"We started leaving the home to go to work in order to support the home. We have been doing this for so long that we have forgotten the purpose for which we sold ourselves in the first place."
"Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to the job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it."
"But the reform that applies itself to the household must not be partial...it must correct the whole system of our social living. It must come with plain living and high thinking; it must break up caste, and put domestic service on another foundation...Give us wealth, and the home shall exist. But that is a very imperfect and inglorious solution of the problem, and therefore no solution. Few have wealth, but all must have a home." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
I will begin today's post with this full disclosure: I am currently sitting in my dirty house, wearing a half wet-swimsuit that is beginning to hint a distinctive, mildew stench while eating Oreos and milk. And, my children are watching television.
The thoughts I'm sharing today are on productivity and homemaking (really Rae, really?), and are largely aimed towards MYSELF as I sort through this adopted identity and journey. I'm sharing what I love. Hopefully it doesn't come across as know-it-all or preachy. Because, heaven knows, I know...well...practically nothing. Except that the new limited addition lemon Oreos are DA BOMB.
Where was I?
Oh yes, homemaking.
So. The Radical Homemaking book I suggested? I really didn't love the entire thing, but because of chapter 3, I would recommend the book over and over and over. Chapter 3 is WHERE IT'S AT. A short, thorough, accurate story of the evolution of a homemaker. Seriously, so informative and good and I kinda just want to type it all out but instead will refrain because nobody cares about this stuff like I do. I will give a super brief run-down on the information that has magnificently impacted my perspective on how to proceed as a homemaker.
Housewife was a term that showed up on the scene in the middle ages. Housewives were commonly married to husbands. The word husband comes from hus, the older spelling of house, and bonded, as in one who is bonded to a house. Am I the only one who finds that interesting? Yes.
Anyways. Pre-Industrial Revolution, both men and women largely derived their livings from their homes and farms. They both engaged in work that required enormous strength and stamina. Home was not a separate entity to be supported by outside means, it was the means. Once the Industrial Revolution came along, men left to work in factories and women and girls mostly kept up the heavy domestic work that was required to keep a household running. Over time, technology exponentially increases and more and more tools are created that alleviate the burden of the most difficult housework and sustenance. But these tools cost money. In order to afford all the gadgets, the newest material possessions that claim to provide an optimal, comfortable home, more and more people began leaving home in order to afford home. Add to this economic restructuring the prominent second wave feminists (think Friedan, Simone de Beauvoir) who vehemently disparaged domesticity, stripped it of all its meaning, and questioned the intelligence of any woman working within the home with writings like:
"Woman's work within the home is not directly useful to society,
The housewife is subordinate, secondary, parasitic." - (The Second Sex, 1949)
and suddenly women, in mass droves, began exiting the home as well. Cuz who wants to be viewed as the town dummy, the parasite?
The ramifications of this mass exodus are enormous, and society has been shaped by these revolutions ever since (in some ways for the better AND in many ways for the worse. Much, much worse).
The American household, within no more than a century, shifts from a place that primarily identified as a place of production to one of pure consumption.
The author, from that point, gives her two cents on how to correct what she believes is an overly-consumptive, extractive, purchase! purchase! purchase! spend! spend! spend! consume! consume! consume! economy.
And I have to say, the author's description of the consumer driven household really struck a nerve with me. I have begun reflecting more and assessing my role as a homemaker. I don't want to spend my life simply shopping and spending the income Tyler brings in. I don't want to just be an endless, bottomless pit of consumer driven lust for material possessions. I don't want our marriage to be nothing more than two individuals serving entirely separate economic functions, one acting as the primary "producer" while the other acts as the primary "consumer".
I want the creation of our home to be a major team effort. Living on one income requires a lot of team effort. On the one hand, there is no way around it: we need a certain level of liquid, cash, exchangeable income. On the other, we need wise investments, saving strategies, long term goals, and quality of family life. We have discussed and divided up these responsibilities in ways that we feel best fit our personalities and strengths (and weaknesses).
My great-grandpa passed along this economic advice to my Dad, who in turn has frequently recited it to me:
Remember, Production creates Prosperity.
I have adapted this saying into my homemaking. In this sphere, I think of it along the lines of "Being productive creates abundance ". And to me, the word abundance doesn't mean you have accumulated or made more things necessarily. Instead, it means you have more meaning in that which you already have or are in the process of creating. Abundance is the best word. It is better than happy. To me, it connotes fullness and joy.
A day well spent is one that has been productive and made me feel more abundant.
The most amazing homemakers I have ever met, women who I stand in serious awe of, are also some of the most productive, frugal, thoughtful, hard-working, creative individuals. Their skill set is remarkable. Their incomes are modest, but their lives are full of meaning.
I am trying to begin each day by asking myself what I plan on producing that day?
On any given day the answer will vary.
It could be any of the following, maybe:
I produced order. (i.e., cleaning and organizing our day to day functions)
I produced educated children. (working with the girls on reading a few classics or math activities or music)
I produced savings. (consolidated errands into one day to save gas, or traded babysitting with a friend so Tyler and I can have a date night Friday without paying a babysitter, or I cooked meals from scratch instead of purchasing expensive take-out or convenience food, or I read a book on living better on less money)
I produced friendships. (gathering with other homemakers to swap ideas and hang out)
I produced goals. (worked on our personal budget and bills)
I produced childcare. (saves a lot on daycare!)
I produced health. (took the kids for a walk/hike, went swimming, meal planned around health and affordability)
I produced fun. (took children to the park to play)
I produced perspective. (watching my children at park playing, I love watching them run around carefree. So glad I'm HERE for this.)
I produced beauty. (re-purposed old garage sale chairs with spray paint)
This shift in paradigm has made all the difference in how I approach homemaking. And frankly, the list is endless: there are so many ways that a household can become more productive and less consumptive. I'm engaged happily in this good work.
I am inspired when I realize that the ultimate goal of a rad homemaker is not to consume but to contribute.
Next time, I am going to interview one of my favorite homemakers, and ask her how she lives her life productively. Stay tuned!