Thursday, 3 July 2008

Domestic Philosophy

But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination conceive what they mean. When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens
or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know
what the words mean. To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes,
and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.

From, What's Wong with the World, b y G. K. Chesterton


Gumbo Lily said...

I'll just add my "Amen."


Maymomvt said...

I've been reading about women's lives in the American west--many women were extremely isolated and depressed while the men were fine. I think one reason was because the men accomplished visible improvements every day--built a fence, built a barn, plowed a field, caught some geese--while the women really had nothing to show for their work --no sooner had they cleaned up from breakfast that the backbreaking cycle began again of hauling water, cooking, eating it, cleaning up.

Yes, it's important work, but sometimes it can be hard to see past the cycle to its importance.

I'm not knocking domesticity. I love it, value it, and am glad I am a woman and can do it, however I'm not sure if I'd have felt that way if I had lived 100 years ago.

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Jody
I somehow knew that you'd like this quote!

Hi Sarah
Perhaps you are happy to be domestic now because you do so out of choice? I felt trapped and isolated whilst trying to juggle a full-time job with motherhood, but I do not regret that part of my life because it has strengthened my choice to be home. I also do not regret my former career because I enjoyed it, I liked my colleagues and I did some good...again this enjoyment of my former career serves to strengthen my choice.

The little I know of my family history tells me that many of my ancestors were miserable with their lives, but their choices were stilted not simply because they were women, but also working class women...who had no choice but to bring up large families and work at low paid factory/mill jobs. I understand your lack of nostalgia as I share it.

Establishing a full and loving family life right now is my focus...I feel that the idea of the stable family being the cornerstone of society is rather a dwindling notion nowadays (or one completely rejected by my fellow lefties anyway!lol)and I enjoy the Chesterton quote, not only because I believe it to be true, but I believe it to be empowering.