On Monday, the 2010 Homemaker of the Year was named at the Northwestern Michigan Fair. This makes many women very edgy. First, because it takes a very narrow view of a woman's talents and yet to discount the importance of "making a home" under values the role of women. Once again, we sigh a collective sigh and mutter, "I don't even know what to think about this!".
I do think you need to put this in the context of a county or state fair, where these competitions are held. The fairs spotlight the agricultural community and the traditions of farming. This is where the womanly arts of canning and quilting (yes, both are judged categories) were developed and remain part of our historical perspective. Back in the day, these skills, along with rug beating, clothes line drying, sewing, plucking feathers for down pillows, were all necessary and valued skills. Today, we buy Smuckers jams, get a poly-something bed quilt which we wash and dry in machines and use a vacuum cleaner from Sweden.
Homemaking has changed, but I put forth that it is no less important.
When you first walk into a family's home, in that first moment, you can grasp the effort, or lack of, that has been made to make a home. It can be chaotic or peaceful, rustic or stark and modern, richly adorned or a mismatch of yard sale furniture, it doesn't matter. You can sense when a house or apartment is a home.
Regardless if it is a man or woman in charge of the home, you can tell when somebody cares enough and knows enough to create an atmosphere of home. Looking closer, there is the care to manage the family schedules and finances. Thoughtful parenting is taking place here. I think these are very important skills, not just Donna Reed-isms.
Yes, I hope my daughter grows up to be the president of something, but when I am invited to her home, I will be a bit disappointed if she doesn't know how to make a pot roast. Because, pot roast is delicious. Nothing you buy in the frozen food section is every going to taste as good as pot roast with potatoes and gravy. It won't make her a good or bad person, but she and her family will miss out if they don't have a home that when other people walk in, they feel happy.
Keep in mind, I am an extremely homey person. I can feed 10 people dinner with an hour's notice, I can sew (but don't), I can knit, I can design, plant and care for a garden, I know how to set a dinner table, throw a brunch for Mother's Day, needlepoint Christmas stockings and remove most stains. I truly enjoy the effort it takes to make my home a home. It should also be noted that my house is usually quite cluttered and we do eat fast food when all fails.
Most of my accomplishments have been made outside of my home, in the arena of my career and community involvement. And an equally important role most women play now includes management of the family finances, but I consider these "domestic arts" to be just as much a piece of Me. My family means enough to me to warrant Making The Effort to Make a Home.
If you work 60 hours a week, then you can pay somebody else to do a lot of this, but you yearn to have time to put in the Effort.
I will certainly never be a Homemaker of the Year, but I appreciate the art!