Wednesday, September 30, 2015

In Defense of Homemaking

Ladies.

We do not have to be suspicious of homemaking.

Our talents and aptitudes may afford us opportunities that weren't available to earlier generations of women. But most of us also desire to have a husband, and children, and to create a home for them.

To aspire to professional excellence is viewed as natural, and good. But, somehow, excellence in the home has become an awkward battleground of overdoing vs eschewing.



There are women who pursue excellence in homemaking to a truly staggering degree. Empires have been created around cooking and decorating tips. There are untold numbers of blogs and Instagram accounts devoted to beautifully unrealistic visions of aspirational homemaking. But at the same time, some women fear that to be a proficient homemaker somehow subjugates them.

I require both my boys and my girls to do chores around the house. Both my boys and my girls know how to cook, clean, take out the trash, make beds, and do laundry. But it's my hope that my daughters will grow up with an appreciation for traditionally feminine pursuits, so they are members of a girls' club called Little Women Hospitality Program. It's an offshoot of Little Flowers, aimed at older girls, in which they wear matching shirts and work on learning hospitality skills alongside their friends.


Over the two year program, the girls are introduced to skills including . . . Cooking, Cleaning, Setting and Clearing a Table, Table Manners and Conversation, Preparing a Room for a Guest, Writing Correspondence, Bringing Hospitality to Others, Sewing and Dressing Modestly, Planning a Tea Party, Running a Book Club, Laundry, Care for the Elderly, Personal Cleanliness, Tradition, Art and Beauty, Interior Decorating, Public Speaking, Gardening, and Friendship.

We had our first meeting of year two a couple of weeks ago, and I posted a picture on the blog's Facebook page of the girls learning about how to do laundry.



I was surprised at the lively discussion that ensued. Commenters were split about 90/10, with ninety percent wishing that they'd had a group like this when they were younger, because they felt themselves underprepared for the demands of homemaking, and ten percent REALLY concerned that this was a sexist thing to do to a group of girls. Coincidentally, another discussion about this club popped up on a fellow blogger's personal Facebook page, on the very same day. And some of the comments over there were less charitable. Some of them were CRAZY uncharitable. And really seemed to miss the point.

Lets look at the two main objections voiced in the comments, shall we?

1. Shouldn't girls and boys be taught the same things in the same ways?

Here's the thing:  My boys would not enjoy attending a club where they learned homemaking skills. That sounds just awful for them. My daughters do very much enjoy their homemaking club, so they get to do that with their girlfriends while the brothers make paper airplanes and hit each other with sticks outside. (Actually what happened during that meeting.) 

The girls enjoy learning these skills in a group environment, with their friends, in matching shirts. They enjoy learning these skills WITHOUT their brothers. My girls enjoy this club. My boys would hate it. It would be terrible for them. That doesn't mean the boys don't learn homemaking skills and that they don't do chores. They do. I'm just acknowledging here that there are better ways to teach my girls and better ways to teach my boys.

For my boys homemaking is a skill they should know so they don't die. For my girls, I hope homemaking is an art they can cultivate, whether or not they also have another career. But also, so they don't die. Which brings me to . . . 

2. If girls are taught homemaking, won't they aspire to nothing more?

Remember Andrea in season one of The Walking Dead? The women end up doing the laundry, but she'd rather go hunting, or fight zombies with the boys. I totally get that.



But I want my daughters to learn stuff like this precisely BECAUSE they were not skills I valued as a young woman.

Dosmesticity doesn't come naturally to me, and I'm pretty sure I must have resisted all my mother's attempts to teach me any basic homemaking. I didn't know how to do most rudimentary home ec stuff until after I got married. And it didn't make me a bada$$ feminist . . . it made me pathetic and embarrassed. And dirty.

You will never convince me that withholding skills and information from girls is empowering, or that giving them skills and information is sexist. 

Cooking, cleaning, laundry . . . these are IMPORTANT LIFE SKILLS. I hope my daughters will grow up to take pride in their careers (if they have them) and their children (if they have them). But I'm assuming they will also live somewhere, and wear clothing, and eat stuff. I hope that they can also take pride in their ability to do those things well.

That's what I've learned to do. I've been able to find interesting challenges and unexpected joys in homemaking tasks. Sure there's also drudgery. But some of that is good for me too.

I don't expect them to love every second of doing laundry. But maybe they won't like driving. That doesn't mean I'm just going to let them be terrible at it.

Most of these "homemaking" skills, are really just "Catholic" skills, right out of the Corporal and Spiritual Acts of Mercy. None of us is above learning those things, no matter how accomplished we are outside the home.

So, if you're a ten percenter . . . don't be worried about my boys. They're learning most of this stuff too, just in a different format. And don't be worried about my girls, I have every intention of their being able to do laundry AND kick some butt in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

And if you're a ninety percenter . . . it is NOT too late for you to learn this stuff. It wasn't too late for me, and I'm looking forward to the rest of this year of Little Women Hospitality Program, because I figure I've still got plenty to learn. Don't be scared to try stuff, don't be scared to fail. For excellent, practical, accessible information, check out Like Mother, Like Daughter. And/or, start your own Little Women Hospitality Program club. Nothing like trying to teach something to help learn it. 

Don't worry that putting some effort into domestic pursuits makes you less empowered. Knowing stuff is good. Just ask G.I Joe.






You might also enjoy . . . 

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts: A Difference in Kind not Just in Degree

How to Start a Little Flowers Girls' Club


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63 comments:

  1. Amen.

    Just a small point of interest: I learned to put in the detergent, then the clothes too. But I recently read that it's better to add the clothes, then the water, and then the detergent to get the best dispersal of detergent. But... I have to admit that this approach has its drawbacks: namely, my forgetting that I'm waiting for the washer to fill and only remembering when I hear it emptying itself. So now I put in the clothes, start it filling, and balance a cup of detergent on top of the pile where it will presumably spill into the water when the water level rises high enough. Everything seems as clean as it ever did, whatever order the detergent is added. And this is only true for top-loaders.

    Wow, that was a lot of words for me to get to a place where I realize I'm mostly ridiculous and probably overthinking this. Everyone knows the secret to success is immediate folding, and as such I am not very successful at laundry. :)

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    1. I don't think I would ever have the patience to wait for it to fill!

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    2. Since we moved into this townhouse where the washer and dryer is in the kitchen (so European, right), I have had to immediately fold smaller loads. I can not believe how long I resisted the just do it now system that my grandmothers beat into me. Rebel, I guess.

      I'm a tide pack lady because lazy, so u think I'm saying on the barely functioning laundry side.

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    3. I don't have the patience to wait for it to fill either, which is why I wander away and forget and then hear it draining (it drains really loudly for some reason) and have to drop everything and sprint to it to stop it draining before I waste all those gallons. Balancing the cup on top has largely solved this problem. :)

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    4. My grandma taught me to always fill the washer and add detergent to the water, too. She says it avoids detergent spots on the clothes. To make it more efficient, I turn on the water FIRST, add the clothes as it fills, then let the rest of the running water rinse my cup of detergent into the washer (like making a bubble bath). Usually by then it's almost full, but even if I have to go solve a small child crisis and don't make it back, my washer will not start with the lid open. It just waits for me to come back and shut it before it starts the cycle. YMMV :)

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    5. Colleen, you can see into my house I think. Lol!

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  2. "You will never convince me that withholding skills and information from girls is empowering, or that giving them skills and information is sexist." <-- This is just the best.

    Love this post!

    On a little tangent - do you have a favorite program for boys? Boy Scouts?

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    1. Not Kendra here, but check out Trail Life USA. It's like boys scouts but without all the PC nonsense, and it's Christian based.

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    2. Our sons do Boy Scouts. I think that the things my boys get out of it: camping, hiking, gun safety, obstacle courses . . . all really benefit from the infrastructure that an established group like Boy Scouts provides. (I wrote a whole post on it here: Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts: A Difference in Kind not Just in Degree)

      We are fortunate to have access to a really solid Catholic group and my husband is heavily involved in it. So I'm not particularly concerned about recent decisions at the top. My girls are predominantly interested in doing things like crafts and service projects that are easy enough for me to handle organizing with a few other moms, so Little Flowers and Little Women have felt like a good choice. But we're going to need to get it together and plan a camping trip with the girls, because camping is excellent.

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    3. Troops of Saint George is worth checking out!

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  3. This is thought provoking for me. I am all for people learning life skills and kearning in a way that appeals to and works for them. I realize that it's a hypothetical question, but how might you handle a daughter who didn't want to participate in the homemaker's club? Maybe she'd prefer to be hitting other kids with sticks. Or a son who wanted to join the group?

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    1. It's hard for me to imagine a girl not liking our group. I mean, we are SUPER fun. :D And since we are in charge, we are able to tailor it to the needs of our members. We have some very sporty, even tomboyish girls in our group. And they have exactly as much fun as the girlier girls. During our break after the snack some girls run around with the boys and some sit quietly and chat. I'm fine with either one.

      As for if the boys wanted to join in . . . For some things, they DO want to. Like I said, we're fun. Some projects and activities, they are welcome to join in on, but part of the charm of it, is that this is something that the girls get to do without their brothers. I want to protect that. Boys vs girls is not a confusing divide in our circle of friends.

      If I had a son who was particularly interested in the types of activities we do in our group, I'd help him work on them in a different environment.

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  4. I love the idea of my daughters understanding the importance of learning with and from other women. That is how I see this club. I definitely did not have a solid group of women who were helping cultivate themselves together. What a great gift that sense of community is and the bonus importance of life skills.

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    1. That's a great point. I like how Auntie Leila at Like Mother, Like Daughter talks about the "collective memory." I think that's what we've given up this last generation. That shared knowledge of homemaking that was passed from mother to daughter. I enjoy doing this as a group with my friends, and my daughters and their friends.

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    2. We really have, speaking from personal experience. I am still sorely lacking all the homemaking skills. We only survive because my husband is a chef.
      I JUST read a post from Auntie Leila about the "collective memory" and was lamenting how I did not take the time to learn these skills from my Grandma as a child, and she since passed. As a child I was not interested in learning to cook, or sew, or properly clean anything because "I wasn't about to get pigeon-holed into 'women's work'" and now I feel like a fool for it as I desperately attempt to learn to cook, bake, knit, clean-- homemake, largely on my own and from the help of the interwebs. I also didn't learn any traditionally male skills either, I just read. A lot. So, I often feel practically pretty useless.
      I am all in for a homemaking revolution!

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  5. Oh, thank you thank you for this. You already know how I felt about that discussion, and this is a perfectly charitable and honest response. Our girls still are cute, aren't they?

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  6. Thank you thank you! In a house full of boys who are small and a newborn girl, I didn't really have an opinion about any of this... But I found the conversation on the other bloggers page to be really disappointing, judgmental and frankly, weird. I couldn't quite articulate why... This did a good job explaining why it was off (the extreme critique of homemaking clubs for girls)

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  7. Thank you for writing this! Yes, I too have not understood why the teaching of homemaking skills to young girls is so threatening to some. I grew up knowing so very little about homemaking...I did learn how to cook from a young age...because I was interested, and because my father is a chef. :) But everything else,has been learned the hard way and I still struggle with a lot of it, even if just mentally.
    "For my boys homemaking is a skill they should know so they don't die. For my girls, I hope homemaking is an art they can cultivate, whether or not they also have another career. But also, so they don't die." <<<this <3

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  8. I agree with you! And I am in the same boat where I knew nothing about homemaking (meal planning, cooking, cleaning, caring for a sick child were all things I had to self teach). My mom was a really good cook but I just never paid much attention and housework was a family affair so I just had to do my tiny part (mopping floors, dishes) so doing all the cleaning for the family these past 5 years as a Sahm was a huge learning curve. LikeMotherLikeDaughter and FlyLady really helped me. Now I have finally embraced housework because it is a nice feeling of accomplishment and it is the one controllable in the chaos of little kids and it does make me a better mom when we have some peace/routine in our home. I will say the one caveat with this idea that our daughters can "have it all" if they want to and "fight zombies and learn homemaking skills" (paraphrasing) definitely lines up with the cultural view of being superwoman ("you CAN have a career and have kids!") but is super unrealistic with the Catholic teaching on openness to life. I have seen so many of my young friends (practicing Catholics) who've had to work through child bearing years because they are more educated or paid more or have health insurance vs their husbands. I can say it is much harder to be pregnant every 2 years while working a full time job. And eventually women have to "tap out" and have their husbands (with more flexible jobs) take over the homemaking and more of the childcare, or become scientific about nfp using those $600 models that can truly prevent births for 3 years easily. I have one friend who is a Doctor married to a guy with a degree in Theology that cannot support the family because of his temperament (happy go lucky) and degree. Another is a working mom... High School teacher married to a ex-seminarian and not super employable (two degrees in Theology and Philosophy.). Another is marrying a guy with a degree in Midevil Math (he was homeschooled and went to TAC) and she already knows she will probably be the breadwinner. Only me and one other friend from college stay home full time and handle the homemaking/childcare. I think these girls clubs are a great idea but we have to be careful not to overcorrect from the past generation and tell our daughters that they can/should be the career-women (zombie fighters) and homemakers and be open to life (having babies when God sends them). It's too much pressure even if in their youth (while choosing their career path) they don't know it yet. We have to share our wisdom with them. One of the reasons I have relatively "good pregnancies" and have been able to be open to life is because I am a Sahm and can slow down life in times of morning sickness, etc. Anyway just my two cents! I think these are good skills. I just hope the next generation of Catholic women is able to use them!

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    1. Lauren, you bring up some very legitimate points, but this one in particular caught my ear, and I think I disagree: "this idea that our daughters can "have it all" (i.e. "you CAN have a career and have kids!") . . . is super unrealistic with the Catholic teaching on openness to life."

      I'm a cradle Catholic, went to a very Catholic college, my husband's extended family is big and Catholic etc etc. and I must say my own observations of Catholic culture tell me otherwise. My mother was an attorney for a time and then raised six children. My mother-in-law has always worked full time and she raised five children. (Of course, we know being open to life is not dictated by a minimum number of offspring) For myself, I had nine years between college and the birth of my first child. During that time, I developed a professional skill that now allows me to make decent income while working only part-time hours; I spend most all of my time with my toddler : ) My sister is an attorney and a stay at home mom. On the other hand, I know some young women who never gave serious consideration to professional pursuits because their hearts were/are set on domestic motherhood and the SAHM-life. Years are passing by, Mr. Right is not showing up, and now what?

      All the above is limited and anecdotal, I know. I just wanted to throw out some variations. God's call for one women may look very different from another woman's vocation.

      "we have to be careful not to . . . tell our daughters that they can/should be the career-women and homemakers and be open to life." That "can" versus "should" is an important distinction worth making clear. Let's not discourage a young lady who God is calling to be a great physician that she cannot have a family too. It's also helpful to me to remember that life is long with many seasons. What I cannot pursue today because I am nursing an 18-month old, I may pursue in a few years when my son is in school, or much later in life, etc.

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    2. Elizabeth, thanks for your comment. Lauren, I read this yesterday and didn't comment in response because I couldn't think of exactly how I wanted to say what I thought needed to be said, but now Elizabeth has rescued me. I currently have both a full time job, and a full time family, with four little kids. I am open to life. I don't think that career and family are mutually exclusive...which is not to say I think women can "have it all" in the way that phrase is being tossed around currently. I am just concerned that you seem to think that childcare and homemaking are the exclusive purview of stay-at-home mothers. Your friends that you mentioned in your comment will probably also be responsible for childcare and homemaking in addition to work, just like thousands of other moms are.

      I also really appreciate this reminder about seasons. So far I have worked full time with no kids, worked full time with kids, and worked full time but with some of that from home with kids...and I expect there will be more variations as the years pass.

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    3. Elizabeth and Kati,
      Sorry if I made generalizations that could offend working moms. I think in the context of this article (teaching young girls homemaking skills especially because they are girls and may need them in their future vocations as wife/mother) I wanted to point out that even among practicing Catholics, the women of this generation and probably the next are more educated than their husbands (that's not just anecdotal), and out of compassion I think we need to lower the expectations of ourselves if we are called to work outside the home full time, and be open to life. In the grand scheme of things, anyone can do housework and that's not a specific "calling" of motherhood. If you've found that balance that allows you to do it all, I think that is great! If it was my own daughter or friend, I would want her to know it's ok (and not expected) to be superwoman, and have a career, and be the primary homemaker, during her child bearing years.

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    4. Thanks Lauren, you make a good point. I'm very grateful that we are able to have a housekeeper. She allows me to spend more time on schoolwork with the kids, and my own stuff, like blogging. I think there are often unrealistic expectations on women to be able to juggle all of this unassisted. But still. This is good stuff to know. Even if you do have help.

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  9. I love this! You are so right on Kendra.

    I grew up with a single, working mom, and had ZERO homemaking skills when I got married at the ripe age of 20. My mom never cooked, and while I did know how to do laundry, cooking, and "keeping house" were definitely things I had to hone and figure out on my own. And now I love to cook! It's sad that these types of classes are not being provided as much in the public school systems. Learning to live independently is a HUGE life lesson. I think this also accounts for the popularity of pinterest and home-making blogs or organizational services/blogs. We need to know these things. And it's actually a whole different kind of discriminatory to think those skills are beneath anyone.

    And while yes, of course, some children (boys & girls) have different interests, and some enjoy certain things more, knowing how to make food is vital. And learning how to not ruin all your clothes is pretty up there as well. How can any of that be bad!?!

    Keep on keeping on.

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  10. I went to a public high school that told me not to take any of the "home economic" classes because those were just for stupid people who would never have successful jobs. Seriously! I was told I would go to college and have a successful career (also told this was a must to be successful and have a good life) and would never need to clean, clothe, feed, or take care of a family. (This is one reason why we were sure to find a house outside this school district when we got married . . . . had never heard of homeschooling at this point in my life.) Pure craziness!
    Great post! Love it! Pure truth!

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  11. I loved this post! I am completely convinced that women need other women and I'm glad you are determined to protect that space for your girls (so valuable whether it's a homemaking club like this, a book club, a scripture class...I wish we had neighborhood quilting bees still - I crave that kind of woman-to-woman sociality). Also loved the bit about all knowledge being empowering. Especially the knowledge that makes women self-sufficient and able to care for others, no matter what stage of life! Yes, yes, yes!

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    1. Girl, start a quilting bee! You can do it!

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  12. This makes me want to be 10 again, just so I can do the Little Women Hospitality Program! This seriously sounds so cool. However, I would fail in the laundry portion. In my carefree ways, ever since I learned how to do laundry in the fifth grade, I have refused to take the time, energy, effort, and water to separate colors. Nope, it's not happening haha :) My poor mother was so patient with me...and thankfully, my husband doesn't mind the colors not being separated, either! So that works out well :)

    Like you said, these skills are good for men and women to know and learn. In fact, I was at a festival in Oklahoma recently, and the Cowboy Museum men were there cooking at a chuckwagon all day. In the 90 something degree day, these guys were rolling pie crust, baking biscuits, and cooking stew for us to eat! Men and women are different; maybe some of those guys felt all macho and awesome doing that, but I would choose an air-conditioned kitchen any day! And even though I used to be a total tomboy, always disliking when girls would only sit around and giggle about their crushes-but I still liked doing "fancy & feminine" stuff sometimes. Like you said, developing these homemaking skills is another way to empower women and help them be more independent and stronger as individuals who can then better themselves, their families, and society!

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  13. I had to learn SO many homemaking skills after marriage. My husband actually passed along some awesome tips. As an example of my ineptness: I stumbled upon my hubby cleaning out the toaster. I didn't even know the toaster opened on the bottom to clean it. We had been married for three years. He sort of stared at me incredulously as I exclaimed,"That's how you clean a toaster!? Have you done this before? Because I've NEVER cleaned it." He assured me, thankfully, he had cleaned our three year old toaster before :)

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  14. I'm really glad that the girls are learning how to take care of the elderly because one of these years I'm going to decide to be elderly and need their help.
    It's such a shame the schools don't have home ec, auto shop and wood shop any longer as they are every bit as important as math and science. Glad you are including home ec for the girls..

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    1. "One of these years I'm going to decide to be elderly and need their help." Bahaha! Love it :)

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  15. Amen!! Thank you. That Little Women group looks awesome!

    "I don't expect them to love every second of doing laundry. But maybe they won't like driving. Does that mean I will just let them be terrible at it?" This was my favorite.

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  16. "You will never convince me that withholding skills and information from girls is empowering, or that giving them skills and information is sexist. " - A to the MEN! ;)

    I was "blessed" with a lazy mother who made my sister and I do all the chores in the house. Seriously, we spent 4 hours every Saturday cleaning on top of other little chores during the week. But while I'm not a fan of her method I do think it has been a blessing that I knew how to run a household before I married. Laundry was no big deal, keeping a kitchen clean, developing routines, mopping floors, etc. I actually got paid my rent through college by caring for children and mopping floors...paid $10 an hour which wasn't bad at 18! Working as a nanny was a much more enjoyable job than running a cash register or waiting tables.

    The one thing I was never taught and still resist learning has been cooking. And it is pathetic and embarrassing! My husband does all the cooking, I seriously have burnt mac n cheese and ruined hard boiling eggs. Sometimes my stuff turns out fine but I'd say it's 50/50 which is more than a little discouraging. I keep promising myself that someday I will learn to cook, hopefully before my husband dies because if he dies before me I'll end up living on ramen noodles and veggie burgers like I did in college ;) So basically I'll die like a year later, from malnutrition.

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  17. My mother mostly stayed home with us. Her parents had tried out a new-fangled idea called "divorce" when she was young, so she grew up without a mom and without training in homemaking. She allowed me, as her eldest child, to be an up-close witness/participant to her efforts to learn to cook and clean. Consequently, I grew up with some badass homemaking skills. My friends mostly grew up being freed from homemaking chores so that they could pursue their empowering education. While they spent our first 10 years of motherhood learning to cook, clean, homeschool, etc., I spent my first 10 years of motherhood going to law school and beginning my career. I've always been able to juggle a lot because there was so much I already knew how to do and I bless my mom for allowing me to learn along with her. I already knew how to throw together a dinner, spend less at a grocery store, know whether a recipe was going to work or not just by looking at it, organize household chores so that cleaning could be easily delegated, and countless other domestic tasks. By not having to learn these things as an adult, I was actually empowered to do other things like go to law school. Now, I'm not saying that every well-prepared girl has to do both a career outside the home and homemaking nor am I saying that only well-prepared girls can do both. I'm simply remarking that my mom gave me the gift of being well-prepared and it made for a less stressful entry into motherhood. I saw those ugly comments about your girls' club. I was surprised at how short-sighted the comments were. There are plenty of women who do take care of their homes, are we to denigrate their choices simply because it doesn't fit our feminist ideal? If it doesn't fit our feminist ideal, why not? Shouldn't a truly liberated woman be able to choose homemaking or a career outside the home or both? If so, shouldn't she be prepared for any choice she makes? I'm sure glad I was.

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  18. I'm a working mother who has a heart for my home. I take great pride in my home being clean, welcoming and well-maintained. I cook dinner every night for my family after work and I take pride in a delicious home-cooked meal. I am very involved in my son's daycare because I wish I could spend my days with him but I take great pride in my career and the achievements I've made. I may not spend my weekends shopping for clothes, but for groceries and necessary home-goods. I watch my other working mothers struggle to learn the basic home-making skills that I honed early in life and they often ask me "how do you do it?" Not in awe, but in 'please help me figure this out!' I'm so grateful to my mother for showing me how to manage a house and family early, so that I could enter the work force and not complain about "how much I have to do".

    And not only was I taught how to manage a house and family, I was expected to mow the lawn, take out the trash, change the oil in my car, and balance my checkbook. (typically male duties). Some days I mowed the lawn while my brother ironed. And in school, we were REQUIRED to take a semester of home ec and shop.

    Never once did I think that I was being taught something 'sexist'. I thought everything was 'necessary'. I do regret not paying more attention to car maintenance.... On that note, I would have killed to have been in a group like your daughters.

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    1. Bravo to your parents! I hope I can help my child be similarly well-rounded.

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  19. I just love this so much. And wish I could join for myself. :)

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  20. As working woman and then a working mother - homemaking skills make my work/life balance so much better. When I'm on top of my household duties I have more time to relax with my family or dedicate to a new project inside or outside of work. I do take pride in my home too as a continuation of my working status - I work hard to help afford this little house and it's modest, mostly used furnishing. Just because I have a day job doesn't mean my home is secondary - so much in our world disintegrates when no joy or respect is put into the home.

    I'm glad I learned homemaking skills - and I wish I had learned more, formally, like your daughters have the opportunity to do - and it's not even about being a stay-at-home-homemaker. I've long believed that a homemaker is defined by the work and the pride you put into your home, and have long considered myself a homemaker regardless of my working status.

    I applaud you for teaching your daughters these skills in a setting they enjoy and teaching your boys similar skills in a way that interests them. =)

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    1. You are making a home. Ergo, you are a home-maker :)

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    2. Molly, you are spot on. Having some homemaker efficiency would have served me well even in my years as a single professional.

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  21. I actually started a Little Women Hospitality group here this year as well. Except my girls don't wear matching skirts. They don't wear matching anything. And we skip the extras like charm bracelets (too much $$$$). But otherwise, we're following the program. We've just had one meeting so far, and it was a lot of fun! We're on Year 1, so we did cooking. Everyone enjoyed it, and I've had so many moms thank me for doing this program and so much positive feedback.

    I haven't had any negative comments at all. I'm surprised that people would think of it negatively. Honestly, for my girls, it's not even so much about learning the skills as it is about the socialization aspect...but they enjoy the activities as well. It's kinda fun way to learn the skills in a group

    And, yes I do teach my 1 boy, how to cook and clean. He does as much cleaning as my girls do and quite a bit of cooking (but he's only 7, so can't cook as well as his older sisters, but that's an age thing). But, he would not enjoy a group like that, while my girls LOVE it.

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  22. "Life Skills" are so important. I'm also going to teach my girls how to build fires, fletch arrows and at least the idea of bow-hunting, in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

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  23. I think nurturing your children's interests is wonderful and not at all sexist, regardless of what is being taught. My son (7) and I baked pies today. He helped measure, roll, crimp, you name it! The 20 month old tried to get in on the rolling pin action as well... and he's a boy. My son is equally happy to be rough and tumble. I call this well-rounded. It is not sexist to teach anybody life skills. And there are ways to make it fun and interesting for INDIVIDUALS, which is what I believe you are doing.

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  24. I LOVE this so much! I need a "Remedial Little Women Hospitality Group" (for someone who may or may not be turning 31 this Sunday...) I wish I had had more formal and persistent instruction growing up in some of the more practical aspects of running a home. Bravo to you!

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  25. Thank you so much for this! I was just thinking last night how frustrated I am with my inept housekeeping. I will keep this in mind for when my daughter gets older!

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  26. Curious as to how you reconcile this with having a full time housekeeper. I agree these are important skills, but if kids see them being relegated to someone of a (presumably) lower socio-economic status do you ever get any blowback? I could see my son (don't have daughters) asking why he needed to learn to iron if I never did it and paid someone else to. Just curious!

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    1. In a house with ten or twelve people living in it, there is PLENTY of work to go around. My kids and I see our housekeeper as someone who helps our family, not as someone who does things we are too good to do. My kids are very aware that they are not. Our housekeeper comes in the morning, while we are doing schoolwork, and the kids do their chores before and after school.

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    2. No kidding. I only have three kids, yet our house is so very ready for our bi-weekly housekeeper to come. Our housekeeper is part of our family. She got me through the little kid years when I was so busy with school and work and had small kids who were unable to do chores. Now she gets me through the big chores that make our house a home, but that I have a hard time getting done. I use the time she frees up for me to make dinner, grocery shop, run errands, and take kids to their activities. My kids still have plenty of chores to do despite having our housekeeper because a house that is used as a home gets pretty dirty. I think this comment was in rather poor taste. Not everyone can afford a paid helper. Kendra has repeatedly acknowledged that. But, it is how she has chosen to run her house and she's been humble enough to share that with all of us. I appreciate her willingness to own up to not being super woman. Also, it does seem that this comment hints at the potential that Kendra is somehow taking advantage of a person who makes less money per year than Kendra's household. That is also in very poor taste. What Kendra and her housekeeper have negotiated for a salary is their business. Despite the fact that I hear about job creation from politicians, it looks like Kendra actually delivers. #Kendraforprez

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    3. I appreciate Kendra's response to this! It is a lot of work to run a home.

      However, I also fully appreciate the question. My mom stayed home with us (she is also a freelance writer, which she did more of as we got older), but I somehow got the impression the point of her staying home was solely to be with us, not make a home. For most of my growing up, we has a weekly or bi-weekly house cleaner. Though we had chores, and my mom taught us to do laundry and basic cooking, I never learned to deep clean as a result of the housekeeping situation (not just the twice a year deep cleaning, but the twice a month deep cleaning!). That's been very hard for me now that I am the primary homemaker. I also never learned to tidy well, despite my moms attempts...

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  27. Why wouldn't one's children of either sex simply learn by being alongside their parent/s as they do tasks? This is how my children learn how to run a home, by watching me as babied, "helping" as toddlers, working next to me and gradually taking on responsibility....I think that unless a parent never does any housework a child just naturally learns....and then group activity time is for really fun things like scouts, pony club, dance not laundry.

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    1. What you said is almost certainly what I'll do as my children get older, but having a group like this shows the girls (and boys, even if they don't partake) that these skills are valued and can be enjoyable. If the girls and leaders enjoy it, why not??

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  28. I don't think my girls would be interested in a formal class like this; they already view laundry as a chore, lol. But I actually plan lifeskills into their homeschooling lesson plans. Both the boys and the girls learn domestic chores but they also learn things like building fires, setting traps, and shooting a rifle. I have also added to their chore charts "house project", where they learn from their dad (who's is very handy, luckily) how to build or fix things. If you can equip them with skills and knowledge, why wouldn't you do so??

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  29. Love this post! I would have loved a girls group like that. I was in Girl Scouts before they got weird, and we did learn things but more nature related and we did one badge about home repair (I still know how to fix a toilet haha) but really I learned a lot from watching my mom host lovely parties and bring meals to people and care for my elderly grandma. I loved dolls and "taught" them using work sheets my mom would bring home from her classroom. Looking back, I was really preparing for life as a home schooler :)
    Also, I chose to take some home ec classes and a cake decorating class in 8th grade, and I get so much mileage out of those classes (I also took wood shop and a plastics class) and I took a child care growth and development class in high school. I use those skills ask the time now as a mom. All of that is to say, yes these skills are valuable especially in terms of the works of mercy! The world is flavored by the love we add, the meals, the little thoughtful touches, remembering that someone has a food allergy or loves your banana bread, handmade gifts that took time and thought, etc.
    Also, I will say that my family growing up had a cleaning lady come every other week and my husband now hires one for us once a month. It is a luxury but it also isn't. We don't use that money for other stuff (we hardly ever go out to dinner, have a very tight budget for everything) and I have a ton of health issues that make cleaning literally impossible at times. My kids, husband and I do chores and plenty of house work, but having help makes our life run more smoothly. The lovely woman who cleans for us really appreciates the extra money we pay her, too, so it's not like she's a servant and we lord it over her. She's part of the household team. It's a great lesson in justice, honestly, too, as we consider how much a person ought to get paid etc.

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  30. The beautiful thing about the homemaking group is that the girls are with others who are learning homemaking is what the normal mother committed to her family does. The sad part is these are things that should be taught in the home, mother to daughter, and not require a special group for learning these skill.

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  31. I agree that homemaking is a useful skill, one that everyone should learn. I also agree that learning it in a group setting works better than just assuming kids will naturally pick it up by watching mom or dad. Some perceptive or temperamentally suited folks may just organically pick up these skills, but even in traditional societies without classes or formal instruction systems, there is overt instruction in homemaking tasks.

    And while I am not in support of only teaching girls these skills, I actually think it would make more women able to "have it all" to be better at home-based tasks. I work from home, have almost no commute to pick up my little ones from preschool, and have a husband who does about 35% of the housework and childcare, yet I still struggle with feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, mainly because housekeeping takes up so much of my mental and emotional energy. That's because I'm basically a beginner -- it's like sight-reading a piano piece after six months of lessons.

    Another element that I found to be a revelation. I spent hours and hours of my time dreading and resenting tasks like laundry and cleaning. When I did them, I had this attitude that they were demeaning and oppressive. And then I realized that I was going to HAVE to do those tasks no matter what, barring winning the Powerball. So I might as well learn to enjoy them, or else spend 20 percent of my waking hours in a funk.

    And then I realized they connect me to billions of other people around the world. In other words, a fundamental part of being human, from time immemorial, is doing these mundane tasks associated with keeping yourself and your loved ones alive and thriving. To look down on them, I suddenly realized, was to look down on how the majority of the world's population spends much of their time.

    Anyways, I wholeheartedly agree that learning these tasks is important. (Although I am skeptical of any set "right way" to do laundry, as I've tried all the tricks so far and none seem to make a measurable difference in how clean or nice my laundry looks.)

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  32. I'm not entirely sold on the group format (not opposed, but still pondering how I feel), but I am absolutely sold on teaching those skills, and teaching them to both boys and girls. Homemaking is, as you say, just applying basic life skills. And I love that it's another way to teach our son, and soon, our daughter, how to serve others, work hard, be more frugal, be more creative, and be more self-sufficient. All highly valued things in our home!

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  33. Well said as usual Kendra!
    I, like you, must have completely ignored my parents when being taught homemaking skills growing up.

    Knowing you're a book person also, have you ever read/looked through "How to Sew a Button... and Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew" ?
    http://www.amazon.com/How-Sew-Button-Things-Grandmother/dp/0345518756
    I bought this for myself when I was newly married and seven years later I STILL refer to it. It's a reference, humor, and collective memory home ec book wrapped into one for lack of a better description. If my grandma was still around to have a pinterest board, I feel like it would be like this book. I would guess it's a nice close second for those of us who are too grown up for our own Little Women program.

    Anyway, yes to teaching life skills different ways. I have to shake my head when people try to argue for teaching everything the same way to everyone. Boys and girls, heck, PEOPLE are different from one another. Why is this a bad thing?

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  34. This awesome! While reading I had the image of myself as an English gentleman holding his glass of scotch (or what have you) and cheering you on "hear hear! Quite so! ". I should also mention I am currently sleep deprived with a newborn and 4 older children. :) Thanks for sharing this! I may be printing out that laundry chart for above my wash machine because I suck at laundry. I don't sort and everything is washed in the cold setting...and I usually forget to treat for stains. Definitely wish I had this group as a kid! God bless you!

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