I’m a romantic; a dreamer. I love Jane Austen’s novels and the idea of having
servants. Throughout the years of raising children, I confess, I often thought about the era of the past where there were live in servants, nanny’s and cooks…and I wished I had a full staff in my home.
How nice it would be to have someone take care of the children when they get unruly, or make dinner for the family when I’m too busy to even think about eating. It would be nice to have a butler answer the door to the solicitors who always seem to come by at inconvenient hours.
But…no one else has that today, so why don’t we all have paid live-in servants anymore? The first thing I thought of was that most of us do not know what it was really like to have servants or know the dynamics of it because it has been over a century since it was in vogue. Additionally, we, as a country have an appalling lack of knowledge in history. I admit, I am part of that group too and I’m daily trying to change that.
I have been reading the book The Business of Being a Woman by Ida M. Tarbell. She wrote the book around the time that paid house service was being eliminated and more people were taking care of their own homes. She brought to light several points on this subject, all of which I thought were valid.
• Comfort level for the home owners was diminished knowing you don’t want the staff to hear or find out your private business, etc.
• There was an expectation of servants to live celibate (not saying anything is wrong with celibacy!) lives and to remain unmarried so that the family can ensure long, loyal service.
• The domestic arts were looked at as undignified and unbecoming a person of high character.
• Many times the servants endured long work hours, tedious working conditions, and unhealthy environments.
Those children who came from poor families knew their family needed them and what was expected of them. Alternatively, problems were arising because the offspring of the wealthy had little to do with their time and rarely knew what was expected of them. They also felt that the world owed them everything. I feel that today we’ve mixed these together until there are the same problems that arise for both the wealthy and the poor.
So, when I look at our lives today and that I’ve had to put a one hundred percent effort into my home and family I’m thankful for the skills and experience I’ve received. My parents taught me to value work, how to work, and how to create a life worth living with my intention and my own two hands. We do have a lot of conveniences that they did not have a hundred years ago that can make life simpler and more comfortable. Gratitude is the name of the game here. If we are able to see that the grass really wasn’t greener maybe it will make us a little more thankful while we’re washing the next load of dishes, knowing we do it because of the life experience if affords and to demonstrate love for our home and family.
For comparison’s sake, how we’ve evolved in this twenty-first century:
• We live in our own space with our family members with more belongings that our ancestors of the past. We all maintain a high level of privacy and comfort depending on our life choices and who and what we choose to surround ourselves with.
• We have the protection of our inalienable rights, among those: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This also includes less social pressure regarding who to marry, what our vocation should be, etc.
• The domestic arts are becoming fashionable, encouraged, and embraced.
• We have labor laws that protect us and laws that maintain healthier environments in our working conditions, etc.
I always say if I had eight more arms I’d be set. While it won’t be servants on
staff, I can enlist the help of my loved ones and friends or simply change my priorities and slow my life down. I’m thankful that I live today, although it might have been nice to have been Elizabeth and romanced by Mr. Darcy, but I have my own wonderful Mr. Darcy slash He-man at home. I’ll keep him and all these littles that I love so much. I also wouldn’t trade wearing a comfortable pair of blue jeans for those long heavy skirts. Living today really isn’t so bad!