Today I am cooking for my Memèré, who is 88 years old. 2012 has been a rather rough year for her and she can’t cook for herself anymore. For a while, she hadn’t been eating well, but the appetite has returned to my tiny little grandmother (4’10”, about 100lbs), whose ability to knock back a plate of food has always amused me. My Mom cooks for her now, but I know it’s a lot to manage. I live about an hour and a half from Memèré, so quick-dropping off a plate of food is not possible. I am instead cooking and freezing portions in little containers for her. Right now, American Chop Suey, which I really hate, but she loves. I’ve already got butternut soup, creamy chicken and vegetables, sweet corn risotto and good old chicken soup bundled up for her.
I know I’m tethered to this kitchen, but I rather like it in here. I create, I nurture. I sew curtains out of pretty tea towels. I watch the sun set and the moon rise out of the big window over the sink. I do projects with my kids and wash dishes emptied of food I’ve fed them.
According to Salary.com, a stay-at-home mom would earn $112,962 annually based on an average of the salaries of the typical work she does everyday. $112,962—of course, that is if she were paid. She also works an average of about 95 hours a week. After sleeping, what remains is about 17 free hours a week.
No wonder early Feminists initiated the drive to get the hell out of the kitchen. As most of us battle-worn victims of the Mommy Wars can attest, I think the ghost of the oppressive kitchen still haunts. As a stay-at-home mom, I sometimes feel misunderstood—probably as much as the moms who choose to work feel misunderstood sometimes.
Women have made strides with validation in the workforce, but I’m not sure the same legitimatization has been extended to women who work in the home. I am hoping someday for a more inclusive definition of “Feminist,” because I am one.
“Changing the status of mothers, by gaining real recognition for their work, is the great unfinished business of the women’s movement.” Ann Crittendon The Price of Motherhood: Why The Most Important Job In The World Is The Least Valued
I spend 85% of my time in the kitchen. My sister, Rebecca, came up with the idea for the name of this blog. She, too, is a stay-at-home mom—entrenched in the business of butt-wiping, snack dispensing and laundry—with a simultaneous vocation outside the realm of hearth and home. In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf said in order to write, a woman needs a room of her own. I don’t have a room in the sense Woolf intended, but I do have my kitchen. And I would like to reclaim the kitchen as a feminist stronghold. No longer shall the kitchen remain the metaphor of the downtrodden and subjugated woman—as a symbol diametrically opposed to liberation. (Woolf also said a woman needs money—but one thing at a time. I got the room at least.)
This is what I have to offer from my kitchen counter—the simple but important and heavily nuanced work of life. And the passion of creation. Cooking up some love for my Memèré. Mindfully setting the rhythm of our home and daily life for my family.