Nikki from Utah, writes:

When I found out that Viacom was canceling the Martha Stewart television program, I was very dismayed. She has inspired me so much over the years and I have thoroughly enjoyed her show and so have my children. Single-handedly she made it acceptable to be a homemaker!

I am sorry that she made a bad choice, but we all make mistakes. Can you please ask all the Mormon Momma readers to join together to support Martha and start a writing campaign to help get her show back on the air?

Alison says:

I suppose it is appropriate to bring this column live just hours after the official Save Martha Day was celebrated on March 13 in support of “America's number one homemaker.”

In answer to your question, Nikki, no. A great big, pastel-colored, parsley-garnished, elegantly-presented, flambéed, poached, and baked on parchment paper “No.”

It's not that I hold any malice toward the “kitchen and garden guru.” It's not even that I think all her convictions were sound. It's mostly that I cannot throw my limited resources behind someone whose behavior has been less than admirable.

Let me start by saying that I have a number of wonderful, very close friends who love Martha Stewart. (Even one, Robyne, who not only loves, but lives Martha Stewart!) I do not denigrate anyone who enjoys her program, nor anyone who creates everything from scratch or thinks that six hours in the kitchen is “an easy, quick, romantic meal.”

I watched the Martha Stewart program once many years ago in Florida. Once. I only remember a couple of things.

  • She talked about garden tool maintenance, taking us about her acres of gorgeous, lush gardens (tended by an entire team of gardeners) and showed us how “she” winterizes her gardening tools by washing and sharpening and storing them in buckets of carefully sieved sand to keep them in tip-top shape.
  • She made homemade suckers, explaining that just making them wasn't “personal” enough, unless you also pounded your own sucker molds out of strips of tin.
    That was enough to make me run.

Again, I realize she inspires many, but I simply felt inadequate. I had never even thought sucker-making was a desirable activity. But even my discomfort with her priorities and many of those things she presents as being “good things” would not cause my negative reaction toward the Save the Martha Stewart Program grass-roots movement. But there are a couple of things that do.

First, I would guess that a vast percentage of those who want Martha back are the same people who yelled “Impeach!” at Bill Clinton when he “just lied” about his “personal life.” It is important, I believe, to be consistent in what standard we hold and in the standard we present to our children. If we didn't want a liar to represent us in the White House, why do we want a liar to represent us in our house?

Granted, Martha isn't a world leader, but shouldn't we carefully consider whether we really want to hold a convicted felon as the example of our profession?

Second, Martha did not make it “acceptable to be a homemaker.” She isn't one. She is a high-powered corporate executive whose husband divorced her and whose only child is often estranged from her. She didn't make a home, she built an empire. And by the vast majority of accounts, she did it in a rather caustic manner.

The Brady Bunch pretends to be a picture of the blended American Family, where the greatest trouble encountered was Jan's foolish decision to wear a charm bracelet while building a house of cards in her attempt to win a sewing machine. Where are the missing bio-parents? Where is the dual custody and the court-ordered visitation? Where is the alimony and the child support? Not to mention the tiny problem of putting six unrelated, teenage, step-siblings in one Jack-and-Jill bathroom.

I ask similar questions about Martha's “homemaking.” Where are the dirty diapers? Where are the legos? Where is the spit up on the shoulder of her silk blouse? Why isn't she torching the peach flambe whilst simultaneously chauferring child #2 to the week's fourth soccer game and child #4 to violin lessons? Where are the children at all? And where is the husband? For whom, exactly, is her virtual, fabricated home being “made”? Perhaps for a carefully selected, balanced, and appropriately well-connected set of invitees?

I'd rather (and wouldn't you?) find a mentor with a fabulous marriage, a bunch of happy, healthy, good, decent kids, and a loving, inviting home to inspire me than someone with a bunch of hired hands standing behind the camera while she makes a perfect crème brûlée in a starched blue oxford.

If you love Martha, please don't get angry. You can love her all you want. But I get crazy when homemakers especially LDS homemakers actually base their worth or acceptability on some kind of extravagant craft venture! I can only speak for myself, but I am not staying home with my children so that I can make the ideal Risotto Patties Over Greens or to engage in the art of Decorative Painting on Wicker. [Editor's Note: Both were active articles on the MS website when this article was first published.]

As I type this with one hand, I'm holding my sleeping four-month-old, Caleb, with the other. So let me tell you why I am home.

There is no more noble work than that of a good and God-fearing mother.

Ezra Taft Benson

Motherhood is the greatest potential influence either for good or ill in human life.

David O. McKay

She who can paint a masterpiece or write a book [or create Floral Print Drawer Liner] that will influence millions deserves the admiration and the plaudits of mankind; but she who rears successfully a family of healthy, beautiful sons and daughters, whose influence will be felt through generations to come, ?deserves the highest honor that man can give, and the choicest blessings of God.

David O. McKay

You sisters are the real builders of the nation wherever you live, for you have created homes of strength and peace and security. These become the very sinew of any nation.

Gordon B. Hinckley

The greatest job that any mother will ever do will be in nurturing, teaching, lifting, encouraging, and rearing her children in righteousness and truth. None other can adequately take her place.

Gordon B. Hinckley

Contrary to conventional wisdom, a mother's calling is in the home, not in the marketplace.

Ezra Taft Benson

Women are to take care of the family the Lord has so stated to be an assistant to the husband, to work with him, but not to earn the living, except in unusual circumstances.”

Spencer W. Kimball

The counsel of the church has always been for mothers to spend their full tim in the home in rearing and caring for their children.

Ezra Taft Benson

It is well-nigh impossible to be a full-time homemaker and a full-time employee.

Gordon B. Hinckley

No career approaches in importance that of wife, homemaker, and mother.

Spencer W. Kimball

To the mothers of this Church, every mother who is here today, I want to say that as the years pass, you will become increasingly grateful for that which you did in molding the lives of your children in the direction of righteousness and goodness, integrity and faith. That is most likely to happen if you can spend adequate time with them.

Gordon B. Hinckley

If the direct words of the prophets of God don't legitimize us, Martha Stewart never will.

Kathy says:

Hi Nikki. Welcome aboard the Circle of Sisters. Thanks for reading and writing.

So Martha S. is “America's Number One Homemaker?” Zowie!! I'm not saying that sarcastically at all. In fact, this is really fun and interesting to me, because I'm teaching a class on writing direct sales and advertising copy this summer. According to the live interviews I have seen recently with Martha, she sees herself as an iron-tough businesswoman also. In fact, she sees herself as undefeatable. I'm not sure I dislike either of those qualities. But she does not see herself, in any context, as a “homemaker.” It's her advertisers who have sold her as a homemaker; and millions of us have bought their line. That's pretty cool ?from the perspective of an advertiser.

Let me jump right to my next point, which I would like to make as fervently as I can: To a righteous Utah Momma who wants to be a homemaker with lots of passion and pizzazz, it's just another strong case for the truism, “to the pure, all things are pure.” I think that's you. I don't see that homemaking is in any way antithetical to crafting, gourmet cooking, or advanced horticulture or micro-agriculture. They are connected if the mom in residence is into crafting, professional-level cooking, or blue-ribbon gardening. The same thing applies to baking, sewing, ice sculpting, or upholstering. Ditto dressage, scuba diving, river dancing, or philosophy. There's nothing out of line with homemakers who bring their own joi de vivre to the table. If Martha is your thing, you're definitely not alone. She has built an enviable one-woman empire.

The only thing I would add is that the kids come first. It's easy to confuse sewing clothes, specialty cooking, music, sports or even, in some cases, maintaining a spotless home, with parenting kids. I think most tots would far rather skip the darling outfits and have the 20 hours of sewing time allocated to one-on-one direct interaction with their mom instead. That probably holds true of most of our other activities during our kids' first 12 or 15 years. Yup. Even church callings. We might need to skip the elaborate hand-outs and visuals for something more pressing in our child's development. Most of us learn this the hard way, looking back on times when we would scoop those precious kiddies into our arms and revel in their sweet dependence and unconditional love, and let everything else wait a few years until the kids are gone and busy with their peers.

All of that having been said, you might find many of our readers will want to join you in your campaign. Here's your forum!! Would you like us to post your email address for that purpose?

Tracy says:

I have to agree with Alison and Kathy. There's certainly nothing wrong with trying to beautify our homes with handicrafts or using freshly ground whole wheat to make your own pasta and drying it in the sun.

I think the problem is elevating that as the zenith of homemaking and putting someone who does all that on a pedestal. Doing everything by hand the hard way, the long way does not make someone a “homemaker.”

What makes a woman a homemaker, is that she makes that physical structure of wood, metal, or brick a “shelter from the world.” It becomes a place of unconditional love, patience, learning, discipline, compassion, responsibility, etc. That the birthday card a woman gives her child was made from homemade paper pulp colored by the dye of her teenage daughter's old jeans that Mom cut into shreds, doesn't make that mother a better “homemaker” than the mother wrote a simple loving note on a piece of paper from a Stuart tablet.

Even before her legal problems, Martha Stewart was a domestic diva without a “home.” I've actually known a few people who've taken this whole “crafty” thing to the far extreme, much like Martha Stewart apparently did. In the misplaced efforts to be a Stewart-ian type “homemaker,” they seemed to lose the whole concept of what a real homemaker is. Yes, they have a beautiful home. But so what. No one wants to be there. Kids are ignored by their mother who's too busy touching up the stenciling going around the living room wall to notice that 2 year old Junior has once again walked out the front door and is playing in the street.

Now understand, none of us are saying that everything she did, made, created was useless and pointless. Nor are we saying that if any of our readers watch or enjoy the show or are Martha Stewart fans that they are wrong for it. I enjoy doing crafty things myself. I like decorating my home to look warm and inviting. I also enjoy making “fancy” meals every now and then. But again, it's not those things that make me a homemaker.

This popular misconception may well be one of the reasons that the title of our own Homemaking Meeting has been changed to Home, Family, & Personal Enrichment. Why would they bother to change the name? They're just words, right? I would guess that one of the reasons was because they felt that the word “homemaking” was being too connected to crafts, painting, sewing, etc., since the real emphasis was intended to be the home and family. If fact, if I remember correctly someone can correct me if I'm wrong didn't the general board actually tell us that our homemaking meetings were becoming way too focused on scrapbooking and crafty things instead of strengthening our homes and famililes?

Those are just things that make the house look nicely decorated and the food taste like it came from a fancy restaurant. But honestly, they're probably two of the least important things on the list of what makes a house a home.

Martha was a glorified chef, a craft queen, an excellent gardener. We can certainly learn some home decor ideas from her, some food preparation ideas, and how to stop the squirrels from eating our tulip bulbs (in as eco-friendly way, of course). But that she was probably the first to make a fortune from it, and made it popular, and chic to be crafty has absolutely nothing to do with real homemaking. That's evidenced in the fact that her “home” is destroyed and much of the destruction was happening all under a clever guise of floral prints and gingham.