritual celebration of friendship, memories, love, and communion.
Home is what it’s all about for Elizabeth, a wife, mother of three, and freelance writer specializing in health, wellness, and women’s lifestyle content. She writes the weekly column The Circular Home for Inside Shopper (an editorial partner of the Chicago Tribune), highlighting topics related to the modern domestic woman.