I'm currently trying to get through a book called Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Life in Victorian England. I'm not sure why I'm not more interested in the book, except maybe because it is certainly very discouraging. Given the way that women were pushed aside, children were viewed as nuisances, and girl children were seen as household servants, in the author's examples, I'm surprised any ideas of anything resembling a modern, intact family survived until today. And this book features middle-class families, not the poor who were busy trying to survive, nor the rich who handed the children to nannies and embarked on affairs. Anyway, the book has made me think about my own role in my family, compared to the role of women then as this book puts forth.
In some ways, you see, my tasks as a stay-at-home mother are not very different from what the book describes as the expected tasks: nurturing the family, running the household, performing any chores one's family couldn't afford to pay another to perform, perhaps even teach the children. Of course, if you look at the stories related by those who grew up inside the Victorian homes described in the book, mothers did not always do the best job, judging by today's standards. Infants were viewed as vampires, feeding off of their mothers. Middle-class mothers preferred to be as ignorant as possible regarding the daily care of their children. Mothers, because of their own poor education, were hopeless at keeping the household books, and made poor teachers for their daughters, and their sons, before the boys left for school. Yikes!
One of the points made in the book, however, was how little time mothers had for themselves, once they finished all the duties they were expected to perform, well done or not. But really, how much free time do mothers have today, whether they stay at home or work outside the home? Precious little, from what most moms say. Even women who don't have children often lament, on places like Ravelry, that they do not have time enough to pursue their outside interests, such as knitting. I often feel like I don't have time myself to do the things that I want, not that I have to do. Of course, Mr. BTEG feels the same way, and I'm sure Victorian husbands often felt they did not enough free time either. I just find that bit interesting. There may be much to pity Victorian women for, but there are things that we hold in common.