I Like My Domesticity Dystopian

I haven’t wanted to blog since my post on millennial moms made the rounds on facebook. I ended up getting tagged in the comment section of one and…wow. I really wish I hadn’t read those comments.

Here’s the thing, y’all. It’s not that easy to be as brutally honest about my life as I am. Truth be told, it’s not that hard either, since I have no filter and never consider the repercussions of my words until I have to eat them…but mostly it’s not hard because I trust people. I trust people — you people — to read what I’m saying instead of what you want to hear. I trust you  to read a story that’s an ode to my husband, about how wonderful he is and how much I love our relationship, and not freak out about how I can’t fix his shirt.

I am not ashamed to say that I love my life with my husband and kids, and I love it just the way it is — despite the fact that it doesn’t look “the way it should”. Maybe because of that, actually. We are who we are. I love him, he loves me, we love our kids, and we’re carving out our own little corner of domestic bliss in the 21st century. Sure, I joke a lot about how it’s dysfunctional (since our kids think that death and poop are equally joke-worthy), but I actually trust you to understand hyperbole, or when there is none, to accept the fact that although my life doesn’t look like yours, it’s still okay for me to love it and be happy. I trust you to read my blog the way you’d hear a conversation with a friend. Unless you’re a big jerk, you’re not going to say, “oh, cute story, but don’t you think you’d be happier and holier if you learned how to sew instead of wasting your time with all this new-fangled writing nonsense?”

Most of you are familiar with the book Little Women, yet I have trouble imagining you shaking your head over Jo March’s ink-stained fingers and advising her to swap out her pen for a needle and thread. And listen up, yo —  just because I’m writing on the internet doesn’t mean I’m not writing.

Sure, I say “yo”, but I also understand language and use it to construct arguments and convey truth. I do that because writing is necessary to my soul — and that’s not hyperbole. I’ve been writing since I was in second grade, filling up the margins of every notebook I’ve ever owned with poetry and prose, because for me, writing is a form of prayer. It’s the way I learn to know God, my husband, my children, the world, and myself. It’s the way I learn to love and serve. Writing is a vocation that is every bit as real and vital to me as my vocation as wife and mother. In fact, it’s so completely intertwined with my vocation as wife and mother that it would be wrong to give up writing so I can learn to sew.

We all have different talents. There was even a whole parable about that once. That’s not to say that it’s fine to hire out every household task so I can spend all day churning out reams of poetry — this isn’t Victorian England after all, and who has the money for that? I’ve learned to embrace many of the so-called “domestic arts” because they’re important for my family. Eating things that aren’t processed and flash-frozen, for instance. Overcoming my fear of numbers long enough to learn to wield a calculator. Cooking and budgeting were hard things for me to learn, but I learned them because they were important. Not just necessary, but important — to me, to my husband, to my kids. For our family, they were important.

Less important was learning to sew, the domestic art that is the cornerstone of this conversation. But “our view of the domestic arts has become strangely narrow”, and unnaturally limited to cooking and sewing. Here’s the thing: as Daniel points out, this sense of domesticity (sewing, baking, homemaking) is a fairly modern one — as is the fictitious idea that attaining mastery of these new domestic ideals is a moral obligation.

For many women, these particular domestic arts come easily. Other women have worked hard to master them, not just because they are skills that are valuable in and of themselves, but because they are valuable for these women and their families. They are creating one kind of domestic art, and it’s beautiful.

They don’t come easily to me, and I haven’t worked hard to master them. Sewing doesn’t have the same intrinsic value for my family and me as literature…or dungeons and dragons.

There are things that come easily to me. Reading stories aloud and doing all the voices, reciting poetry from memory, having dance parties, tickling my kids till they pee, creating elaborate evening prayers that last half an hour, singing each child their own lullaby…those are things I didn’t have to learn. Writing is not on that list. I’ve spent years learning to write, and I’m still learning. Writing is not something that one ever masters…probably kind of like sewing. They’re both art, after all.

It isn’t right to claim that because I write instead of sew, I consider sewing a frivolous pursuit. That’s actually a ludicrous statement to make, and one I took great pains to refute at length. But it is flat-out wrong to insist that my writing is frivolous, and that I would be better served learning to sew.

I wouldn’t be. Writing is my craft, my art, my path to the good, true, and beautiful. I may not sew my husband’s buttons back onto his shirt, but I write poems for him and about him. He loved me for that when he met me, and he loves me for that now. When I write about our marriage, our children, our own little dysfunctional corner of domestic bliss, I’m writing myself into a better way of loving, a better way of being. And for our family, that’s worth more than all the buttons in the world.

That’s okay. It’s okay for my family to be the way we are, and saying that doesn’t imply that homemakers who sew and craft aren’t as awesome as I am because they don’t know their way around iambic pentameter. The same way it doesn’t mean I’m less awesome than mothers who can turn a paper bag into a prom dress with only the power of their sewing machine, or mothers who can turn the liturgical calendar into  culinary artwork with only the power of their fists and some yeast. We’re all gifted in different ways, and that is really, truly, honestly okay. It’s more than okay. It’s beautiful…kind of like these patchwork twirly skirts that I could never make.

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