Sunday, March 29, 2009

Not a domestic goddess, just a girl with a plan and a garden

Mia Freedman is a columnist I often end up reading because she sometimes comments on issues that interest me, but for some reason I find her incredibly grating. Yesterday's column in the Age was all about young women whose 'ultimate goal is to take up life long positions in the home raising children'. 'Who knew there were so many 23-year-olds out there baking, crocheting, gardening, marrying, procreating, making their own pasta and having Tupperware parties?' Freedman asks. I'm not quite sure how we leapt from women in their twenties knowing they wanted children at some point to this summary, but as a 22-year-old who happily bakes and gardens, who knows she wants children at some later date and who seriously considers being a stay at home parent I resent her derision.

I hate that somehow acknowledging that I want a career and then children is seen as lessening my commitment to my career until that point (and after that point), and the fact that I enjoy some elements of domesticity is seen as tantamount to disempowering myself. The sneer of Freedman's 'These women consider themselves empowered underneath their pink gingham aprons' is so palpable, even if she is attempting to give the article some sense of balance at that point.

I think it's a good thing that I know I want a career and then quite probably children as it drives me to make the most of the decade I consider to be for me alone. I understand that if I choose to have children my needs will often no longer come first, and I want to give everything my best shot before that point so that I don't have regrets or resentment about my career being cut short. I'm not going to box myself into saying that I will definitely have children or that if I do I will give up full-time work, I just see it as an insurance plan in case I do want to. I know I'm not alone in this; I have other incredibly driven friends who know what they want from life and see planning ahead as the best way to take advantage of all the facets of life they want to experience. Don't worry, I understand that things don't necessarily go to plan, but I get so sick of people judging women who acknowledge the realities of what they want from life.

And don't even get me started on her claim that Kate Middleton may epitomise this trend. Somehow an upper class woman without a job and with none of the domestic trappings Freedman's so critical of is meant to reflect women who want a career and children but also enjoy gardening? (I also think that if there's a trend for domesticity, it's not necessarily confined to women - plenty of my male friends are also right into all those terrible disempowering activities like making pasta, baking and gardening.)

I actually wrote this post yesterday but decided to wait a day and see if I still felt incensed about the issue. Yep, I do. But interestingly, by waiting I was able to see more comments on Mia's blog about the issue. One of the comments I most liked came from someone called Alice. 'I wonder if she has a blog?' I thought, so clicked on the link - turns out I already follow it!


  1. Oh, perhaps she can't bake ... she was on twitter doing the "tuck shop run" last week. Look, each to their own I say. I do get a bit ga-ga about women who go on and on and on and on and on and on and on about their domestic bliss, partly because I am laughing inside knowing in 10 years time, those teenagers will trample anything that's "bliss". I do love a woman who can have a bit of a laugh at her job lot. I work fulltime, I have studied and worked fulltime, I have raised four children - albeit, not from the time of their birth but I have clocked up 13 years - I volunteer, and I garden, bake (who can afford not to) and sew (again, have you the money to go out and buy new stuff every time a seam rips or button pops off). I will read the article but will do so and see what I think.

  2. RANT ALERT!!! jen this is a juicy topic - have lots to say being a stay at home mum and a feminist. i think it is sadly shortsighted of her to make such patronising comments about the decision to stay at home. making this choice is not for the fainthearted, its definately not a scene of fluffy mindless fun. its the hardest work i've ever done and it is certainly intellectually challenging to raise healthy, well-adjusted, educated, emotionally secure children. i see it as an investment in all of our futures. like katie says the teenage years are an absolute minefield. arming my kids with critical thinking, self assurance and spunk will hopefully put them in a good positon to survive. i could go on & on (will have to do my own entry on the this as i think its a topical one). family becomes central to our lives as we age, at the end of the day careers can't give us cuddles. they are little for such a short & important time, a period of staying at home should be respected and have a much higher status as a feminist choice.