At a recent party, I was asked if I was a homemaker. This has stayed with me, bouncing around in my head and on my heart, and I remain so struck by the term, its notion and all of its connotations.
It wouldn't have been a question for my grandmother's generation. It was a loaded question for my mother and aunts. But finally, I think it has returned to a virtuous moniker and one not just reserved for females.
I wonder if my young daughter will ever be asked this question in her lifetime. The irony is, unbeknownst to these party guests, I manage the software and constructed the data that isolated their names to receive the party invitation, the same invitation I designed and printed for a party that I also coordinated, all of which I'm paid to do and love doing! (Interestingly, my mother, a former college president's wife, did much the same out of expectation and certainly not for pay.)
As a sign of these times, I don't know many women that can afford, for the course of their lifetime, to be full-time homemakers in the traditional sense.
Whether you love or curse it, whether it's due to the economy or from the seeds of the feminist movement, gender roles have shifted right in front of our eyes. Isn't it wonderful that both genders can now more fully participate in all areas of life, minus any stigma?
I delight in knowing my children recently watched me vote for a female congressional candidate; they have never known church without a female priest; and when my teenage son was asked if he would feel more comfortable switching from his female pediatrician to a male one, he replied "Why?"
I also love seeing all the fathers in carpool line, hopping out of pickup trucks with pink book bags and dance tutus for their daughters; helping young sons work through pre-school tears; chaperoning the field trips; and coordinating after-school activities like my son's skeet team.
Children and schools are enhanced when fathers are present, too. Thankfully, employers are more willing to accommodate these needs today.
And, interestingly, thanks to women such as Martha Stewart, we are reminded to appreciate the domestic arts, "homemaking," and that to do them well is an art form and a notable skill (and beautifully, the irony isn't lost on the fact that a smart, savvy, entrepreneurial woman shifted this perception ... all the way to the bank!)
When I was a teenager in the 1980s, taking "Home-Ec" wasn't encouraged by my guidance counselor for the college-bound set. Now that I am a working mother, I wish it would have been. The amount of money I've paid someone else to hem pants could do such good elsewhere.
Some of my favorite heirlooms are the hand-sewn quilts passed down on my maternal side. And summertime in the Upstate of South Carolina was, for me, a taste of Granny's pickled beets that she canned from her own garden.
Being the outdoor-loving tomboy that I was, I never sat still long enough to absorb these domestic arts. Luckily, I was born into a generation where my other gifts could be appreciated in professional life, a life that allows me to earn an income for what I do well.
One's interests and natural inclinations, regardless of gender, can now determine who is in the kitchen, the nursery, the board room, Congress and beyond. It's a new landscape that has indeed shifted for my generation, one that my children will never know to be any different, and one for which I am thankful to have experienced on many levels.
This generation of children will never think it odd for Daddy to take them for an immunization, or to make their supper, shop for their shoes, or pick up a birthday gift for a friend's party. They know Mama will take the car for an oil change, shop for insurance, or set-up the wireless router in the den.
Many of these children also will never not know both parents to have professional responsibilities outside the home.
No, indeed, both genders can be valued as homemakers and bacon earners in ways that suit each best. I can't wait to watch these sons and daughters improve upon these roles, these notions, these connotations, even further.
Nancy Ezell Suggs of Charleston enjoys reading too much, lively conversation, baking pound cakes for friends and using her backhand slice on a tennis ball.