Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ruminations of a Housewife

“Watashi wa shufu desu.”  So something beyond my wildest imagination has indeed come to pass:  I am a housewife.  And while I’m sure I don’t keep the cleanest house on the block, those of you who have known me for some time would be quite impressed with the distance I’ve come from the “Messiest Room” dorm awards and even my last little “single life” apartment.  

Now here’s the big secret:  I actually like it.  Not really doing dishes, or vacuuming, or most of the other “tasks” I’ve tended to associate with housekeeping… but creating a home, which is something a little bit more difficult to define.  I like organizing things so that I can find them quickly and put them away even quicklier; making sure we have toilet paper and tissues; planning meals and making them; gardening; and perhaps most of all, having the freedom to decide when and how I’ll do my work – and when I’ll let it slide and read a book or take a midday bath.  I thought I’d be bored; in fact, I’m more content and often challenged in this than I have been in most jobs I’ve had.

As I was wrestling with this bit of self-discovery, I made an interesting observation.  Because the women’s movement really hasn’t reached Japan yet, being a housewife is still a widely respected (or at least accepted) occupation.  What a difference this makes!  I appreciate all the doors that the women’s movement has opened in North America in recent decades more than I can say.  I wonder what motivates the schoolgirls on the subway here in Japan, who study long and hard to get into a good university, knowing all the while that if they choose to get married and have children they will ultimately be relegated to the home.  They really don’t have much choice in the matter.

Yet I also believe that the women’s movement made a grave error while winning the world for women:  they denigrated the very tasks that women had taken pride in for generations.  Whatever the intentions were, what should have been a battle for every person’s right to occupational choice (men can be homemakers, too!) became a battle to banish housekeeping altogether.  (Can you believe that I’m writing this??)  An overcorrection, if you will.

But it seems to me that the tide is turning.  People are recognizing that something is missing, and that there might actually be value in spending a bit of time caring for a home – whether it’s a man, a woman, or a team doing the caring.  “Keeping house has always encompassed knowing and doing whatever is needed to make the home a small, living society with the capacities to meet the needs of people in their private life:  everything from meals, shelter, clothing, warmth, and other physical necessities to books and magazines, music, play, facilities for entertaining oneself and others, a place to work, and much more…keeping house is a labor of love." From Preface to Home Comforts by Carol Mendelson.



Anonymous Mom said...

Wow, Meika, I am impressed! I think there was a time when you thought I was a slacker for staying home with you. I always thought you were more important than more money. Love you. Mom

1/28/2006 06:16:00 PM  

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