Monday, June 23, 2008

The Hausfrau Manifesto

"Things are different today.
I hear every mother say
Cooking fresh food for her husband's just a drag.
So she buys an instant cake
And she buys a frozen steak.
And goes running for the shelter of her mother's little helper."
- "Mother's Little Helper", Rolling Stones

Wait a second - you mean that's NOT fresh food? :)

Our foremothers grew kitchen gardens, cooked, preserved the harvest, baked, sewed, and mended - on TOP of raising a family. Those responsibilities required real skills, passed down from generation to generation. If Mama wasn't good in the kitchen, you didn't eat good food. There were no other choices - no fast food, no grocery stores stocked with ready-made items. Women were the key to a full belly and a happy home. Frankly, I don't know how they did it!

In the last 40 years, the titles of homemaker, housewife, or hausfrau lost a lot of respect. Now, women call themselves "stay at home Moms" instead of housewives. This name recenters the focus on the children instead of the household duties and caring for the whole family. I believe this is because our economy has been able to make many of the household chores much easier or completely unnecessary. Without the requirement for specialized knowledge and skills, the housewife became more of a purchaser and user of household products - a consumer.

A consumer of appliances like clothes washers, dryers, dishwashers, vacuums. Products like ready-made yogurt, cheese, bread, canned vegetables, fast food, frozen dinners and instant cakes. A consumer of professional services like housekeeping, yardcare, daycare, and nanny.

Instead of the now-outdated hausfrau responsibilities, the stay-at-home Mom had the freedom and time to focus all her energy on the raising and education of her children. Instead of housewife responsibilities, a career woman was free to pursue her interest and talent in law, medicine, or business.

But this historical innovation, where all our needs are met by a global economy, fueled by oil-dependent agriculture and factories, is about to end.

In the coming years, with energy and food becoming more scarce and expensive, as budgets strain, and the global production line breaks down, a person who takes charge of the duties of cooking, gardening, childrearing, and homemaking - man or woman - will become more of a necessity to family life. I think that the Hausfrau will return to being an honored "career", as more skills are needed to complete the Hausfrau responsibilities.

Unfortunately, many of the Hausfraus of today did not learn all the necessary skills at her mother's knees. Our mothers believed those days were over, and schooling only reinforced that belief. I mean, how many of you learned how to make yogurt or cheese? Bake from scratch? I didn't.

As energy and food becomes more scarce and expensive, and the world re-shapes itself, a Hausfrau (and her husband or partner and their children) MAY need to learn many of the following skills in a new, low-energy way:

  • Childbirth

  • Breastfeeding

  • Teaching / homeschooling her children

  • Cooking and baking

  • Making formerly ready-made foods like cheese, bread, and yogurt

  • Gardening and preserving

  • Sewing and mending

  • Cleaning laundry and dishes
  • Tending to minor medical emergencies

  • Supporting her sisters, daughters, and neighbors in times of need

  • Notice how I'm not mentioning cleaning windows or dusting?

Personally, I don't want to be a full-time Hausfrau - I enjoy my other part-time career. I rather hope that we don't ALL return to the old breadwinner - housewife model. I believe that we will be able to forge a new and more flexible arrangement. So many women have other talents, interests, knowledge and experience outside of hausfrau-dom that it would be a shame to never get to use these skills. Why shouldn't we?

If the industrial global economy can no longer meet our needs, the family unit will have to meet our own. And that's where the Hausfrau steps in with her capable hands and skillful mind. Since many of the traditional Hausfrau skills have been "lost", we will have to re-learn them and teach each other. So here's to the other Hausfraus out there that I am learning from every day! Thanks for all the information and support!


Lewru said...

Thank you, fearless prophette.

Hausfrau said...

Hey, somebody's gotta do it.

Verde said...

Great Post! You have said so much of what I'm thinking. The new changes ahead won't look like the 1950's - I don't think we'll go back and with eyes wide open maybe we can make our society look better than the one end model of male bread-winner, female housewife; or of the other end of empty homes where everybody goes to work all day, commute long hours with kids in full-time daycare sceniro.