Are You Ready To Reclaim the Term “Homemaker”?

But first... What exactly does a homemaker do?
But first… What exactly does a homemaker do?

A few months ago, I met my friend Michelle for lunch. She’s a web designer, blogger and big-time DIYer. You know, the kind of person who makes her own cleaning products and jams and pickles.

Anyhow, she mentioned that she wants to reclaim the term homemaker.

The simple utterance of the word made me shudder.

Homemaker? Really, Michelle???

When she asked me to explain why I had such a visceral reaction to the word, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I take zero issue with stay-at-home moms and dads. That is a more-than-full-time job. And look, even running a home when you have no children is a ton of work. So, so, SO much work!

I’ve been replaying our conversation a lot, and I think my reaction comes down to this: my grandma was a homemaker, but I remember her always telling me she “wished she was an architect, but women didn’t do things like that back then.” She graduated high school in 1929, and while I’m sure becoming a female architect was technically possible, it wasn’t easily available– especially during the Great Depression.

So I guess to me, the word homemaker always felt a little like, “it was one of three job options available to me, so that’s what I did because I couldn’t be an architect.” Or whatever other job a women secretly wanted. And by the way, many women did want to be homemakers. And that is great!

However, the term seemed so antiquated to me, so I decided to look up the actual definition. Here’s what the Dictionary has to say:

home·mak·er noun hōmˌmākər/

: a person, especially a housewife, who manages a home.

Okay, people. Is it just me or is the “especially a housewife” an unnecessary addition to the definition? I hate that it’s there!

You made it weird, Dictionary!

But if we can just read the definition without the qualifier, it’s just this:

: a person who manages a home.

Dude, I literally spend hours every day managing my home. And so does my husband. Does that make us homemakers? It might!

We tend to associate the term homemaker with our grandparents generation, but I’d argue that in some ways, we’re just as into homemaking today than we were fifty years ago– maybe even more so! We’re obsessed with recipes, cooking, and outfitting homes with beautiful things. We want to learn how to preserve our excess produce, refinish the antique hutch we found at a garage sale, make our own non-toxic cleaning solution and deodorant.

There is an entire social media platform devoted largely to homemaking.

It’s called Pinterest. Heard of it? Obviously you have & you can follow me here! (#shamelessplug). Millions of women and men get sucked into Pinterest’s black hole daily, often in the hopes of managing their home more effectively. Or learning how to do a cool fishtail braid. But mostly for recipes, decor tips and DIY projects.

What’s more, our Instagram feeds flood with perfectly-curated vignettes– a homemade craft cocktail grasped in a manicured hand against an exposed brick wall; a perfectly crafted pavlova topped with homemade lemon curd and lavender; a cold beer on the porch, overlooking a freshly mown lawn; your stunning new front porch vignette.

A perfectly crafted pavlova. 
A perfectly crafted pavlova.
I made that
I made that “couch” with my bare hands and $80.

Let’s face it: we love well-managed homes ’cause they just feel so good.

They’re fabulous to wake up in. Fun to entertain in. Comforting when you’re sad, calming when you’re pissed, and the perfect secret stage for dancing in your underwear when you just gotta dance in your underwear. A well-managed home means a clean(ish), safe, comfortable space filled with things that spark joy (#trending), good food, and the people/pets you love.

And if you live by yourself, awesome! I loved living alone, homemaking a cozy one-bedroom into a place where I could dance in my underwear (apparently, I do this a lot) or watch Six Feet Under in bed while eating popcorn and drinking crappy lite beer whenever the hell I wanted. I loved making that home.

So I ask you, are you ready to reclaim homemaker? While I don’t think I’m adding it to my LinkedIn any time soon, I definitely am one. And so is my husband. I grocery shop for the two of us, creating healthy and delicious meals regularly (or ordering pizza. Whatever.) Last week, Josh installed a new chandelier in our dining room and grew a bunch of grass in our weed-filled backyard. I walk the dog, he runs the dog. I vacuum, he mows the lawn. We tag-team the dishes and laundry.

I love our home and we homemake the shit out of it.

* * *

How do you feel about the term “homemaker”? And if you do “manage your home” as your full-time gig, do you call yourself a homemaker?

PS Here are some ways we homemake around here: the bomb outdoor furniture I made with my barehands and $80; the fence we built to keep our dog and ourselves happier; the mussel recipe I didn’t think I could make myself, but turned out to be easier than toasting bread (basically).

PPS Here’s my friend Michelle (who started this whole convo) shares her thoughts on homemaking.

 

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Comments (18)

  • Harmony Prom 2 years ago Reply

    Homemaking is hard, badass work. Put THAT in the dictionary. I thought I was the only person on Earth who loved dancing in my underwear while watching Six Feet Under. I love that show. LOVE. I want to be a funeral director. Just kidding, I would just cry all day. THEY are badass too. Can you interview one of them?

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    The last few episodes of 6 Feet Under made me cry like a baby, uncontrollably, for days! It was the worst. But also: the best series finale to any show, ever!

  • Jen S. 2 years ago Reply

    I am 100% a homemaker and I love it. P.S. I also have a badass full time day job.

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    EXACTLY!

  • Paige 2 years ago Reply

    Harmony, check it out 🙂

    https://heyeleanor.com/blog/2014/10/16/everyday-eleanor-caitlin-doughty

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    Ha, was going to share that too, Paige!

    Harmony 2 years ago Reply

    YES! I want to come intern and see what it is like. Just kidding. Kind of. Do I get to wear a sassy lace top? If so, I’m in. So is Molly. Its SO Eleanor!

  • Sarge in Charge 2 years ago Reply

    Another thought about bringing this term back: Ladies used to put "homemaker" on any form asking for their profession. It was considered a legitimate, full time occupation — and it absolutely can be. Would bringing back this term bring back the legitimacy to the work of maintaining a home, raising children, providing meals, etc.? And for those of us who plan to work outside the home, could this acknowledgment that maintaining a home is a full time gig somehow ease the expectations that women can work full time and still do all the exact same homemaking and child raising tasks their 50s peers did? Maybe considering it two full time jobs would make it apparent that there are just not enough hours in the day handle everything the modern mom is expected to handle?

    Um…. apparently I have some feelings on the subject. Who knew? AND I DO NOT EVEN HAVE KIDS or a "home" (more like a rental apartment).

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    haha, I know! I had so many feelings about all of this.

    Homemaking is a full-time job, plain and simple, which is why it’s okay to hire people to help you out. Hence, i have bi-monthly cleaning ladies.

  • Michelle 2 years ago Reply

    Favorite line: "I love our home and we homemake the shit out of it."

    I love this post, Molly. And this conversation. I think there’s a similar one to be had about "stay-at-home mom" versus "working mom"…but let’s save that one for another day.

    Also, I fell compelled to make one minor correction to your introduction of me. I never can pickles because I hate pickles. But YES to the jam! And ketchup. If you’ve never had homemade ketchup, you’re in for something special.

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    Ha! Thanks!

    I consider pickles basically anything in a mason jar that isn’t booze or spreadable on bread, but point taken! 😉

  • Ashley 2 years ago Reply

    Hmm there is so much baggage to the term "homemaker"….I don’t think I would call myself that, but I DO really enjoy a LOT of the aspects, like cooking and creating my own space. I don’t like the cleaning or laundry as much but I am the one between me and Tim who puts the most effort forth. It does bring a sense of pride, and is even more important now that I mostly work from home. I mean, it’s much harder to get something done when your environment is a mess! I’m totally down with reclaiming the word.

    Home Economics used to be a class women took (yea, only for women way back when) and I actually have a textbook I found in Austin about it from around 1915. It was serious business to manage a household and budget your groceries! I have another cookbook from around the same time period called "A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband: with Bettina’s Best Recipes" which is set-up as little stories of aforementioned Bettina giving advice on cooking and household management to other wives. If you ever see it buy it, it’s a hilarious read that also shows you the gender roles of the times!

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    I think we should all be required to take a budgeting class in HS. And cooking/cleaning. I mean, I know math is important, but come on. We should all know how to manage a household at 18… I’m 32 and am still not sure about a lot of it!

  • Brenna 2 years ago Reply

    When I lived in Georgia the ladies at church first asked me "Do you work outside the home?" At first I was a little caught off guard, but then realized that many of them did not work when they were younger and this was a totally legit question. I think the term Housewife has taken on a negative connotation thanks to the Real Housewives of ….. They make running a home look like a circus, a very expensive and shiny circus.

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    "Do you work outside the home?" does have a softness to it… but yeah, I’ve definitely never been asked that.

    Agree 10000 percent on the Real Housewives thing. Those guys are barely housewives. PLUS, I actually think Reality TV personality is a bonafide career these days (albeit a short-lived one!)

  • Cindy Ensley 2 years ago Reply

    In middle school when asked about our career goals, my best friend at the time said she wanted to be a homemaker and I remember being absolutely shocked by her answer. I didn’t get why she would "just want to be a mom and homemaker"! I know I said something about it, probably offensive, 13-year-old-me lacked a lot of tact. The funny thing is, I totally get it now! I love making my home (before and after becoming a mother), but I do negative reactions to the word "homemaker" even though that is absolutely what I am, pretty much full-time as the freelance work I do from home is totally part-time. It’s a ton of work and it’s a shame that we think of homemaking as a less valid career option. I even feel weird calling it a career, as it isn’t technically compensated. My husband often tells me how appreciative he is that I handle so much of the household stuff (he does a lot as well, but I definitely take a larger role domestically) and I have a hard time giving it value. It’s so complicated!!

    molly mogren katt 2 years ago Reply

    It’s so complicated! And such a dirty word. I think part of the reason is that it in some ways seems like a luxury… like I don’t have to work a "real" gettin’ a paycheck kind of job. I manage my house for free!

    Great to hear your hubby tells you he’s appreciative. I think managing a home is often a thankless job, where a lot of what you do is invisible. There’s always groceries in the fridge, clean underwear and towels, and sheets magically get changed. A thank you goes a long way.

  • creole wisdom 2 years ago Reply

    I love that you posted this 🙂 I think the term homemaker is beautiful. To me, it is anyone who creates, manages, and beautifies their space. What could be wrong with that? The second wave feminist movement was supposed to be about supporting women in all their choices, but in my experience, I just haven’t found that to be true. I’ve felt stigmatized by other women for desiring to be a stay-at-home-mom and relishing in the domestic arts. I’m also a business owner, and love that park of my life, too! My wonderful grandmothers raised lots of children (9 and 4 respectively) and are my models for womanhood. One stayed home and was a proud traditionalist and the other worked part time at JC Penny. Both women embodied the term "homemaker" and were proud of their accomplishments. I celebrate anyone who is living out their goals and dreams– being a lawyer or quitting it all to raise a family. I strongly believe {and I know I’m probably in the minority} you just can’t have "it all" and reject that as a lie that exhausts, demeans, and diminishes. Let’s face it, someone has got to cook because we all need to eat, and same goes for keeping up the house, and helping with clothing. I’d much prefer it be me, I love doing that kind of stuff, it gives me joy! Homemaker? Absolutely and proudly!

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