DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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6 October 2011

Coming back to our homes

I have written quite a bit in the past about how homemaking and housework are looked down on by some and sometimes seen as a less than acceptable way to spend time. We have gone from valuing the homemaker and children being raised by a mother working at home while the father was bringing in a wage, to several decades of working couples and children in day care. Let me add that I'm not judging here, I value all people who work to give their family and themselves a good life. I believe the work we do helps makes us who we are but it isn't only paid work that forms character and builds self confidence, working in your home does that too. There is no right or wrong way to work - the vast majority of us are just doing what we have to do to reach our goals, whatever they may be.



I think this has been coming quietly for a while, but now there seems to be a distinct change in the air with people going back to basics, eating local and organic when they can and trying to cut out the chemicals, additives, preservatives and colourings in their lives. Thrift has made a come back and it looks like homemaking and housework are the next in line. Finally it's okay again to be a stay at home parent, or to enjoy spending weekends as a homemaker when the rest of the week has been spent in the corporate world. And both men and women are enjoying this freedom to be homebodies. Home is cool again.



For the past five years I have worked in my community at the Maleny Neighbourhood Centre. I was co-ordinator there until I left to write my book, and have returned there now to teach the skills of bread and soap making, fermenting, preserving, cooking from scratch, making laundry liquid and green cleaners and frugal living. Yesterday we had a wonderful bread making workshop where we made bread from scratch, then ate it with a cup of tea. We've also established a sewing circle and Crafternoon as well as a kitchen garden where we will soon teach how to grow organic vegetables, keep chickens and worms and to make compost. There is a lot of enthusiasm for the classes and it's made the Centre come alive with people connecting with us, their neighbours, and their own ambitions of working in their homes. There is a real interest in basic homemaking skills again. This is fundamental community development work and it's giving our people a feeling of empowerment, a sense of well being and confidence knowing that come what may, they are capable of looking themselves. It's such a priviledge for me to be part of it.

I hear stories all the time now about biscuits, cakes and bread being baked at home, mending being done, dress making and knitting. When we have our Crafternoons, some of the ladies bring along a cake to share for afternoon tea; this week's was made with black flour and wild raspberries. Many of these people are shopping at second hand shops, they're recycling and thinking about the consequences of their shopping and the packaging that comes with it. Cooking from scratch is popular again; the benefits of knowing what's in the food we eat is now more important than the convenience we used to buy. And all these actions are taking place at home; it seems to be okay again to be a homemaker and proud of it.


The good part about all this is that you don't need any special equipment, there is no must-have colour that is made exactly to your requirements. This is a change of mindset more than anything. To put it into action you just start buying ingredients instead of pre-cooked and processed foods, shop for, or grow, fresh vegetables and cook the way your grandma did. Stop buying cleaners and laundry products that look like they've been put together in a science lab. Buy ingredients - washing soda, bicarb, borax, soap and vinegar and make your own. They're effective and inexpensive. What you save can be paid off your mortgage or car loan or credit cards. Living like this will save you money, and it's not just for low income groups, it's for everyone.

Once you get yourself back into your home, whether that be on a full time basis, on the weekends or fitted around your paid work, there will be opportunities for you to express yourself, find satisfaction in the ordinary things and to build a simpler way of living. When you find your rhythm at home, you can slow down and relax more. This is a wonderful environment in which to raise children and develop yourself. Learning the skills you need to make your home the one place in the world where you feel comfortable and relaxed will also make you a different person; it did that for me. There is a lot to be said for looking after your own needs and doing it consistently with your own hands. Independence and confidence comes from that and if you have children, they will benefit from your sense of certainty and self assurance as well.

Our homes can be many things for each of us. They are where we retreat when we need to rest and recover and they're where we teach ourselves and our children the skills of living. But they're also our launching pads. Home is where we prepare ourselves to be in the outside world. So when you go to work or the kids go to school, if you're launched off on that journey having spent time in a nurturing home, you'll be the best you can be. And it all starts at home. Home, and the work done there, can be the making of us.



For those blog readers who live in other countries, the Australian Women's Weekly featured me in this month's edition. If you'd like to read the article, it's online now here.

42 comments:

  1. Thank you for your voice. As a young mother/homemaker I feel I am doing some important work, and sometimes I think I'm the only person who feels that way (husband not included). I also find that it is very difficult to find women to teach me homemaking skills, because not many people I know have any. It was a special day when I stumbled upon your blog.

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  2. Thanks for the link to the magazine article. I really enjoyed it and the two chicks in the photo are beautiful.

    xo,
    brenda from arkansas

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  3. Some great thoughts, I love being at home with my kids and making things from scratch or upcycling etc. I wish our community had a neighbourhood centre like yours!

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  4. Rhonda,

    Thanks for being such a strong supporter of families and home-life, I think people really do need to be reminded about what a great life they can have if they just open their eyes and get off the consumer treadmill. Your blog demonstrates this concept gently and lovingly, I thank you for being a great role model!

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  5. Good Morning Rhonda,

    You always make such good sense! A breath of fresh air to start the day on. Thank you.
    vickixx

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  6. I agree Rhonda. At 52 I now find myself telling my girls that I was wrong, that home making is a worthwhile and rewarding occupation. I'm now teaching them to cook, sew and clean and they are 24, 27 and 30.Thankfully they appreciate the mistake I made by not showing them a different way when they were younger and are generally embracing my enthusiasm. Unlike a lot of children in the 50's and 60's I didn't learn these skills from my mum as she had a full time job running a family business with my dad and so I have had to learn them all myself. I guess what I'm saying is it can be done!

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  7. Thank you Rhonda. I have no mother or mother-in-law and little links to my Grandmother, so I love 'hearing' your voice! I love that you don't judge. I work full-time and have 2 children, and I judge myself for this everyday. But I love to come home on the weekends and be a homemaker. Right now, that's what I need to be satisfied with!
    Kristy

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  8. I love this! This is my feeling of my home, and my home making. I want my family to feel loved and safe at home, and our friends and family to feel welcomed and loved when they come to our home.
    (Wondering if it's okay to post a link to this post on my own blog? I don't know proper blog protocol on this. But I'd like to share what you've said!)

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  9. I love this post. For 12 years I was working in a stressful industry, then decided to start a family. Well, when I gave notice everyone was SURPRISED! Was I coming back? Why not? I couldn't imagine putting my children in daycare and working in the city an hour and a half away! I've been home for 17 years now. My children enjoyed playing in the yard on the swing or in the sandbox, having little playmates over, baking and cooking with mom.
    Many people have asked me what I do all day!!!!!!
    -Lynn

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  10. Rhonda, where were you when people kept pressuring me to go back to work after having the kids? I could have just pointed them to your blog and that would have explained it all! :)

    Great article in Woman's Weekly, and such a good photo of you too! Well done, and I can't wait for the book to come out next year! :) xxx

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  11. purplepear, I made that same mistake, most of us did. It's good that you can now teach your girls and reskill yourself at the same time.

    Kristy, if you're doing what you know is right, then there is no reason to judge yourself harshly. Life is tough enough without that added burden. Accept what you have to do at this stage of your life, work towards your future and make the most of your weekends.

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  12. allthekingsblessings, it's fine to link.

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  13. I love it that staying home and cultivating a love of the domestic arts is 'cool' again. Even in the 1990's I remember when I gave up my career and found myself the only stay at home mum in the neigbourhood. It was a very quiet street because noone was at home during the day! After reading about the success of your breadmaking class I'm thinking about whether I should once again offer to run a free breadmaking class from home again after my first offer (at my church) a few years ago was knocked back when I was told ' Oh no, no one would be into that'. I really felt like I was being put in my place and told not to push my health and domestic ideals onto others when in fact all I was doing was wanting to offer hospitality and share tips for a practical homemaking skill which has many health and financial benefits.
    I just read the article about you Rhonda - what a fantastic piece and a lovely photograph too which I have to say I think should have made the front cover!

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  14. This is a really great post, Rhonda, for two reasons beyond the obvious.

    1) Your post does not devalue working outside the home but rather, respectfully, tries to create a rhythm to combine the blessings of homelife with a career outside the home for those who desire/must maintain such a career.

    2) Your post does not assume gendered notions about homekeeping but acknowledges that both men and women may want to be 'homebodies' as you say it, or both men and women may work outside the home.

    I really appreciate you opening up a more home-centered life for all of us, regardless of gender or income.

    Blessings,
    This Good Life

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  15. Rhonda did you say black flour? Que?

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  16. Thank you for validating those of us who use our skills to foster our children and keep our homes. Everyone is on a different path, but it's nice to know that someone appreciates the work that goes "unpaid".

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  17. Once again, Rhonda, you have written about things that are so relevant to my life. Thank you so much for being such a strong role model to us all and continually reminding us that it is okay to slow down and stay home. I am being laid off in 3 weeks, and I fully intend to take this as an opportunity to reintroduce myself to my home and all of the possibilities in a frugal lifestyle. I am being bomabarded by constant questions of when I will be going back to work or where I am going to apply. Some people just don't understand why I am choosing to stay at home, cook from scratch, and see where it takes me! I am making lemonade with my lemons!

    Brenna

    consciousearthveg.blogspot.com

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  18. I've always been crafty and into reusing and such, love to cook and bake from scratch (no packets around this place) and love how sharing food makes people come together and be happy. I do work, because we have a large mortgage and because I love, love, love my job, which pays me well - another bonus! My 3 yr old totally thrives in 'school' (daycare) and has a day at home with daddy, which they both love. But I have ALWAYS struggled with housework and each time I read one of your posts about your shift in attitude towards your home I think "that's not me". I even had friend clean for me once a week when I started back fulltime and loved it.
    But she had to stop for personal reasons, and we are saving hard for a big move, so I decided to not find someone else (for a while) and use that money to add to the savings. And each time I clean now, I don't love it and it's probably not as good a job, but I did it and I saved money and I can feel a bit more house proud (which stops it from getting to the point a bit quicker too sometimes).
    So thanks Rhonda, your words do filter in, sometimes slower and despite all resistance!! I won't say that I love housework yet, but that's okay too... :)

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  19. Yes Rose, black flour. It was a surprise to me too. It's made from black beans - no gluten.

    Annet, I agree, that's fine too. We all do it our own way. :- )

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  20. Thank you for your honesty in accepting that sometimes it's not how we make our livings that determines our homemaking status - it's true some of us live in high cost areas (but stay because that's where our families are), some of us have great skills and talents were meant to share in the forms of outside jobs, and some of us are just the victims of the rising cost of live that's not equal to the rise of paychecks. BUT it's what we do and how we live at the end of those work days that counts.
    My husband and I both work, each of us took decent jobs with flexible work schedules so that we could maximize our family time while still making ends meet, we purposefully moved back to an area to be near family and are working on long term goals that will, hopefully, mean that with every year we'll be a little less reliant on two (almost) full time salaries.

    I love that being a homebody is cool, though I still have plenty of people who can't understand how I have time to cook, knit for my family (new winter knits every year!), garden, etc. How do I live without a vibrant social calendar or up to date information on reality tv... the horror!

    I look forward to being an example that your life can be rich and fulfilling without being expensive, busy and noisy.

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  21. I think Ann of eightacresofeden should ask the ladies and gentlemen not the 'authorities' at her church if they would like a bread class. Perhaps there would have been a very different reaction. :) I really enjoyed reading your article. Thank you for posting the link. I also noticed they had an article there titled 'The Return of the domestic Goddess'. It reinforced the post you did here today. Can we buy our book here in America when it comes out? I sure hope so!! I really enjoyed visiting here today. { as always!! :) } Sarah

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  22. Rhonda,

    Thanks, once again, for your beautiful & wise writing. You always bring me back to center and help re-affirm what I already know, but need to be reminded of time and again.

    Natasha

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  23. Hi Rhonda,I've been following your blog for a year now but never commented cos you receive so many comments. I didn't think you have time to read mine. However, today, I read your interview and what you said touched my heart, "We didn't have any money, but we didn't feel poor because everyone in our neighbourhood was like us." Without the rich, we won't feel poor. Much like the colour study book that I read. Without a darker colour, we can't contrast. Not sure if it's good or bad but it made me pay attention. Love your blog, advice and recipes. I'm in Brisbane and hope to attend one of your workshops in Maleny one day :)

    Rachel

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  24. Just to clarify for Sarah re: my earlier comment about a breadmaking class being knocked back. It wasn't the 'authorities' who rejected my offer, just someone who had been attending the church a lot longer than me who knew a lot more people than I did who I had approached with the suggestion as I thought she would have been all for a breadmaking class! I was just so surprised when I received a less than enthusiastic response. She was the one making the assumption that no one would want to learn breadmaking (I think she was wrong!)but because I was still fairly new there and was so shocked by her remarks at the time I thought 'Okay - don't bother offering again.' If I had approached the minister I'm fairly certain he would have said 'Go for it and do invite people from the community too'. Which is what I am doing - I know a fellow breadmaker in my community and she is bringing along a friend to my home in the next few weeks for a morning of making bread and I'm going to approach the younger mums at my church about a class who I think will actually be quite receptive to the idea.

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  25. Ann, I encourage you to see what you can do there. I think they'll be surprised at the number of people who will be interested.

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  26. Always lovely to stop by your blog with cuppa in hand for a great read!

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  27. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    You know that I love reading your blog. However I am afraid we are sending the wrong message to women. Just because we are home it doesn't mean we have to do it all. I have health issues and also I am a caregiver for a sick husband. I pick and chose carefully everyday where I want to use my energy.Someday that may mean store brought bread or a mix to make a cake. It may mean I use my dryer and ect. I can't have a garden nor can I have animals.I do the best I can everyday with the hand I have been dealt.I want to encourage women to do what works for them and not bet themself up for what they can;t do.
    Thanks,
    Elizabeth Q

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  28. Wonderful post. I was raised by a single working mother, back when that was a novelty, and while I know my mother did the best she could, some part of me has always felt cheated. I was raised on TV dinners and fast food in front of the television.

    But it wasn't just that my mother didn't have the time for homemaking, she harbored an incredible disdain for all things domestic. I remember being shocked the first time I was visiting a friend and they made mashed potatoes from scratch. I had no idea that could even be done... I always just assumed they came from a box!

    In a funny way, learning to cook and garden and do other things for myself has been an act of supreme rebellion, and I sort of see it that way on a societal level too. Our culture has been so co-opted by corporations and the giant marketing machine, that I think we forget that they don't own it, we do... and with every loaf of bread we bake and handkerchief we sew, we get one step closer to re-claiming our culture as our own.

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  29. Rhonda, thank you for this post. Obviously, Australia is far ahead of Germany or Europe in general. Here, being a homemaker is not something you can be proud of, and things like soapmaking and breadbaking are accepted only as hobbies. Last week there was an article in our newspaper about a ranking of child-friendliness in different european countries. The easier and cheaper it was to put your child into daycare, especially from a very young age, the more child-friendly a country was considered. I found this really shocking.

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  30. That's incredible, Hilde. Child care in Australia is very expensive and it's difficult getting a child in to some centres. But we do have a very healthy cash baby bonus, which I think is around $3000, and child benefit payments while the child is young.

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  31. Hooray--thanks for posting the link to your WW article. It's a little like upcycling. I don't have to pay for the magazine (which I can't find here in South Africa), I can benefit from your wisdom, the 'big business' (WW) doesn't benefit......and I can pass on your wisdom to the next generation.

    I have a 19 yr old son who likes to bake bread, desserts & cook with his 20 yr old girlfriend and a 17 yr daughter who is also a budding cook. I'm not sure what I did 'right'....I attribute their eagerness in the kitchen more to us watching Jamie Oliver's cooking shows as a family! Now, if only I can get them to be as enthusiastic about the washing up.....

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  32. Thanks for sharing the link to that wonderfully positive article. I was lucky enough to be raised by a stay-at-home mom and a dad who worked hard to provide for us. We lived a good life, but a frugal one. Everyone worked around the home. Mom taught us all to cook, clean, sew, can, bake, and shop for groceries on the cheap. All the basics of homemaking. Dad taught us how to change oil, chop wood, the outdoor "manly" stuff. They both taught us how to garden and harvest. I live in the city now, in a VERY small shared flat so many of the things they taught me are difficult (if not impossible) to do, but I still make cook from scratch, shop on the cheap, and do as much as I can for myself. I know without a doubt if all the grocery stores vanished tomorrow, I could make my own soap, bake my own bread, and get a chicken (a live one!) ready for the stew pot.

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  33. I´m lucky that I was brought up by a mom that always cooked from scratch, and even now I prefer home cooking over any take aways or pre-prepared food, it just doesn´t taste right! Although my mom wasn´t (still isn´t)crafty I somehow got the craft gene so since I was 12 I learned how to sew and knit. Thanks to you I have tried the laundry liquid and hopefully this weekend will try the soap making. Thanks Rhonda, lovely post as usual.

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  34. RJ, loved your WW article. Some of my friends think I am weird too -lol- but it doesn't stop me living a frugal life as best I can. Reading your blog is like coming home and feeling like I fit in.
    I love coming home :)

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  35. Love, love, love this post! What you said echoes my heart- when I am at home I feel AT home! There are numerous tasks and never-done chores around here, but satisfaction and contentment abounds. I'm glad there is always something to do. My imagination and creativity are never so pushed as when I am homemaking or homesteading...whatever it is. *smile* Unfortunately, most people I come into personal contact with don't see it that way. There seems to be this mindset that if it's not for pay, it's not a "real job", and it is unnecessary. I just wish they knew what they were missing! Fresh sheets off the line that don't need a scented dryer sheet, the basement cellar smelling of fall apples, yarn flying through your fingers magically transforming into something you designed, fresh tea from the garden, caring for animals with their own little personality traits, a partner who returns from the *dramatic* corporate world and finds such refreshment and rest in all your combined efforts, freedom...really, it's worth it.

    The Girl in the Pink Dress
    PS The article did a good job (I was waiting for it)- loved the picture!

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  36. I love doing what I do at home. I would never have learned at least 80% of what I know if I would have stayed in the work force. Thank you for blessing us with what you are doing!
    Carin

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  37. Rhonda... I'm curious, what do you mean by "cash baby bonus" and "child benefit payments"? Are you saying that the government actually pays you money for each child that you have?

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  38. Thank you! I am a homemaker and I'm proud of it. There are some things I wish I would have been taught early on, but I've been able to learn them through the internet. I've told you before, I'm going to say it again~ Your site is truly a blessing! Thank you for all the encouragement.

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  39. Good post and a nice article. I hope your book will be available in the US--I'd love to buy it!

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  40. ecocatlady, yes, our government pays parents about $5000 for each child, about 50% of the cost of child care and there is a tax benefit - all of which is to help with expenses and to encourage more babies. We have a population of only 21 million.

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  41. I'm currently reading a library book: The Radical Homemaker. I think you will enjoy it.

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  42. Thank you Rhonda :) :)
    Kristy -xxx-

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