Friday, July 2, 2010

Radical Homemaking...

I spent some time this morning reading this interesting essay over at Salon.com about radical homemaking. The author, Madeline Holler, describes her experience of going from a financially comfortable two income lifestyle to a one income lifestyle and of her ambivalence about going without.

I think about this quite a bit. Before the economy went bust our financial situation was quite secure. We weren't rich, but there was money for camp and cleaning ladies and coffee shops. About a year and half ago all that changed. Since then we have been on a pretty strict budget. I try to consider most of my purchases. Do I need it? Can I do with out it? Can I fix it? (Yes, I need my junk.)

Anyway, I've stopped using the dryer and I clip coupons. Most of what I buy is used.

Generally I enjoy the challenge of making it all work. I've had jobs in the past, but really all I have ever wanted was to be a housewife.

I never said that aloud growing up. I grew up in the 1980's when women were just starting to really make inroads in business. The message that little girls got was that we would go to college and have a career. I worried about this a lot. I wasn't really good at anything career worthy. When David and I got together I loved keeping house. I had a job, but it only got in the way of what I really wanted to be doing- tending our hearth.

Now all these years later there is a movement afoot. Women are dropping out of careers to take care of children and house. They are hanging laundry, baking bread and raising chickens.

I feel conflicted about these issues. I think about the role of women from a biological standpoint and from a social standpoint. What have women evolved to do? What drives me to want to have this kind of life? If I sent the kids to school I could get a job and we'd have money for all of those extras. I don't want to, not at all.

So here I am, darning socks. Is that a step backward? Or a step away from the disposable culture in which I had been living, but no longer inhabit. What should my role be? Is my role as a human animal to produce offspring and care for them? Is my role as a highly evolved human animal at odds with my biological role?

Have I just lost all of my readers?

I promise to never be this deep again.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's funny you should post this now. i was laid off earlier this month and it was such a shock. yet, there were aspects which i've completely embraced. My hubby isn't one to expect me to do very much domestically (LOL as if he had a choice!!) so when we decided how to cut back I tentatively and cautiously signed up to cook dinner about 4 times a week. This is after doing so maybe, three times a month (domestic spurts?). Now that it's been a few weeks...I find myself settling in...and kind of liking it (tho i admit my main drive is my jewelry site). Please visit it! :) luv, Ms.TT

Pom Pom said...

I looked at the radical housewife stuff a while back. Interesting. I took a class last week and one of the dumb mixers was to line up in alphabetical order of what you would like to do if you weren't a teacher. I was U. Unemployed. I do like teaching but I would WAY rather be home, tending the hearth. Smile. I'm not that great of a tender, but I still prefer it. Who cares what we accomplish out there in Publicland? I don't really care what other people accomplish, I just like to watch people love each other. I like to see what people can do when love is their fuel. I'm so glad you said that what you always wanted to do was be a housewife. You are such a good one.

Anonymous said...

I think the feminist moment is really about women having choices. If women choose to stay home and are happy, then that is a positive thing for women and girls. If women choose to go on to school or work outside of the home, then that is a positive thing for women and girls. Women, especially poor women and women of color have always worked. It is about women being able to have more choices about what kind of work and education opportunities that they can participate in. (In the interest of full disclosure, my husband and I both work outside the home and share child care responsibilities of our girls).

Mari

lori said...

I have just recently had to go back to work and even though it is only two days a week, I really struggled with it. I also homeschool and I am so concerned with how it is all going to work this fall... I love being at home with my boys and mostly love taking care of my house. :) I completely get your love of trying to make do. It is a fun challenge to see where one can cut and how to make something out of nothing. I think being a homemaker is one of the best "jobs" out there!! And one of the hardest. As far as "things", I have found they aren't nearly as important as people. No one can ever get time with their kids back. Please, feel free to stay deep!! :)

Cheryl said...

If you choose to stay deep, I'll still be here. Deep starts conversations and this is a very good one to have. As a feminist, I agree with Mari's observation. The early message of equal pay for equal jobs got terribly skewed into something broader and divisive. The belief that a woman could do it all was untested. As it turns out, no man or woman can be a full-time caregiver to children or elderly parents, housekeeper, and productive employee. That's 3 full-time jobs. None of the roles ends up being done well.

At the end of the day, we have to choose what works best for each of us and learn to accept that the choices of others has absolutely nothing to do with our own choices. Glass houses and stones aren't a good combination.

Rock on happy homemaker! Life is way too short to be unhappy.

Michael said...

Your role as a highly evolved human animal is not at odds with your biological role. What is at odds is your biological instincts and how you've been taught to think.

Just 100 years ago, American's lacked the ability to have a 2 income family. Life simply required one person to work for income and the other to maintain the household.

When you consider that humans similar to ourselves have been around for close to 2 million years, nature has had plenty of time to shape what men and women are. And we are different.

Unlike your knuckle dragging friend Travis, I support equality of options for men and women. However, I don't expect them to make the same life choices.

Anonymous said...

I find being a housewife and mother infinitely more satisfying than my former career. It is also much harder, physically and emotionally, but much more fun. But what other job allows you to play with legos, have picnics, and stay in your pajamas half the day? I was never domestic before I had kids. When I met my husband in college, the only thing I could cook was Kraft Dinner. I didn't know how to clean anything. Now I do both and we have decided to homeschool in the fall. I'm right there with you, Sara, feathering my nest and raising my little brood and loving it!

Julie said...

Bravo! I like this very much. Of course, I'm trying to be a radical homemaker, also. I actually read this at 4:30 this morning before I went to work. Then I told my sleeping family goodbye but thought, "I hate that I was sold the 80's career woman dream." I bought it hook, line, and sinker, and all the toys that went with it. God willing, we are slowly working our way to where I can stay at home. My voice really matters at home and my skills either make or break this household. I love the challenge. I really appreciate your blog because you make being "just a housewife" oh so glamorous! And if you're jealous of my garden, then I know I'm on the right track.

Michael said...

2011 is going to be an interesting year for women and families. Income taxes go up. The inheritance tax comes back. The marriage tax comes back. New taxes on medical care start. Expenses paid for special needs kids will be taxed. 7 times more Americans will be hit with the AMT tax.

Married working women will find that they are working for the government and not their families.

于庭 said...

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Stacy Spuria said...

I, too, was sold the bill of goods in the 80's. Growing up I wanted to be a teacher. When I finally started college, I encountered liberal professors telling me that I basically was choosing a career that women found safe and was socially acceptable and I was letting all of my sex down. I quit after 2 years. Now, I'm happily teaching my two kids and I work only part time (2 days a week) for our "extras" money.
Bottom line here, in my humble opinion, is that if you can afford it, by all means stay at home and live a happy, fulfilled life! In the long run it'll benefit your girls too!

lori said...

Aw, I love all of these comments! :) What great readers!

Anonymous said...

Hi Sara, I enjoy your blog very much and in many ways, I envy that you are able to be home. I'm working 3/4 time, going to school and trying to keep up with the house, the dog, the bills, etc. My dream is to be able to work just 1/2 time. I agree that the feminist movement is about choice, what is keeping me plodding along is my fear of eating cat food when I reach retirement age. There is such value is running the home and raising children, I just wish it came with a better retirement plan!
-jeanne

Tracy said...

I just found your blog, via Frances and I've added it to my favourites list. I love your style!

This is an interesting topic that I ponder often, lately. I was a SAHM for the first 13 years of my life as a parent. It was all I wanted to do and I reveled in being a Mum at home.

Last year God provided the perfect job for me, at my kid's school, and I love what I do. I am comforted and at peace with the fact that God is in control of the path I travel and trust that He will guide me in keep my home and not-at-home life in balance.

Above all, I'm a wife and mum and those things always need to come first.