A New Version of Freedom

new version of freedomEmily Matchar, writer for The Atlantic and author of the just-released book, New Domesticity recently wrote an article about a surging revival of interest in traditional  family life where the children of Baby Boomers (us “doomed” Millennials) are leading a subtle rebellion against the world our parents created by beginning what she describes as a “tangible shift in the way educated young women” are approaching issues like family, work, and homemaking. In her article, she explores the complex reasons why she says “Feminists [are becoming] Housewives.” She’s quick to point out this movement is nothing like traditional ideas of, well, traditional (cue June Cleaver image), nor newly created stereotypes of the Stepford Stay-at-home-wife/mom. These women who are choosing to return to a “housewife” label aren’t wealthy white girls who came from money, perhaps married into even more money, and are strolling around at home working out in LuLu Lemon, dropping the kids off in an Escalade, and struggling only to choose a gel manicure color. Instead, Matchar says that “across different social and cultural groups, there’s been a collective return to domesticy” for a variety of reasons. This movement isn’t about women not wanting to work outside the home, about masochist husbands who want to leave a list of chores at home and return after 5:00 p.m. expecting dinner on the table. “It’s about the grown children of harried Baby Boomers who, having seen his (or her) parents work 60 hour weeks to climb the corporate ladder, decides to lead a slower, more home-focused life.”

quoteThe underlying reason for this shift? Matchar says that in her interviews with numerous different types of women who had chosen to stay home for a variety of different reasons was that, in the end, they all hoped to “create smarter, healthier, gentler children.” If you read between the lines of all these quotes and data that Matchar gathered from Millennials, what Millennials are in effect saying is that we don’t really like ourselves. We don’t like what the Baby Boomer’s “careerism and materialist values” left us as individuals or left to us as a culture. Point to the resurgence of the coined “hipster” label, or the vast number of goal-less 20-somethings that make up a large percentage of the “Millennials,” and it becomes rather obvious that this generation is really not a huge fan of the shoes our parents were wanting us to fill.  We don’t like what that mindset created: us. We don’t really like that the Baby Boomers gave up experiencing much of their children’s lives in order to lead their own “successful” ones. And that’s nothing new, every generation spurns the one before it, but Matchar says that despite the vast range of reasons people were choosing to give “the finger to corporate America…what they all shared was a conviction that America was messed up.” And who had messed it up? Without digressing to a blame game, or giving any one group too much responsibility in the current state of the American family, but Millennials naturally look to, and blame, our Baby Boomer parents. Of course, the volley of attacks could be made on Millennials: a generation described as one of the laziest generations, a generation crippled by our inability to choose a path from the myriad of opportunities 20 and 30-somethings have today. And who gave us the ability to choose these opportunities? Of course, the hard-working Baby Boomer parents Millennials are rebelling against and often mooch off of as we casually decide what opportunity to “choose” all while safely tucked in the nest egg of our perhaps aloof, but stable, parents. But that is what is so ironic. The Baby Boomers worked so hard to create an America that the Millennials see as “messed up.” A way of life that the new “adult” generation is choosing to turn away from and essentially do it over themselves in a more traditional way.

quote Matchar points to this DIY subculture and broad distrust in institutions as why blogs are so popular, why many are attempting to grow their own food, to homeschool their children, to cook from scratch, and essentially live much simpler lives. It is “in this context,” Matchar says, that “domesticity is reinvisioned as a valid, creative, politically powerful, even feminist choice.” In essence, a woman’s decision to choose domesticity is more of a decision to gain a new version of freedom from a world our parents worked hard to get but at a cost too high for the consequences of their ambition (their children’s unhappiness) to take with their own future, or current, families. Instead of a choice of bowing out of the “race,” domesticity is more of a way of taking control. Matchar didn’t say this, but I think there’s enough evidence to conclude that as the guinea pigs for the Baby Boomer’s experiment of “all or nothing” for career and personal power, we Millennials are choosing to not have our children become what we are now. We want to make homes, families, and a new life the old way.

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