The New Domesticity: Women Who Trade Careers for Crochet

Carrie Sloan

homeward boundAccording to Emily Matchar, author of the new book “Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity,” Sex and the City and its plot lines may as well have played out on a different planet Earth.

Today, she argues, the men and women of Gen Y are disdaining Manolos and Big Careers—and instead embracing a return to home and hearth. Often, literally.

And if you live in certain pockets of America today, you know the generation of which she speaks: They’re those attachment parents frequenting the farmer’s market. You might befriend them at a weekend workshop on crocheting/beekeeping/canning yams. Or you may well be one of them.

If so, you’re part of a quaint scene Matchar calls the new domesticity. However, she says, it’s not just a fervent love of retro hobbies, but a deeper desire that’s driving the movement—in some cases, even a distrust of society as we know it.

LearnVest spoke to Matchar to get a sense of how followers of the new domesticity feel about the movement’s 2.0 approach to balancing work, money and family … and not necessarily in that order.

LearnVest: How did you first stumble on the idea of the new domesticity?

emily matcharEmily Matchar (shown right): As a writer I covered a lot of stuff relating to food and women’s issues. I kept meeting people over and over again who were really into canning and urban homesteading, or mothers who were doing attachment parenting. I was meeting them for different stories, and it started to form a bigger picture.

RELATED: Why Old-Fashioned Homesteading Is the New Feminist Career 

How do you define the new domesticity?

It’s the embrace of old-fashioned domestic skills and practices, and the embracing of a more home-focused lifestyle by people who have the means and the education to do otherwise.

I’m not talking about people who have to stay at home and make jam because they can’t afford to buy it. I’m talking about people who are making these lifestyle choices—they’re middle class, not super-privileged housewives living off their banker husbands.

  • agnes

    When I married I was in a very high position which I loved , several years later I became pregnant had always mentioned I would leave my job, and raise my child. I had six wonderful years bringing up my child, once my child was in school. returned to workplace but in those six years discovered I loved being a housewife, cooking, keeping house in order the best years of my life, I am now retired and love every minute of my life, My child is an adult , educated , married with a child I am so happy I devoted the first six years as I now can see how important the stay at home years were. Money, can always be made, teaching child the importance of home ls most important. I learned it is not necessary to have the best material things in life.

    • tammy

      I left my job a year ago and am living the housewife life with a 4 & 2 yr old and 7 month old. it was quite an adjustment but I know I’ll have no regrets.

  • Caitlin

    I’d just like to point out that these women are still contributing to society – what’s more critical than raising good citizens? Additionally these women may also be starting small businesses, nonprofits, etc. Even having your own blog is a way of communicating your unique views and experiences to the greater public. I am having a really hard time finding a job in the field I went to graduate school for and am fed up (but I am tied to a very small town to be near friends and family). I am now seeking a nontraditional path so I can still use my passion and skills to contribute to society – I don’t consider it bowing out.

  • disembodiedprose

    This article says it’s not about class or privilege, but it absolutely is. It assumes, essentially, that you have a partner who will bring in the bread while you stay at home and crotchet. It is literally impossible otherwise, unless you are living off family money, which would still put you at the top of the privilege spectrum. It seems very odd to me to suggest otherwise.

    • Marie

      I also wonder how sustainable this is…it sounds lovely and romantic in certain ways, but I don’t see how it is a workable long-term situation.

  • anonymous

    This is the most unprofessional biased article I have seen on here. If this topic was actually researched that would be a great start. Some valid points were made, but overall this was a close-minded and condescending article.

    • H

      Women should have the ability to be a homemaker without being treated as 2nd class. Society has all but forced a two earner household to keep up with expectations. If a big house and new cars mean are not important to you, by all means be a homemaker. Maybe if there were more homemakers there would be fewer shootings, because children would feel connected to family and learn the value of human life. I do not mean this to criticize those who feel a sense of fulfillment from an outside career or for those who have no choice. We should all be free to pursue happiness and personal fulfillment. While I’m at it, one can be a homemaker and not have kids, there is always plenty to do and many ways to contribute. Best to you all.

  • Hanna

    I hope that everyone who reads this article is able to think for themselves and realizes it is simply how one person interprets what she has seen and heard.

    I am choosing home life on our acreage, with a large, work-intensive garden, our easily-cared-for flock of chickens and other critters, with our precious 2 1/2 year old daughter (yes, she has tantrums, especially when you pull out the toothbrush), constant cleaning and laundry and (drum roll, please) my crochet hook over my career as a veterinarian, for reasons that are quite definitely not financial. My husband’s income varies; it is tied to the logging industry, the weather, his health. He can pay the mortgage and provide for our needs. Sometimes it’s not comfortable and we worry, sometimes we feel on top of the world and make progress with our renovations. Niceties? Well, sometimes. And by that, I mean I buy a stain-free shirt and pants without holes. He is not a high-rolling corporate attorney, but provides for our family with integrity and love under conditions I wouldn’t want to be exposed to. I am grateful and respect his contribution to our family and he appreciates and respects mine.

    I used to believe “work-life-balance” was possible for women and any woman who didn’t “work” was lazy. That was before I had a child. Now I know that a “homemaker’s” life is more packed, exhausting and trying than even the most ridiculous days in veterinary practice… Before being here in my shoes now I would have given a derisive snort of the sort one can occasionally read between the lines of the article in response to this statement. But now I know that being always “on”, and I mean always, 24 hours, 7 days a week without a break, and trying to do the jobs that in every century prior to the last 100 years were shared by several women in the extended family and the extended community is exactly that. It’s actually a little crazy trying to do it. But what’s even crazier is trying to make women believe (and I used to be one of the believers) they can’t possibly be happy, that they’re going backward, aren’t living a full life or, worse yet, are harming their daughters if they aren’t devoted to a high-powered career in high heels and full make-up or horn-rimmed glasses and a lab coat while also being a Pinterest supermom who makes it to Yoga three times a week, goes on romantic getaways with daddy, dots the house with homemade arts and crafts while patiently and happily scrubbing the toilet yet again. I’m not going to say that being a homemaker is great, either, because nowadays, in our Western society, each nuclear family is isolated and goes it alone. Somehow, despite technological and medical developments, socially we seem to have taken several steps back. The world is more crowded yet we are more isolated that we have ever been.

    We brought a child into this world by choice. Today’s “forward-thinking society” would have us believe that we women are lucky; we get to have it all. Not so. We don’t. If we work a regular job outside the home, who raises our children? Who hugs them during the day when they need a hug from a parent? Who shapes their feelings, thoughts, values with the answers to their questions and the behaviour they see modelled? Who grows our food? Who cooks real, healthy, safe, nutritious food for our families? Who makes a house a home, a home that has a natural rhythm? A home to feel wanted in, a family in which children are not another item to be scheduled and managed, but in which they are a harmonious part of the whole?
    And… if we do stay at home, because of our society’s structure of living in nuclear family units, how do we live a social, balanced, life?
    I think feminism has a long way to go… Perhaps backward in some ways.