Thursday, 29 November 2007

Glamourisation of the role of Housewife or Homemaker

Are we in danger of making believe that the role of housewife is full of faux vintage fabric, enamel washing up boxes and gorgeous little button tins? The trend towards vintage shops, beautiful home goods, gorgeous fabrics, and cute aprons has grown dramatically over the last ten years. so much so that housewife fashion if you like, is even stocked in tents, and sleeping bags, I guess designed to introduce our daughters, and younger women to the trend. Don't get me wrong I'm a sucker for the gorgeous bits, for the spotty oil cloths, for the modern yet floral cushions but are we thinking about this really?

Ultimately we're harking back to the era of our childhoods', or even a little further to the era of our mothers. We're following the old media guides, from story books, to Bewitched to The Good Life's guide to what being a housewife is. It means popping out to the shops, with a happy chatty toddler, making do with what you've got, knitting, making things out of fabric for the house, from tableware to duvets. It also brings up the glamour of the role, the lady of the house potters about in the day shopping, having coffee with friends, chatting to work men then after the children are fed and bathed getting changed to a glamorous outfit, or taking the daily pinny off and popping a bit of lipstick on for the return of the man of the house.

Nothing wrong with all those things, but were they real in the past or are they real now? Middle class ladies probably did not have to make and do during the late fifties and sixties, they genuinely either made a choice to do ladylike sewing or they got a local lady to do it for them? Working class ladies I'm sure weren't all about stopping at seven for a nice little drinkie, and I'm not sure it was all about floral patterns, I seem to remember a lot of hard wearing denim and cord, at least in the seventies. Did any of our mothers really live like Samantha in Bewitched, the housewifely bit not the magic bit? And were toddlers really so much better behaved? Perhaps as we had the Fear of When Your Father gets home, and a smack. But really, were they? Or were they just like that in public?

And what are we doing today, making this role appear too glamorous? I recall some research a couple of years ago which said the generation under mine, the twentysomethings of today have largely decided they can't or don't want to Have It All. That they will be happy to accept staying at home with the children, or even after they're married for footballers wives. And their does seem to be a rush of women in their twenties in the public eye getting married and having babies young. Obviously this is the ideal biological time, well if you miss out on teenage motherhood, but its so different to my expectations when I was younger, and many of my generation. We planned on careers, on meeting great partners, in very sense of the word, marrying or not, having children or not, but after we'd sorted out our careers. Most of us have done that, and some of us have gone back to work, some haven't stopped but we haven't got the ideology behind all this. We're too bright, too educated to be John Bowlby, Attachment theory followers, we're too bright to know our precious children can do without us, we're too bright to stay at home all the time.

So what choices have we but to glamorise the role, put a little sugar on top, make our own lives a little nicer by surrounding ourselves in the lovely? And what image does this give our to other younger women, and to ourselves? That the role of housewife/homemaker is an important one, or a trivial one where its more important to have the right fabric, and could go on to say pram, baby bag, etc. etc. than what? Than just making do?

Really life is better with more glamour, but is all this glamour just on the surface? Are we really ditching the pinny at seven and reaching for the lippy and gin and tonic?

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