Creative Outlets, Hobbies, and the Modern Woman

In previous posts here on Diverse Philosophies I’ve discussed my views on traditional roles of women in society and the detrimental impact of the modern “career woman” role on families today.

One area I haven’t touched on in reference to modern roles, is the dying art of housewifery – more than the ability to cook and clean, but proficiency in other tasks that were once a necessary part of creating a pleasant and healthy home and life for the family. Knitting and sewing garments and household linens as well as cooking and baking foods that are not only nutritious, but also pleasing to the eye and palate are some tasks that come to mind. Interestingly, many of these skills still live on in our modern society of store bought sundries and restaurant or store-prepared meals – as hobbies.

I believe each and every human being has a need for a creative outlet. Some search for their ideal creative niche, some dabble in various fields of creativity, and some just know instinctively which is the perfect creative outlet for them. I tend to be a bit of a dabbler myself. I greatly enjoy many different creative activities – including drawing, knitting, amateur photography, cooking and baking.

I come from a very creative and artistic family. My family includes a professional photographer, a professional artist who produces wonders with just paper and pencil or oil on canvas portraits as well as seamless crochet garments, a skilled seamstress who once made for me a perfect reproduction of a gown from the American Colonial era, a jewelry maker, a scrapbooker, a couple of writers… and a potential actress make up the rest of my relatives.

As previously mentioned, I aspired to a career as a housewife from early childhood. In line with my juvenile aspirations, I learned to cook at an early age, under my mother’s supervision. As I got older, I discovered that I had a talent for learning by watching and/or reading. A cookbook that I received as a gift led to me honing my skills as a cook and baker – not up to par with a professional chef, but definitely quite adequate for a housewife. I took up quilting, and learned basic knitting from an encyclopedia. Sadly, now that I am a grown woman and a wife, I have little time to pursue these interests that should be my full-time occupation, due to being obligated to work outside of the home. The necessity for two incomes has shattered the dream I once aspired to.

Never one to accept defeat with facility, I still devote some of my free time to these arts of housewifery – now considered hobbies by most. Here are some of my exploits in knitting:

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My very first original design

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Cabled hat with brim

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Cardigan with antique buttons

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Infant hat with knitted flower

I’ve been fortunate enough to make some extra cash by selling some items I’ve knitted. I take custom orders and requests for specially designed items. The best part? I enjoy the entire process, from design to delivery. I equally enjoy cooking and baking and trying new recipes or improving on old favorites.

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An American classic: Homemade Apple Pie

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Fruit Tarts

I’ve even tried my hand at soap making.

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The above “hobbies” were once parts of the traditional housewife role throughout much of history. They have come to be classified as hobbies because they are no longer a necessary part of homemaking. Garments, knitted or otherwise, can be bought ready-made at a variety of retailers. Likewise, food can be purchased in various stages of preparation – from raw ingredients to fully cooked meals and desserts. Cooking and baking from “scratch” has definitely become a dying art amongst the masses of the Western world. The biggest reason for this is women in the workplace. It is next to impossible to hold down a job and have the time to cook a healthy homemade dinner every evening. But let’s get back to hobbies.

There are many other avenues of creative expression that can more accurately be described as hobbies. Some that I enjoy include drawing or doodling:

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Photography and photo editing with a touch of the poetic:

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Note: The above images are my property and may not be used without my permission.

Interestingly, whenever I knit in public I am asked whether I am an expectant mother. It seems that despite modern gender roles, in the general consciousness knitting and similar activities are associated with wives and mothers. Hmm. Conversely, when I make my “famous” brownies from scratch, I am often greeted with incredulity upon the discovery that they did not come from a box, but that I actually mixed together the separate raw ingredients and baked them. It’s a confusing society we live in, isn’t it?

If you are interested in custom handknitted items or would like to view more samples of my work, please visit my Facebook page.

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Sally Homemaker

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That’s what a friend once disdainfully called me. We were both young and recently married at the time, and unlike myself, she was frustrated with her efforts at home cooking. I don’t think she realized that what was intended as a pseudo-insult was, to me, a compliment. I’m quite content to be labeled Sally (or Suzy) Homemaker. In fact, I’ve aspired to it.

From childhood, I dreamed of being a wife, and a good one. So I learned to cook, clean, do laundry, and various other housekeeping tasks. Once I was married to the man of my dreams, I was serving up creamy homemade mashed potatoes, chicken parmigiana, various other homemade dishes, and learning how to make and perfect homemade pasta sauce, while standing by my resolve to never make anything from a box except StoveTop stuffing. I had all the basic kitchen gadgets, which I needed for my exploits in home cookery. My husband has never complained. To the contrary, after dinner every evening, he says, “Thank you. Dinner was very good.” What a darling man.

I do have a job outside the home, which, unfortunately, is necessary. Because of this, some evenings we eat leftovers, and our home is at times not completely up to my standards of neatness and cleanliness, though never a horror of disarray. I always say that if we did not need my income, I’d be a happy housewife, our home would be spotless, and dinner would be hot on the table at 5:30pm sharp. Some women are horrified by this idea. “Give up your career?!? What would you do all day? I’d go crazy.” Well, maybe you would go crazy, but I’d be in my glory.

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The feminist movement, like many other human endeavors, started with benevolent intentions but has brought us to a sad state of affairs – we’ve simply exchanged old problems for new ones. The women of today have legal rights, can vote, own property, use birth control, and move to the top of the corporate ladder. But women working outside the home cannot raise their own children or spend as much time as they should with their families. They may find it necessary to hire outside help for housecleaning and childcare. Guilt sets in, because instead of healthy homecooked meals, they’re feeding their families take-out or Hamburger Helper because it is simply more convenient at the end of a long day. The babysitter knows the children better than the mother does. At a certain point, we went too far. Equal rights are one thing. Losing a quality family life and our identity as women is another.

When it comes down to it, have modern women truly achieved equal rights? Even when both spouses are working outside the home, often the woman is still expected – or expects herself – to be the primary caregiver for the children, as well as maintaining the rest of the housekeeping duties. Is that truly equal? I think not.

Then there are some who make the argument that because of the levels of education and career paths that are attainable for women today, a woman would be bored or wasting her time being “just a housewife.”

I’m sure the women who are fortunate enough to be in a position to choose the career of housewife would resent that deprecating term – “just a housewife.” I resent it. In our rapidly declining social structure, old-fashioned values are becoming a thing of the past, something to be repudiated in favor of new axioms. In this state of confusion, gender roles are beginning to reverse. More and more women are climbing the corporate ladder and men are becoming stay at home dads. Mom wears the pants, dad wears the apron. No wonder society is in a state of disorder!

Being a true housewife – not one of these dolts on a reality television show – requires skill, patience, and discipline. Keeping a home clean, organized and in good working order, cooking delectable nutritious meals, and raising clean, polite, educated, moral children constitute a full-time job. It is essential to the family’s well-being as a whole and is most definitely a m├ętier that deserves appreciation, not belittling.

But unfortunately in today’s society, women seem to be hungry for corporate power, not for the time-honored position of wife, mother, and competent housekeeper. Search “June Cleaver” or “Donna Reed” on the Internet and you are sure to find plenty of disparaging remarks about both ideal housewives – the fictional TV character and the actress who portrayed a similar role.

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Barbara Billingsley as June Cleaver

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Donna Reed in “The Donna Reed Show”

I still proudly aspire to be Sally Homemaker. I still cook and bake from scratch. I clean my own home without the help of a maid or cleaning service. I am an avid knitter and enjoy many other “housewifely” crafts. I derive immense satisfaction from these accomplishments, even if others consider them menial. The career of housewife would provide fulfilment and validation for me, had I the circumstances to choose it. If finances were not the current matter of concern, I could easily turn my back on my current occupation, despite being quite proficient at it. I take pride in my skills as a homemaker, and embrace my full potential in a vital traditional role. I salute the women who choose this role full-time, thereby preserving at least a semblance of abiding family values.

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