There are things you need to know about me.
One of them is that my mother did not keep a clean house. At least by herself.
She cooked (a bit) and did the (odd) wiping down, but to call any of the domestic arts her forte would be akin to saying Bill Clinton is shy to glad-hand - it ain't so.
We had a cleaning lady, Fay, who would come once a week and clean up while my mother would read voraciously on the couch. I would follow Fay around because I liked to clean and have things tidy, too. But to describe Fay as my mentor in cleaning would be a gross exaggeration.
Later, Fay left us and we did most of the housework (my sister and I) until we moved out, but it was spotty at best, although I took great pride in being the only person who actually cleaned behind the toilet...
I am a self-taught cleaner and still learning.
And I get a huge delight out of this learning. Martha Stewart came along in the early 1980s and just in time too; I could find out all that I had missed from Martha. And it turns out I had missed a lot!
Later, I ordered myself a copy of Cheryl Mendelson's Home Comforts in 2005 and poured over it - who knew how often and how best one should change one's sheets, scrub one's floors, etc, etc. - Cheryl knew! I was fascinated by housecleaning and homekeeping - it was like visiting a foreign land I had always wanted to be part of!
It has been my bible ever since!
But I was not a complete luddite, for I had benefitted from that long-lost course: Home Economics.
I thought of Home Ec. yesterday when I was blogging about tricking out my blazer.
Home Economics had its origins in the late 1800s/early 1900s, when caring for a home in a clean, healthy environment was just the ticket to keeping people alive.
When I took home economics in the 1970s, we focused on sewing, child-rearing, money management and food (cooking and nutrition). A bit of health was thrown in for good measure.
I loved my home economics textbooks, with their pictures of spotless homes and clean refrigerators, its warnings for us to avoid restaurants with house flies (something that I abhor to this day - I think the housefly in the restaurant was the equivalent of the red plague for young impressionable home economics classes).
There were no boys in our classes. They were off taking manly courses - shop and automobile repair.
And then it all fell out of favour.
Led first in the 1970s by women who rightly said that forcing girls to take courses in the so-called "womanly arts" was offensive, that choice was everything, home economics and shop classes become co-ed. In our school system at least, these courses were eliminated by successive budget cuts that saw domestic arts as less important than math, sciences and typing (it was the 80s by then after all).
Home economics, and home care in general, were equated with keeping women "down", which makes sense, since the early feminists, the ones from the generation immediate to my own, had been subjected to textbooks that advised them to take care of their man and leave their petty domestic concerns aside - his needs were paramount.
But... and but...The house was still there. And some people wanted to care for it. And knew how. But others were lost.
My extended family would come over for Christmas and they would tease me because I wanted to have a lovely house with lovely table settings and lovely food. It was foreign to them. They enjoyed the fruits of my labour but there was an underlying message that I was not a 'true' career woman, interested as I was in these pursuits. In fact, I kind of closeted my interest away in polite company, as if the domestic arts were an embarrassment, something one would only choose to do because one had to clean the house or cook a meal, not because that was an interesting thing to do. For me, a working mother with two young children, it felt like the condescension towards home keeping had not only continued, but had expanded to include many women now as well. Those of us, men and women, who liked a beautiful home felt that our pursuits were less than interesting; we were frivolous and somehow throwbacks.
I think that worm has turned, although Statistics Canada does advise that women still bear an unequal role with respect to housework. I am curious to know if they measure other aspects of caring for a home and must dig into that; I might do a smidge (and only a smidge) more housework than Barry - but he does all the yard work, home repair, etc. etc.
But we have a whole generation of young people who no know some of these domestic and mechanical arts unless they were fortunate enough to have parents or grandparents who specifically taught them. Who do not understand the principles involved in baking or sewing, do not know how to build a basic bookshelf, change a tire. They pay others to do it all for them now and I think, more's the pity. Cause this is the stuff we are going to need to know for the zombie apocalypse, right Tabs?
I haven't had a sewing machine for well over a decade - my last one was a 1960s Singer, inherited from a friend who had 'traded up' to a machine with a built in button-holer - I can't imagine what sewing machines can do now!
But I want to find out: I want a sewing machine again. I want to teach both of my kids to sew. And knit. They know how to cook (a bit), they understand nutrition, I am teaching them to clean - my son goes to his girlfriend's apartment and insists that the girls wash their dishes and mop their floors.
Keeping a house in good repair, keeping a body in good repair, is a smart and wise thing to do.
I am curious - do your schools have these kinds of courses or are they gone with the wind like they are here?
Am I the only one who found cleaning a bathroom after an awful day at work a satisfying thing to do???
I would love to hear your thoughts! Have a great day and stay safe out there!