Has the art of keeping house truly been lost, or has it simply evolved to meet the demands of modern-day life? Those who keep house in our day and age have the same goals as homemakers of yesteryear: providing a safe and clean environment in which to live, raise families, and entertain.
The Modern World
These days, machines make house cleaning easier than ever before. The variety of available cleaning products is staggering. Appliances clean themselves. Surfaces resist stains and repel pollutants. Fabrics are wrinkle-free, food comes ready to cook, gadgets and gizmos galore assist in all phases of running a household.
The Modern Family
The modern homemaker is an entirely different animal than the homemaker of the past. The traditional male/female head-of-household pair consisting of a beleaguered female pulling double shifts every day while her wayward spouse spends his time on the golf course or in a barroom has evolved into something quite different.
Modern households are made up of diverse family units, many headed up by non-traditional couples whose genders may be registered on a spectrum rather than defined by fixed labels. This blurring of gender lines makes for a variety of interesting differences between the homemakers of today and the career women of the eighties who did double-duty as the family housekeeper or the stay-at-home housewives of the fifties.
Manager versus Laborer
Today’s household members increasingly share the burden of keeping house or simply bring in outside help. The modern homemaker is often more of a manager than an actual laborer. Machines must be operated, programmed, maintained, and replaced when necessary. Hired help has to be given instructions and feedback. When homemaking is a group endeavor, someone has to set goals, make a plan, and generally lead the group.
Challenges Have Changed
The challenges faced by today’s homemaker differ vastly from those of the past. Today’s family manager has to, first and foremost, be concerned with the security of family members. The world seems much more dangerous than it used to be and is certainly more sophisticated, often in undesirable ways. Children can’t be simply sent off to walk to school on their own or left to their own devices in the afternoon. There are far too many perils and pitfalls.
House Cleaning is Still Important
House cleaning isn’t the top priority for today’s homemaker, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a priority. No one wants to live in a dirty house. People are busier than ever before living their best possible lives, trying to reach their full potential, and generally trying to accomplish everything on their bucket lists. Toilet cleaning comes in slightly lower priority-wise than soccer practice and rock climbing.
House Cleaning Is More Hit-and-Miss
House cleaning today is much more chaotic than in days of yore. It’s more hit-and-miss, with less concern about cobwebs and dust bunnies. The good-enough approach is the rule of the day. This world has so much to offer that there’s little time left to worry about whether or not there’s dust under the bed.
Homemakers Have More Choices
Modern homemakers face myriad choices with regard to products and methodology. Use-this-don’t-use-that alarmists and here-today-gone-tomorrow trends, as well as a dizzying array of products, pull consumers in all directions.
No one has to do it the way their mother did; there are so many choices and YouTube videos that any chore can be performed fifteen different ways. Cleaning a bathroom shower can be approached from so many angles that it becomes almost impossible to hone the process down to the one, perfect method that will get the job done quickly and effectively every time. There are just too many choices and it’s too tempting to keep searching for the easiest method rather than settling on one that’s good enough. It always seems like there’s a better way.
Silly Details Matter Less
Modern homemakers don’t concern themselves overly much with silly little details that no one cares about. They don’t waste hours upon hours dismantling things in order to clean them, or color-coding the linen closet, or researching new ways to clean grout. Our disposable world makes it easy to throw it out and buy a new one rather than try to get it clean, whatever it may be. Whether this is right or wrong isn’t the point; it’s just how our modern world is.
The Modern Homemaker
The homemaker of the past is, indeed, dead and buried. But the role has been replaced with a much more interesting, well-rounded, satisfied homemaker whose job involves less drudgery and more spice. Housekeeping, while still important, plays a less important role in modern families. Sure, the toilet still gets cleaned, but not in a “Saturday is cleaning day above all else” kind of way.
Today’s homemaker is fluid; the role constantly evolving along with the technology in our world and the availability of better and more advanced gadgets and gizmos to make housework less work-y.
Housekeeping as an art form is alive and well. It’s just different than it used to be. And so are today’s homemakers.
Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.