Women’s Work

It’s complicated. Cook. Wash dishes. Mop the floor. Clean the toilet. Do the laundry. Change diapers. Even though we have careers, paying jobs, and own businesses, much of this work falls on our shoulders. And laps. And keeps us on our toes.

In the last year, I fired our cleaning service and started taking care of my granddaughter June one day a week. I thought diapers and baby bottles were history for me, but then I found “Diaper Rinse” on my washer. And got in touch with a part I didn’t know I had–domestic goddess.

When you commit to a baby one day a week, something has to give. So far it’s been my artwork; I haven’t done any since I finished this blanket for June a year ago.June's Quilt

I believe that’s one reason we hear less from and about women artists and writers; we’re the ones that keep the homely wheels turning. I’ve read some books to reawaken my creativity, and it’s given me a lot to think about.

Bringing Up Bebe helped prepare me for June Days; things have changed A LOT in the last thirty or so years. Amazing! Pamela Druckerman was inspired by French families taking their kids to restaurants where they ate the same food as the grownups. With manners!

She conducted research over the early years of her children’s lives, and put together a book that’s funny, smart and informative. Bringing Up Bebe explores differences between American and French parenting, and offers 100 “keys” to a more Continental approach to family life.

The big message was RELAX & SLOW DOWN–“You can’t go faster than the music.” And this childhood thing goes way too fast anyhow so why rush it?

Southwest Indian marketMegan K. Stack thought she could complete a book while she carried her first baby. She quit her job as an award winning international reporter and moved to China for her husband’s work. Four years and two babies later, she completed a first draft of that book. Then, overwhelmed by edits needed to finish, she wrote Women’s Work.

I was hooked from the start. I got to know the women who worked in her household, as well as Megan and her family. She explores the communities of the women who cooked, cleaned and took care of her kids in China and India. She dives deep into both cultures, but she doesn’t come up with pat solutions or short answers. There are none.

Fresh veggies

Nourish your family with healthy, tasty food.

Shelter them with a clean, safe home.

Bear and nurture the next generation.

Hmmm. Sounds important.

Yet women around the world do this work for little or no pay. Of the 100,000,000 domestic workers across the world, about 80% are women (Stack, p. 326). Pay and value are twined together very tightly together in today’s world. We need to VALUE domestic work; I think that’s what I’m learning from my adventures in keeping my own house clean and taking care of June. It’s simple but not easy.

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One Reply to “Women’s Work”

  1. A little like the movie “Babette’s Feast”… a benevolent Rumpelstiltskin , spinning meals into love and melting cold hearts with sacrifice. Thanks for your thoughts because the perspective that gives the menial labor meaningful presence can get obscured in isolation.

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