Leah graciously referred me to another Chesterton quote from his book, What's Wrong With the World, which I found worthwhile:
"Women were not kept in the home in order to keep them narrow; on the contrary, they were kept at home in order to keep them broad . . . A woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness."
Traditionally, the woman's task in the home was broad. She was expected to have a variety of skills necessary for the proper running and upkeep of a home. She could mend a garment, and sew a new one; strip old shirts and piece a blanket's top, then quilt that top for the bed. She knew how to read a recipe and cook a meal. She could nurse an infant, and tend the garden. She kept the laundry caught up, and knew which combination of household goods would be best to get the stains out of her husband's clothing. She baked bread, and put up cans of homegrown corn for the winter. She enlisted her children to help make butter and candles and soap, and still invited friends over for dinner. I could continue, but you get the point.
The interesting part of this, however, is that each of these tasks once expected of all women, have now become hobbies, and women only do those of interest.
We now divide ourselves according to our likes and carefully honed skills- we are quilters, or stitchers; knitters, or bakers; soap makers, canners, gardeners, day care providers. Anything we dislike doing that has to be done, we outsource. We order in, or eat out. We hire a nanny and a maid. We drop off laundry at the cleaners, and pick up cans of peaches from the grocery store.
Or, if we can't outsource, we convince ourselves that our husbands should be helping out more, and we push our duties off on them.. After all, with both parties working a full-time job, it's unfair that the woman would have to do all housework and child-rearing by herself. So we assign our husbands jobs, and keep track of their completion on our mental chore charts.
When neither of these options work-they are too expensive, or jobs aren't done to our level of expectation, we'll pull on the rubber gloves and do them ourselves, but with a scowl.
Now certainly, not every woman in the past enjoyed every part of her jobs. Every mother rejoices when a child is potty-trained, for that marks the end of rinsing that child's dirty diapers day after day. And certainly, not every woman was equally skilled at every task. If that were the case, county fair judges would have a difficult time placing blue ribbons on the winning quilts and pies. Rather, women realized that they had work to do-whether they were experts or not, and whether they enjoyed it or not. Families had a square meal on the table, even if they had to douse it with ketchup. Children had clothes, even if they were all made from the same simple pattern. They knew their duties, and they had the range of skills they needed to make sure their house was in order. And now, in our modern age women have few of the same skills our mother and grandmothers were taught. And we are the ones claiming to be "advanced," and "progressive." Seems a contradiction to me.