Friday, June 28, 2013

IS IT A NEW MOVEMENT OR JUST NOSTALGIA FOR THE "GOOD OL' DAYS"? By - Roz Denny Fox

By now you probably know I like to make friends aware of new, non-fiction books I find interesting. Books that inform or have information we writers may find useful. I became aware of this subject on one of my writing loops when someone mentioned an article that said Chick Lit was being replace by Farm Lit and the very notion was met with a lot of scoffing. The next day I was scrolling through TV channels and chanced to see an author being interviewed about her book that pertains to that very issue. Emily Matchar's book is titled: Homeward Bound.

The chick lit to farm lit reference more or less said romance heroines who once depicted the fast-paced lives of upwardly mobile twenty-to-thirty somethings are suddenly showing that same age heroine leaving their corporate jobs and life in the city to return to a life their grandmother's lived.
(in other words, the way I lived growing up on a semi-farm in a rural small town) I say semi-farm because my father also had a logging company and ran his own machine shop. But we planted and tended a huge garden, and we raised animals that ended up as our food throughout the year. We cut quilt blocks in the winter, made our own clothes, and we canned fruit and vegetables, plus made jams and jellies that went into our fruit cellar.

Ms. Matchar's book explores what is happening in current American culture to make our best and brightest women leave high paying corporate jobs to put home and hearth above all other concerns, including making money.

I was curious to see what she found in her broad-based investigative study that led to what she calls: the New Domesticity. (Really it's a life-style many in my generation couldn't wait to leave behind.)

The crux of her study indicates that there are several factors driving young women out of the workforce. One is a big concern for what goes into processed foods and a profusion of chemicals in things like cleaning products. Some of the metamorphosis seems to occur after the women get married and after the first children are born. Today's women want to spend more time with their children. They often decide to home school them because they don't like what's happening in public education. Likewise those same women think feeding their families unprocessed foods negates a need to vaccinate the children. And so they gravitate into groups of like-minded moms.

The Internet also contributes to the new trend. Stay-at-home moms started to blog about from-scratch recipes, knitting projects, canning the food you grow, making jam, raising poultry in an urban setting and other domestic projects. Ms Matchar refers to it as "urban homesteading"and the blogs hold broad appeal for women disenchanted with working long hours and getting stuck in daily traffic. Rural life began to look like the panacea for the good life--for women looking to have it all. These very educated women thought they could become online entrepreneurs. They would knit items and sell them. They would make jewelry and sell it. They would grow fresh produce and set up a roadside stand. Soon their well-crafted blogs made the lifestyle look and sound so appealing they created a glut on the market of homemade goods. According to the author of Homeward Bound, her study indicated the DIYers also caused ill-will among "true artisans" who found themselves priced out of the crafts they spent years training for.

I continue to look at this changing demographic with interest. And indeed many romance books I've read recently do have heroines who maybe start a small town bakery, settle in a new place where they teach sewing, or make friends through joining knitting groups. Some have harvested and sold fruit, or opened a small café. Goodness, I've written heroines like that and may have other ideas for heroines who leave city life to explore country living.

What I find amusing is the notion of this being "new domesticity".  I see it as reverting back to what my mother considered "the good ol' days"--a lifestyle many from my generation looked on as a hard life where we got up early to bake bread, and worked late into the night snapping beans, canning fruit in a hot kitchen. To be honest I liked working outside the home. And my husband and kids enjoyed having me work. Otherwise they said I organized them to death--case in point, the time I color coded everything in our kitchen cabinets.

But I applaud women no matter their choices. I recommend this book as thought-provoking. As readers and writers I'm sure you'll have opinions. Please share them. I want to know what you think.

19 comments:

  1. This is both a timely and classic topic that shows that when women have the right to choose many prefer a more traditional way of life. I love sewing crib sets for friends, gardening, baking and making sauce from scratch. I really want to learn how to can my sauce and veggies.

    My 2nd Heartwarming, His Hometown Girl, is about a girl who works for an agribusiness and must return home, to a place close to my own home, Colchester, VT, and convince her former community to sell out so she can get the raise to pay for her autistic son's expensive treatment/school. I've never been trendy before...but it looks like I am for once- lol.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've stood in a truck bed, wearing thick gloves, while the men throw bales of hay up at me to stack. LOL. I like working outside the home. That being said, I've always dreamed of owning a used book store and taking my cat to work with me.

    I hate to cook. I think my son's third word was spaghettios.

    I've crocheted for years and used to sell items at craft fairs. Hard work, little return if you look at per hour.

    Great post, really got me thinking :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Interesting post and thought-provoking, especially when I've been thinking about my own roots. My mom and most of my aunts were `stay at home' mothers who had all the cooking skills, crafts, and such nailed down. I'm wondering now if all the economic pressures from the past decades are catching up to women who are tired of the 8 to 5 grind and emphasis on a working career (as if being a mother at home with kids isn't working). Unfortunately, with the decline of the middle class, I also wonder how many women - except those with a well paid husband or plenty of resources - will be able to leave their jobs and take up something like this. But the themes and settings of books will always evolve and change - think westerns, military heroes, vampires, romantic suspense, etc. It's a good thing for readers and writers - to see all the interest in what we're doing, something that's special to us personally. - David

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi you three who have left comments to date. I also received 2 emails from people who aren't writers and who don't blog. My information did what I hoped it'd do--get people to think about how everything seems to go in cycles. When my girls were younger, up until they were off to college, I made all of their clothes and mine. I loved to sew. But then cuter things that were less expensive became available, so I put my sewing machine away. I still like to embroider and do that to relax. The years I spent canning and making jam I think are behind me. What I like is to know my grandchildren will have more choices than I had. Have a good day everyone.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've seen the trend you wrote about but didn't know it had a name. Farm lit. I like it. Just goes to show that everything in life goes full circle.

    ReplyDelete
  6. As usual Roz - really interesting stuff. As a young woman, I worked in the heart of Los Angeles and loved the high-energy and stimulation. It suited me then. I've spent a couple of days in the country with friends and though I loved the vistas and the wonderful fragrance of life undisturbed, I don't ever want to live there. And - and I can't stress this enough - I never want to pick fruits and vegetables and can them! It's great that that makes others happy, it's just not for me. My ideal spot is that place in between - small-town life. Urban living at a much slower pace, and much of the joys of the country. Our power was out for seven days a few years ago because of a storm and I discovered I'd have made a terrible pioneer!

    ReplyDelete
  7. You've written a very thought-provoking blog, Roz. Farm lit? I didn't know it had a name although I've noticed so many stories based around knitting and quilting groups, and of course, set in small towns. Maybe our fast paced life makes us yearn for something we "think" is wonderful. But.. usually, there are two sides to everything. In small towns, everyone knows your business, right? Some take that for granted while others don't. To a city girl, life on the farm may seem romantic, but to the farmer trying to making a living, it's such back-breaking work. I guess, it's all about perspective.

    Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love the variety of everything available in a big city. But I also like the slower pace of a smaller town. I think bringing up children in a small town where everyone knows everybody and looks out for everybody is ideal. My sister and I had a conversation not long ago about whether or not people could live if we ever went through a major, major depression like our parents did. People traded work for food, and a lot of rural folks saved lives by giving meals to hungry city dwellers who rode the rails looking for work. I guess it takes a mix of farm living and city living to make the wheels of progress turn.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hybrid Living! I think you just created the next big thing, Roz. I've been getting a magazine called Urban Gardener for the past couple of years and it's fantastic how much you can grow in tiny, city backyards.
    Many of my neigbors have bountiful backyard gardens. One neighbor produces almost all of her fruit and veggies in her small, sub-division lot.
    My mom was a super-high-powered career woman, who rose to the ranks of vice president in two multi-billion dollar companies, (she retired at 50.) And, she also made time to take us places, coach teams and even sew our halloween costumes. I am grateful that I had that exposure to everything I could become and that she fully accepts and encourages my choice to be a stay-at-home mom.
    My hybrid dream would be a small, quiet beach town just over the hill from a major city.
    Thanks for the post, Roz. Lot's to think about.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is really well-thought-out blog and having a good friend who has decided to retire and become a farmer, I know for sure that's not the life for me. I like mental work, not back-breaking work that destroys your manicure and forces you to wear sensible shoes.

    Thanks you for reminding because today I have a stack on mental work on my mental plate and am dearly wanting a quiet farm.

    TTYL, Roz.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Gosh, it's amazing how many of us know women who have gone back to the land. I even met a woman who moved to New Mexico and lives totally off the grid. She built a home in an area where everyone is doing that. Frankly I can't imagine living without a flush toilet, and/or building a shower that collects rainwater and has to be engineered to tilt bucket into bucket. I think since we haven't seen rain in so long, Tucsonans would be mighty smelly by now.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hello Roz,
    I loved that world. I grew up so much like you did that I have to smile. I think what has happened is the young people just went beyond themselves and the edgy city life that we created, they made SO edgy that it was/is just too intense and all of the time. No down time. So people become starved for something that will rest their minds, like snapping beans or shucking corn while the collie warms their feet, grown cool in the evening. Also, we suffer from diseases of muscle disuse and don't even bother to tell me that gathering several acres of corn by hand is less work than the treadmill. I've done both, I know better. So, if we all reach for a balance, it would be great and practice kindness while we're at it. The snarky remarks are admired, but they shouldn't be, because they eat away at someone's self-worth. And a line of books about those folks who go back to the farm? Priceless.
    Warm wishes for a great day, Susan Yarina

    ReplyDelete
  13. Susan,
    Response laid out by a born writer. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Roz!

    As usual, you've written a most excellent blog. The contemporary romances I'm reading and reviewing now are filled with women moving back to their small home towns, and the businesses they open (or help keep open) are linked to the domestic arts, none of which I ever mastered!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Roz, I've always been a city girl and can't imagine the appeal of small-town life. But in books it sounds SO wonderful...I'd much rather get it that way than in real life!

    And I could SO relate to your family reacting to the color-coded cupboards. Scary what can happen if a woman with lots of energy has no place to put it, huh?

    Laurie, suspecting I would've done that same thing :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Shelley and Laurie, as usual your comments are insightful. And you both possess so many talents that if you skip raising chickens in your back yards, I doubt the stars will fall down around us. In thinking more about this subject, I think it's not possible for anyone (or very few) to excel at family, work outside the home, and domestic arts without something getting short changed. And then that's when guilt sets in.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Wow, Roz. This post really hit home for me. I grew in different environments, from rural/beach to suburbs to city. Deep down, I was always a country girl at heart (or any serene, natural setting). I did however end up living in a big city, and later a busy suburb, all the while trying to balance motherhood and a demanding career. In the end, the stress took its toll on me health-wise...and I didn't feel like I was giving either my fullest. My family did finally move to a country setting where I could focus more on my kids. My life feels more balanced now. I'm super busy, but the pace of the environment around me is calming. I also love that writing (my dream career) is something I can weave into family life, because I can work from home. Of course, I'm one of those who loves growing veggies and making her own sun dried tomatoes ;). Oh, and chickens...they're next on my list :).

    ReplyDelete
  18. Rula, you eloquently expressed what I see is inherently the plight of so many women. I frankly don't see the men I know struggling with these same issues. During WWII when women, of necessity, took jobs outside the home to keep the country going, many decided they liked the freedom to work and earn money. That began the great juggling act. Because as men returned from war, they expected to step into their old lives of working and supporting their families. They expected that women would continue to care for the children and keep everyone fed and clothed, but men would be the breadwinners. So they don't feel a shred of guilt when that's still their main focus in life. Women on the other hand, wrestle with the notion that they should be able to do more. Do it all.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I've noticed that my friends and I who are wives and moms are spending more time cooking at home and making things rather than buying. Some of this was out of necessity: the paychecks weren't stretching as far as they used to so we learned to cook and sew and pinch pennies harder than we did before. And while social media has "connected" us to more people, we really don't have a sense of community and neighborhood. I guess we long for the small town feeling so that we can truly be connected to something beyond ourselves. Just a thought.

    ReplyDelete