When is a home complete?

Our class discussion today concerning the increase in household technology in the lives of housewives was very intriguing to me and made me think more profoundly about its implications. As we observed, despite the advancement of such appliances, women were still spending the same amount of, if not more, time on domestic tasks. While Cowan suggests that this a result of the technology replacing the chores of outdates servants, I view the matter in a different manner. I believe that women’s maternal instincts cause them to view housework as “never-ending.” To housewives, there is always something more that can be done to improve the quality of the household as well as the lives of her family members. Although a washing machine may reduce the amount of time necessary to dedicate to laundry, the typical housewife then immediately thinks of what else can be done; she now has time to make dessert for the night, clean the windows, or do some extra food shopping, all tasks that she didn’t have time for before.

I saw this in my own life a few years ago on Thanksgiving, after my mom had completely remodeled the kitchen, drastically improving the appliances and putting in two ovens instead of one. She claimed that the holiday cooking would be done in half the time. However, she spent more time in the kitchen that Thanksgiving than any other. Knowing she had two ovens, she made apple AND pumpkin pie so everyone would be happy. Now that her stovetop was larger, she could make mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, AND turnips. Although the new appliances technically made her life simpler, they actually made her role as a housewife more complicated, as she was now even more well-equipped to meet everyone’s needs and keep everyone happy.

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2 Responses to When is a home complete?

  1. irism999 says:

    You provide an excellent current example as to how improvements and developments in household appliances have had a negative effect rather than a alleviating effect on the amount of household chores a woman completes. However, I do not agree with your reasoning that this is because of woman’s maternal instincts that supposedly compel women to clean and perform more housework when given better tools.

    I believe that the tools provided increase the expectations and pressure that women feel from coming from society. The reason a woman performs chores “endlessly” at times is not because she feels a passion for it, but because having a clean house ensures some feeling of safety or approval from her spouse or community. Women should not have to worry about being granted this safety or approval from the dominant gender as a result of her performance of housework. Women should be respected for being human beings, not individuals who exhibit maternal instincts and perform stereotypical gender specific roles.

  2. nbsc128 says:

    I remember talking about this in class. I find it profoundly revealing in that this phenomenon shows the driving force behind female oppression: societal expectation. It was never really the amount of food that needed to be prepared that kept your mother in the kitchen, it was the expectation that she is required to make the family as happy as possible with her Thanksgiving meal. This is why these appliance companies will forever be in business. They simply force more production without any slack on the societal expectation front. In fact, because these appliances exist, there are now MORE expectations. (In your case, it was more food.)

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