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.