When I was working, and particularly when I was in my 40s and early 50s, I was very ambitious. I wanted to be happy, successful and have a thriving business. I ran my own company, producing a town newspaper for one of our big mining companies, was well as reports and training manuals. I loved taking control of this little business, producing products that people needed and knowing that I was making a success of something that I wasn't supposed to know much about - writing about mining. Times have changed now, but back then women were supposed to be in the office, not writing about how to operate dump trucks, underground workshops and control rooms.
I got to a stage though when I couldn't continue in that field. I stopped enjoying the trips to the mines, I didn't like working in a mostly male environment and I hated the travel. I retired early and wondered what I could possibly do that would replace the feeling of strength and satisfaction I once felt working for myself.
Enter homemaking and being a stay at home wife.
Soon after I made my change I tried to make sense of housework. I had never enjoyed it and felt it was an annoyance that interrupted me going out and enjoying myself. But when I came home to stay and realised that I probably wouldn't work for a living anymore, I knew deep down I had to somehow find at least some satisfaction in my work at home. Little did I know the mother lode of happiness was waiting to be unearthed.
In the beginning, I wondered how on earth I would be able to fill the day, and not just one day but every day that was to come. I was reading all the time, thinking about how I wanted to live and one thing was clear, I didn't want to work again. So, if I knew that, the oppositie was also true, I would be spending a lot of time in my home. I started a few experiments in cleaning and rearranging things and it didn't feel that bad at all. I was lucky in that I enjoyed my own company so I went from there to wondering if I would get to a point of enjoying being at home. I'd always loved cooking so I started cooking, then I baked bread and tried to perfect my plain ordinary lunch time loaf. That worked! I made very good bread. I started making the bed every morning, worked on making some natural cleaners, then soap, and before I knew it, I was happily occupied all day.
After a couple of months at home I got to the stage of going to bed happy, content with what I'd achieved and making plans for the following day. I was thankful for each new day and the opportunity to discover new ways of doing my work. New thoughts were beginning to emerge and I was smiling a lot more. We have always lived with elements of simple life - we had been keeping chickens and gardening for many years, so I decided to expand on that. I started planting more vegetables, then tried to grow everything we would usually buy. That lead to more new recipes, a homemakers journal to keep all the information in and gently, from one day to the next, real change started happening.
I came to realise that homemaking is very much like running your own business, and just like a small business, you get out of it what you put in. I had to work to a budget, there were performance indicators to guide me and the amount of work I did reflected on the entire enterprise - I could make it or break it. My business meetings were replaced by family gatherings, making a presentation in front of a group became cooking a meal for a celebration and while I was not paid by cheque or direct debit, I was certainly paid in love and appreciation from others, and that wonderful feeling of satisfaction. When I looked back on my short history at home, I was amazed that I was happy and interested in what would happen every day. But the thing that surprised me the most was the feeling of strength, enrichment and fulfilment homemaking gave me.
I know now that there are many ways to be a strong woman. Running your own company and being successful is one way but you also demonstrate strength and significance as a mother, matriarch and homemaker. You are keeping your family functional, happy and focused. You are the person who makes it possible for many others to do what they do. You are the one who makes a safe, comfortable haven for the family. Your cooking nourishes, your cleaning keeps them safe, your organisation keeps them on track. Your wisdom helps lead your family. Your decisions mean something.
I still think the work I do in my home is like running a small business. I have different departments, a have to stay in the black with my budget, there are quite a few people I try to keep happy; but there is also a huge point of difference. Never once in all my time working for a living, even when I had my own business, did I feel really in control and free to do whatever I wanted to do, as long as it didn't sink the ship. I feel that every day now. There is an extraordinary feeling of freedom working at home. There are no rules except those I make for myself, I can do whatever work I feel like doing most days and there is no one looking over my shoulder. I know many of you feel the same about your own homes, whether you work there full or part-time. I doubt I would be as happy in any other place now.