Making a home warm and inviting is a domestic art, and as such, has long been dismissed as women’s work.
I am a woman who happens to love this work.
This was not a problem until I learned about patriarchy, until I learned that nothing simply is, that everything is a construct.
Loving women’s work was not a problem for me until I learned the phrase “women’s work.”
My mother’s love of interior design infused my childhood like air. I never thought about the pink patchwork covering my bed, the Mary Engelbreit prints, or the primroses running up and down my bedroom walls.
If I considered these things at all, it was simply to note that they were beautiful to me, that they made me feel happy, rooted, loved.
As I grew, I continued to gravitate toward my mother’s version of “pretty,” using a high school graduation check to splurge on a calico covered trash basket at Anthropologie.
When I moved into my first house, I spent hours agonizing over 13 shades of white paint and weighing the pros and cons of striped navy versus raw linen curtains. These hours made me happy, the way reading the last few pages of a good book makes me happy, the way laughing at an inside joke makes me happy, the way eating a cracker slathered in Nutella makes me happy.
These hours made me feel like myself.
So when my daughter was born, I was eager to pass this part of myself on to her, to create a beautiful room for her just as my mother had for me. I tacked up wallpaper samples, scoured Etsy for the most whimsical of prints, and plagued my sister with countless emails comparing the virtues of bolster pillows to euro shams.
As I smoothed down the dainty fawns prancing across her crib sheet, I was vaguely aware that I was deliberately surrounding my baby daughter with colors and shapes the world decided long ago are gendered female, but I tried to push these thoughts away. They were ruining my fun.
Looking back, I’m mad that awareness of patriarchal pressures polluted what should’ve been simple enjoyment in decorating my daughter’s room.
My daughter is three now, and her favorite dress is covered in daisies. She calls it her princess dress. When I’m making my bed, she rushes into her room to make hers, digging through the toy bin in search of the her favorite old swaddle blanket, which is patterned in pink feathers, before making a big show of spreading it over her toddler bed.
She watches me place a jar of pansies in the bathroom and asks for her own flowers. I watch her climb the stairs to her room, carefully clutching a bunch of violets she found in the front yard.
But then I worry.
Maybe I could have painted her room pale gray, hung innocuous abstract graphic prints on the wall. Maybe some gender-neutral fruit prints.
Would this have made me a better mother? Would this have made her a better girl? And what is a better girl? Is a better girl one who does not love pretty pink princesses?
I’m tired of worrying that the authentic joy I feel from making home a lovely, inviting haven somehow renders me nothing more than a pawn in patriarchy.
I’m tired of hating myself for internalizing the message that time spent scouring the Internet for a second-hand milk glass pendant lamp to hang in my daughter’s room is somehow time wasted, time frittered away on silly girly stuff.
I’m told by patriarchy that I should care about homemaking. I’m told by patriarchy that caring about homemaking makes me inferior.
To circumscribe something because it is viewed as traditionally feminine is in and of itself problematic. I want my daughter to love whatever she wants to love. I want my daughter to fully own her own desires and joys, and I hope her generation is far less consumed with questioning the validity of whatever makes them happy than mine is.