Homeward Bound.

A few weeks ago I lucked upon a find at the library: Homeward Bound: Why Women are Embracing the New Domesticity by Emily Matchar.  I first read about this book through an Etsy Blog post reviewing it and discussing the claims the author makes in the book regarding the handmade and homemaker trend we see all over the place now (here).  Etsy should respond- they pretty much got a whole chapter in the book.  Not only did Etsy write a post, there were tons of comments and there ended up being a second post regarding everyone's reaction to it (here).  This was all I knew of the book at the time, and quite frankly I forgot about it after that, until I saw it sitting on the library shelf, at which point, of course, I had to nab it.


Honestly, I was excited to read it.  I thought it was going to be completely pro women embracing being at home, doing "traditional" women's crafts- cooking, canning, knitting, etc.; really enjoying taking care of the home.  I was looking forward to that, I guess, because that is what I do.  Okay, I don't can or knit (though I'd like to do both) but I stay home and take care of the house and craft and run a handmade business, so I embrace the idea of woman-as-home-based role model.  To an extent this book does indeed cover all those facets.

You will get a history lesson of women's roles through the ages and get a look at feminism and what it has and has not done for women.  You will get a chapter on Etsy and how women at home can make money selling their wares.  You will learn about food culture, homeschooling, vaccinating, homesteading, and societal structure of who is embracing this.  There's definitely a lot to take in and I admit that I really blasted through this book because it was indeed interesting.

However.  For every point Matchar makes embracing the handmade/homemade movement, she shoots it down with an opposing point.  While this is great in a "here's all the facts" unbiased style of writing, it makes for a confusing book.  Are you for it or against it?  Usually when you read a book of this nature, it's trying to make a point in one direction or the other.  But this one is trying to make two points- it's good and it's bad- so I struggled with that.

Also.  Repetitive.  So repetitive.  You will hear quips regarding homemade bread, canning, soap-making, and raising goats in Vermont so many times you will wonder if Matchar ran out of material.  You will hear the same few sources referenced in several chapters.  While I understand that she interviewed several sources who can attest to different topics in the book, you still get the sense that her research was limited.

Despite that, I would definitely give this a read.  Matchar does a good job of speaking with women who have forgone the career path to stay home with their families.  She talks to people trying to get off the grid and be self-sufficient, at least to a degree (and some more extreme).  She has a great discussion on homeschooling and the impact on the rest of the community when children are pulled out of school to stay at home.  It definitely gives you some meat to chew on, especially the last chapter, which is a wrap-up of her thoughts.  This was the one chapter where I was thinking, "She finally took a stand" after whisy-washing through the entire book, even though it's more of a do-what-you-think-is-best mentality.

All in all, I don't think that it has to be a choice and I don't think society needs to worry that women are dropping out of careers to stay home.  The corporate workplace isn't always the most fun environment.  Sometimes you need a break.  This isn't to say that women will never go back to work after their kids get older.  A lot of people do that- my mom is an example.  She went back to work when I was in second grade and worked in a school so we would have a similar schedule.  I plan on doing the same, though I have no idea whether or not I will teach again.  Anyway, like I said before, I like my job right now.  I embrace a lot of the ideals that are talked about in the book- cooking from scratch with whole ingredients, crafting and DIY, gardening and home maintenance, even homeschooling, which I might attempt if I thought I could do a really good job (I'm still not sure about that).  There's nothing wrong with taking on traditional roles and honoring long-standing traditions.  It's not old-fashioned to want to DIY, learn a skill, and save money.  That's just smart thinking.

5 comments

  1. So much yes in what you said. I agree with you about feminism- we got some great outcomes from that movement, but then it has to be taken to the extreme. We can't then just be able to do what we want- we HAVE to do what men do, and that just doesn't make sense. Like you said, if you want to have a corporate job, that's great. If you don't, that's great too, and you shouldn't feel badly about either. As long as you are contributing to your family/situation then good for you. If I HAD to work a corporate job for money reasons, I would totally do it. I am lucky to have options.


    I think you'll enjoy the book, as frustrating as it can be, because there are a lot of good bits in it. I think she could have presented it in a more organized fashion,

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  2. Interesting.. I don't know if this is the type of book I would read but I would certainly consider it. I never thought of the handmade movement as a feminine thing. I thought of it as a way to reconnect with doing things with your hands and creating your own masterpiece. I feel with all the technology we are surrounded by and the ability to go to the store and just buy anything you want makes people feel disconnected.

    I feel you can seriously have an existential crisis, you know like..'why am I here? What am I doing? What can I do?' I take great pleasure in making things not because I'm a woman and that is my job but because I can actually create something that can be used. It's definitely a great feeling that going to the store and buying a wallet.

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  3. For the longest time in America, women were expected to stay home and take care of the kids, then in the 60s women decided they wanted to be able to work like men and be out of the house. Now there is such a struggle as to what's best for women to do- should they stay home or should they work? It's a huge debate here and really, there is no one right answer. But, this book is very interesting and if you have interests in sustainable living, this gives you a good snapshot into what some people are doing. It's definitely something to take into account if you want to live closer to the Earth and take care of yourself.


    Thank you so much for stopping by, and I hope you'll come back!

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  4. I think it is a dual gender thing, but this book really focused on the impact of women (though there IS a chapter on role-sharing!) and I agree that people seem to want to get back to "their roots" in general. Many people want to regain the skills their grandparents had and become more reliant on themselves. I agree that just buying something without knowing where it comes from can seem disconnected, and that making things is a really great feeling. Especially when someone else wants it, too!

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  5. Oh my God, I am so sorry for all the typos in my previous comment. I wonder though, why is there struggle about what's best for women, every woman should decide for herself based on her unique situation. Cheers for freedom of choice!

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