What exactly is a homemaker?
In simple terms, a homemaker is a woman who makes a home, well, a home. They create and manage the environment that the family finds inviting, warm, and comforting. The home is made into a sanctuary from the outside world by the homemaker.
Decades, if not centuries ago, the responsibilities of the homemaker were performed by various others, each assigned a key role in making sure the household ran smoothly. This of course depended on the household and their financial means. If the family was poor, the wife and mother did it all, and more. If the family were well-to-do, they employed others to complete these tasks, making time for the family to take part in more leisurely activities and interests. For the sake of covering the more common responsibilities, I'll discuss the domestic employees of a modest well-to-do household.
Depending on the household, there may have been one maid, or many. She did some of the more grueling work throughout the house. She did what many maids do today and kept the house in good, clean order. She scrubbed the floors, dusted and polished the furniture, made the beds, did the laundry, mended and altered clothing, and even cleaned out the chamber pots each morning.
If the home was large enough, the maids would have a housekeeper over them to see that each task was done to perfection.
Today, the homemaker completes these tasks herself or employs her children to help her. Some of them are done differently by using modern methods, but she still mops and vacuums the floors, dusts and polishes the furniture, makes the beds, does the laundry, and cleans the bathrooms. Many of these are done on a daily basis.
Many modern homemakers prefer to use the term "chef", but for traditional purposes, we'll use the term "cook". They were responsible for shopping (or ordering) the food, cooking and baking, and serving (or plating) the food. Under the direction of the lady of the house, she'd also plan the meals for the family.
Today, the homemaker does her own grocery shopping, cooking and baking. If she's organized, she will also plan a menu, either a week or a month in advance.
Remembrance: My grandmother would plan her menu each week, present it to my grandfather, who would then sign off on it or make modifications and/or suggestions. It was only a dinner menu, and my grandfather was very particular about my grandmother not making any last minute changes. His reason was because he spent the day at the office thinking of the delicious pork chops that were on the menu. Imagine his disappointment when he'd come home to a change in the menu and my grandmother was now serving meatloaf. The meal would still be delicious, but not exactly what his taste buds had expected and waited for all day.
Sometimes referred to as the groundskeeper. Traditionally, this person made sure the grounds were kept beautiful. Watering flowers, weeding, trimming bushes or dead limbs from trees, and keeping the grass mowed.
Today, this job is often shared (or entirely done) by the husband. He often mows the grass, though some women (like myself) enjoy the task. The more tedious lawn care tasks are often done by the homemaker. Pruning bushes and weeding the flowerbeds are jobs that she'll do to keep the outside of her home looking beautiful.
The butler was the first person you'd come into contact with when visiting the home. He answered the door, phone calls, and accepted the mail and deliveries. He also made sure the rest of the staff completed their tasks.
Today, this job is spread out among the household. When my husband is home, he answers the door. When he's not home, I typically do not answer the door unless I am expecting someone. The children or my husband will collect the mail. During the day, I accept packages and deliveries. With the recent invention of cell phones, I am responsible for handling my own phone calls (and text messages) while my husband handles his.
Depending on how far back you want to go, this would be the stable hands and driver. Later, the wealthy men who owned cars often drove themselves while their wives had to rely on her husband or a driver. Then men decided they no longer wanted to drive anymore and employed a chauffeur. Whatever their job title may be or what era we look back at, this person took care of the vehicles (whether it be a carriage or a car) and transported the family from one place to another.
Today, most households have two vehicles and the husband will drive himself to work while the homemaker will drive where she needs to go. Instead of the adults being chauffeured around, it is the children. The homemaker will take her children to dance lessons, baseball practice, or to a friends house.
The nanny would be responsible for meeting the needs of the youngest children. She made sure they were fed, clothed, and presentable if guests came to call. She played with them, and if she were a live-in nanny, she cared for them through the night, held them after a bad dream, sang to them, and nursed them back to health during times of sickness. As the children got older, they either attended school or the nanny was replaced by a governess, who was responsible for educating the children at home.
Today, the nanny has been replaced by the homemaker in her most cherished role of mother. The mother holds her young child, cares for them, and sings to them. Depending on the household, the role of governess has been replaced by the public or private education system, or in the case of my family, "homeschool mom".
The Modern Homemaker
As the domestic positions above have been dissolved over the years, the homemaker has taken over these tasks. It is often difficult for homemakers today to complete such a long list of tasks each day, and their homes are often left lacking. It is now accepted by society that homes are messy, cluttered, and in need of a thorough dusting. Many women (and I include myself in this) sometimes don't know where to begin. We were raised by mothers who worked outside the home, as it was expected by society. Dual-income families became the norm and the home suffered. Today, young mothers are desiring to stay home with their children again, but have not been trained (through experience) in household management. We're learning as we go. I know that as we do our best to fulfill the roles of the domestic employees of years past, we can take pride in our homes and relish in the loveliness and peace that it brings.