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12 October 2011

Homemaking - the power career, part 2

I'd like to clarify some things after reading a couple of yesterday's comments. I am sure my long term readers already know this and I feel it so deeply I don't spell it out in every post like this. I'm accepting of all types of relationships. In fact I wrote about this last week here. I don't expect to see only husbands and wives, or men working with women at home. I don't think every couple should have children. I think people should live to their own values (not mine) and do what makes them happy. I believe that is why I get so many emails about the stages of life - I don't judge and I don't expect anyone to live as I do. To me, a partnership is formed when two people commit to each other - those two people could be a man and a women, or the same sex, and they can be married or not. I have gay friends my age I have know most of my life, and they're all in relationships.  I wrote yesterday's post directed at the woman who emailed me. It was her experience and mine I was referring to, it didn't reflect any specific view on what makes a family.

One of the reasons I write about homemakers so much - both men and women, is that many of them suffer because of the stereotypes applied to them, just as I suffer from the stereotypes applied to me - of what a women in her mid-60s believes. It is not acceptable to discriminate against others, but it seems to be still okay for many people to look down on homemakers, and for them to be very vocal about it. We need to change that.

One important part of being a homemaker is looking after the family finances. When there is someone out earning money, it is the person who stays at home who is responsible for stretching those dollars as much as possible. A saved dollar is more than an earned dollar - your saved dollar is tax-free. So one of the ways in which homemakers can feel very much a part of the financial viability of the family is to shop for grocery bargains, cook from scratch, and work on conserving electricity, gas, fuel and water. If you use all the ways in which you can save money by making what you need at home, you will cut your old supermarket bill to the bone and be on your way to "earning" money at home.

The stay at home person can draw up a budget and have a plan to pay off debt. Once a year they can go through all their regular bills to see if they can be lowered. We review out bills every year, ring up the opposition, ask what their deal is for the same thing we're paying their competitor for. If it's lower than we're paying, or if we would get more for our dollars, we ring our supplier and tell them and ask them to match it. Usually they do. We check statements when they come in, we've found mistakes in the past. We try not to withdraw money from ATMs, we get cash out at the supermarket instead. I have to confess, Hanno is much better than I am at that. He hasn't used an ATM for two years and, of course, we've saved paying bank fees because of that.

The homemaker is also responsible for looking after the family's assets - by carefully laundering and mending clothes and household linens, by keeping appliances clean and working according to their specifications. Everything that can be kept going - every towel and sheet you keep using before you turn it over to the rag bag, will save you money. Many of the things you do to save money in the home will be environmentally sound too.

There is a common understanding now that a couple should work to make the most of their earning capacity. It's fine if that is what your priority is, or if your circumstances compel both of you to focus on earning money to set yourself up and pay off debt. However, some people value staying at home, being a homemaker, raising children, looking after parents in their old age or volunteering, and for them, that is more important than earning as much money as possible. There are many who have disabilities and who can't work for a living but who save money at home and get by on a pension. It is possible to live well both ways - either by earning as much as you can, or by saving as much as you can. I gave up my career a few years ago, so you all know what camp I'm in. We know that if we cut back on our wants and buy only what we need, we don't need as much money as we used to earn. I spend my time now working from home as a writer, working in my community and working at home. I know many homemakers who have set up a small business that they run successfully from home.

So there you have it in a nutshell. Homemaking can be a dynamic career choice. Whether you use your time at home to learn as much as you can so you home produce and cook from scratch, or you're busy in the child raising years, or if you combine both, you can be rewarded for your efforts. There are many small ways to save money at home, they all take time and consistency but all those small ways add up. If you use the time you spend in your home not only for cooking, cleaning, raising children, mending, recycling etc., but also actively engaged in saving money, you will help provide for the family and pay off debt just as much as the partner who works outside the home.

Be warned, I will be writing about homemaking again next week. It will be a post about what we can all do to help change the outdated common view of homemaking.


  1. :) Thanks for all you do, Rhonda. Looking forward to next weeks post!
    - Meg

  2. Live and let live! Yet another reason why I adore you, Rhonda.

  3. A very timely (for me) post Rhonda. Although I have yet to read the comments on your post from yesterday I really appreciate this post, yesterday's post and am looking forward to your next in this series. I am about to post on my blog as well about Homemaking and it being a Career in it's on right. I myself as a mother of two small boys and running a busy household which now includes gardens and vege garden to feed our family, find myself justifying to people around me, even complete strangers, about why I am 'still' at home, as some have put it. It leaves me in wonder as to why I feel like I have to justify myself at all. My children may be 4yrs and 5yrs now, so off to school for one of them and nearly for the other, but it certainly does not mean that I am left with nothing to do and to just swan about during the day, haha far from it! and I will remain working in our home once my 4 yr old starts school. So I am loving this series of posts, I am a Homemaker by career and I'm proud of it! Thanks Rhonda for giving me a little more inspiration, Regards, Ruth.

  4. Thank you for another wonderful post!

    Homemaking does save money. The homemaker has the time to cook from scratch and shop for bargains.

  5. Hi Rhonda, once again thanks for doing what you're doing and being such a great role model and advocate for the home maker , who ever that might be!

  6. Hi Rhonda,

    Thank you for this post. I'm sorry if I set off a firestorm, I really didn't mean to. I think I am perhaps overly sensitive to the stereotypes because I do live such an unconventional life, and because I have such unconventional roots.

    My father left his career when I was 8 and stayed at home while my stepmother was the wage earner. Although I did not live with them (I was raised by my mother) it was still a topic of much teasing and discomfort throughout my childhood. I remember being chided for having a lazy father who "did nothing but sponge off of my step mom." I finally wised up and started telling people that my Dad was "retired" instead of trying to explain the situation.

    But the truth is that my Dad remodeled their 150 year old house, tended the garden, wrote software for my step mom's business and can put anyone who thinks they are a "frugal shopper" to shame.

    I also think that women need to get over their fear of tackling what's traditionally looked on as "men's work" at home. Seriously, men don't come out of the womb with a god-given ability to use power tools. My inspiration in this realm is my best friend, who is a stay at home "wife." She's 5'3", with beautiful long hair down to her ankles, and has an extensive collection of power tools. Her husband is disabled, so she does everything around the house, which includes large remodeling jobs, electrical work and many other things we think of as "men's work."

    Anyhow, I apologize once again if I made assumptions that weren't true, and thanks again for this post.


  7. Cat, it wasn't only your comment I was referring to but I thank you for taking the time to share part of your story. It's all good, love.

  8. HI Rhonda, Thanks for the warning, I will be eagerly awaiting the next homemakers post. I find my parents and in-laws, and even our older neighbours, truely understand the value of me being a stay at home Mum. The rest who don't, I either try to explain abit of what I do or I just tell them we are interested in making a happy life not a squillion dollars. A quote that I read awhile back really struck home with me and still runs through my head quite often is:- "Don't be so busy making money that you forget to make a life."

    Hope you have a lovely day.
    Cheers, Deb

  9. I like to think I'm doing my bit to change perceptions about homemaking.
    I've gone the route of embracing the negative stereotypical terms and making them my own - you know, like how gay people and black-skinned people owned the derogatory names foisted upon them.
    I like to call myself a "general bludger".
    I kinda feel like I have a wonderful secret that only the enlightened are able to share.
    And we all know how secrets intrigue people and get them investigating further - they hate to think they are missing out on something!

  10. Thank you for your last 2 inspirational posts Rhonda...i don't often have the time to comment on blogs but you are just so helpful to me at times and i wanted you to know.
    I have been fighting off depression since having my twin girls a year ago and part of this is feeling as though i have lost my identity as i have always worked full time (apart from 6 months off when i had my now 15 yr old)I feel guilty that i no longer earn money and my partner is working such long hours yet always here for his girls and to do stuff in the yard for us. I have been feeling a little lost even though i have been guiltily enjoying getting back to being able to cook and tidy and work in the vegie patch.
    I don't always get want i want to done each day as my time is taken up with the girls but i am proud when i have been able to sew them a dress or get a homecooked meal on the table or pick all the vegies for tonights dinner from the garden.
    I think i have been dismissing these 'things' as not important and still feeling awful when people keep asking 'am i going back to work yet?'
    Your last 2 posts have helped me realise that i am playing an important role and even though we are only just scraping by i am able to be with my girls each day and embracing old skills that i thought were lost due to full time work stress and lack of time!
    The best part is my 15 yr old just sewed a skirt for herself in half an hour, helped me bake the bread and collect the eggs....things she can take with her when she leaves home, probably with Mum's favourite cookbook just like i did!
    Sorry, for such a long post, i am hoping to eventually get my own blog up and running where i can sing your praises hehe but it is another of those things i only seem to get to once a week at moment so still only a heading! But i wanted to take the time to let you know what a difference you have made to my emotional mindset over these past few isolating and tough months and these last 2 posts especially.
    Thank you for your thoughts and wisdom Rhonda xx

  11. Thank you for another great post on home making Rhonda. Thank you for your inspiration, encouragement and support. Have a lovely day. xxoo

  12. Jode, I'm really pleased you found validation in what I wrote. Don't be too hard on yourself and stay true to yourself and your values. It sounds like your family is a pretty solid unit. Stay strong, love.

  13. Thanks for the clarification Rhonda, and I apologise too for misconstruing your post. Like EcoCatLady I'm a bit too sensitive about certain things, and the issue of Children is one of them. It seems to me sometimes that people can just about accept a stay at home Mum, but the idea of a stay at home child-free wife is beyond the pale.

    A very good tip about calling utilities providers. I did that a few months back, calling our Electricity supplier. I didn't even have to switch supplier, I just suggested I might, and they offered me a 7% discount to stay with them. Of course, following all the tips about drying washing outside, bulk baking and turning off appliances means that 7% isn't much now ;-)

  14. Hi Rhonda

    I love the civility and intelligence of your readers. You are respectful, and I think that brings out the best in people. Thank you!

  15. I love to read your blog, and while I am working full time my hubby is at home dong the washing and tending to the budget! Just a note to any interested readers is that you can ask your mortgage bank to tie your mortgage into your savings account. They use that money to offset your interest and also do not charge bank charges on that account. I think most banks will do that - We are with Bendigo. I think you said Rhonda, that your mortgage is already paid off so you are still going to have to avoid that ATM as much as possible :)

  16. Thanks so much for all your posts Rhonda, although I particularly appreciate (at the moment) your posts on home-making. I am finally having to admit to myself that I have some very mixed up ideas in my head about my, and my husband's, roles.

    I am lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mum to a two-year-old boy (which has its own challenges!) while my husband is a well-paid executive - which unfortunately means he is away from home up to 13 hours a day during the week. However, I still have lingering issues with balance of who does the 'chores'! I want to be the home-maker that my grandmother was, but I still find myself resenting that I do all the cooking and cleaning...

    It is also my job to 'look after' the finances; unfortunately, this is something I really struggle with, and although hubby is well paid, it often seems like we have less money (and less to show for it) than many of our lower income friends. We do not live extravagantly, we don't buy designer clothes, but money is still a problem...

    Thank you for your thoughtful and informative posts. They are really helping me to think about my role in this house and family, and how I can make a positive difference (and set a wonderful example for my little boy).


  17. Hi Rhonda,

    I've been reading your blog for a while, and I thought it was well overdue for me to post a comment thanking you for being such an inspiration.

    My fiancé and I are both women. Next year, when we are married, I am going to stay at home as a home-maker. We plan to have children as soon as possible. The general consensus among people I've talked to is that I shouldn't quit work until I'm heavily pregnant, and that I should get back to work as soon as possible otherwise I'll financially ruin my family. The idea of me being a home-maker seems to particularly offend some of our acquaintances who think that just because we are lesbians we shouldn't want such an 'old fashioned' arrangement.

    When I as growing up, my mum was the main wage earner. My dad did a bit of teaching, but mainly stayed home to raise us kids. We had healthy home grown vegetables and eggs, beautiful home sewn clothes even when money was short, and we always had someone who would listen when we needed to talk (even if it was a 1 hour monologue about My Little Pony). Dad did a great job of making a beautiful home with very little money.

    That is what I want for my family, and that is why I want to be a home-maker. I come here each day to read your blog, and get some validation for that choice. Thank you for helping me remain excited about my future career even as it is condemned by many others as selfish, irresponsible, or not politically correct.

    Shannon B in Melbourne

  18. Shannon, I was very encouraged to read your comment. My partner and I have a 'traditional' arrangement at the moment, she works and I stay home, homeschool my kids and I am also studying. I have often wondered if people are surprised that such an 'unconventional' couple lead such a 'conventional' existence. I think we are good ambassadors for our cause, are able to thumb our noses at those who think we aren't equal and deserving of the same rights as everyone else.

    Rhonda, I really appreciate the points you addressed in your post, and am grateful for your clarifications, when you are a minority within a minority, it is nice to see some 'public' support and recognition. Thankyou.


  19. Dear Shannon and Mel, thank you for sharing parts of your stories. My beloved god-daughter, Casey, is also living with her girlfriend as an engaged couple. Casey is paraplegic and she stays at home while Kerry works. I have no doubt we will see Casey and Kerry married one day soon and I look forward to the day I can celebrate that wonderful event with them.

  20. Thank you Rhonda for these two posts. When my contract at work wasn't extended I felt bad when I couldn't contribute to the household income. Being 60 socially it was easy to "retire" but I still felt bad that my husband had to keep working past 65 because I wasn't. However I have noticed that by not working I can make it easy for him to work. If the house is clean, the chores done and he doesn't have to do anything much more than mow our pocket handkerchief lawn and sit snoozing in his chair then he is actually very happy with the arrangement. He also takes on extra work from time to time to help out at work and the overtime makes up for some of what I don't bring in. Now I have the time to be very frugal our savings are still 70% of what they used to be despite my lack of income. I also do quite a lot of family support of grand children as both parents have taken on more demanding jobs. Plus I've taken on more volunteer work.

  21. hi rhonda jean,
    you write such a positive blog for EVERYONE
    i so look forward to hearing from you each day.
    thanks for a great blog.
    enjoy the pictures of your cozy home, too!

  22. Thank you for your comment Rhonda, i didn't expect one as i know how many you receive but you have made my day x

  23. To Catherine, I use to have mixed up ideas about who does what too - then I realised my husband and I are happiest when we do what we like best.

    While I don't like cleaning, I hate a messy place more. So the thought of not having a messy place makes me happy to clean. My husband on the other hand, has less of a radar for detecting mess, LOL.

    How I have managed to get his assitance, is asking for help when I'm doing a task. I do this with our daughter too. By asking for their help, they're not doing the entire job but it gets them use to contributing more. Eventually they feel confident enough, that I see they've jumped ahead of me to complete a task, and I go, "wow, thanks so much for taking the initiative - that's really helped me out today."

    No-one likes to work alone, and perhaps that's what you're struggling with. I said to my husband once, you have a whole team at work to help meet the workload. Imagine if you had to work on your own, every day, without a single finger lifted to help you out?

    It really helped him see I wasn't just an obsessed wife about mess and who does what. It's about feeling included and being valued. He could engage on that level, because he knows how it sucks at work when people get stroppy about carrying their load too.

    Learning to work together at home (at what we are able to engage with) has actually helped him at work too. He's asking others to contribute more than they would have before, so the teamwork is branching back into the community.

    The thing about teamwork, and adult learning in general, is understanding what level people can engaged and invite them to do that part. Do this with yourself also. Find out what you like doing and ask for help with the more challenging tasks. If no-one is able to help, then decide to tackle it a piece at a time, rather than feel defeated.

    I've got a dozen tasks I've got to do today, and I'm dedicating little pieces of time here and there. The priorities get the most of my time naturally, but the rest also get a contribution. So what if I don't achieve everything today, I'm still doing what's needed. :)

  24. Good comments! I always said I am not a "housewife I am not married to a house". I am a homemaker. Did it when homemaking wasn't cool.

  25. This is a subject that is close to my heart as I've been a stay at home mum since I had my eldest. I know our choices are right for us, I know I save us a bucket load of money for everything I make from scratch, and source from different places. I know my kids are getting the best start in life that I can give them, and yet still those occasional outdated comments that will come from someone completely irrelevant (bank teller, person on the street etc) cut to the bone. I could go on and on, on this subject but won't bore you... probably should do my own post.
    Thanks for writing about this.

  26. Hey Chris - Got any suggestions on how I can get my cats to help out with the dishes? :~)

  27. I'm interested to see where your next post leads - I hope you wish to not only stretch our definitions of who can be a homemaker, but also how one can be considered a homemaker. By everything I see here it can still be possible to be called a homemaker even if necessity takes you away from the home to earn an income.

  28. I have a friend who I consider to be a great homemaker, but she doesn't do any cleaning herself and only cooks on the weekends. She outsources cooking & cleaning during the week to paid maids/domestic workers and this frees her up to do volunteer work full-time. She is the editor of a community magazine that is distributed free through sponsorship & donations & volunteer help.

    She also volunteers in other ways at her children's schools and helps friends and 'needy' people in the city.

    Her husband earns a very good salary, but he also does an extraordinary amount of volunteer work....serving on boards of charities and schools amongst other things.

    Both of them have good relationships with their 3 teenaged children and their home is a loving, caring place where many love to gather.

    This couple has a lot of money, but through wise use of it eg they rent out one large home and live in another large one, plus other investments & savings, they seem to be able to also give away a sizeable portion of it as well.

    About the only 'traditional' thing about my friend's homemaking is that her maid cooks from scratch. I doubt if there's any sewing or knitting or veggie gardening or canning going on in the household.....but I still consider her a good homemaker. One thing that she does do that is in line with recent things you've mentioned, Rhonda, is that she uses loose tea in a tea pot and a little individual strainer over her tea cup. But, that may be because she is British and loves her tea that way!

  29. Thanks Rhonda. You brought to mind my grandmother who worked so hard for us all and who I try emulate. I've had a lovely day thinking of her.

  30. LOL, Eco Catlady, I think you need an animal behaviouralist for that one. ;)

    The first hurdle you would have to clear however, is their innate fear of water.

  31. You are definitely a live and let live person, Rhonda. And a very kind and encouraging one, as well. Let no one misunderstand that. :)

  32. Rhonda Jean, I have to chime in here and say your homemaking posts are MY absolute favorite, too. We all need to stick together! And I really love the commenters' stories about all the different types of homemakers out there. For me, it really boils down to trying to keep life sane and centered around the home no matter what that looks like in each home.

    I am just now reading Shannon Hayes book, Radical Homemakers. You two are kindred spirits, and I'm in the club too. :) Thank you.

  33. I have only just started reading your blog but I am very intrigued by your views! I love how you said "A saved dollar is more than an earned dollar - your saved dollar is tax-free". So true and so often forgotten! As a stay at home mum running a business from home I feel under so much pressure to earn more but after reading that I feel like my time may be better used being frugal than working my butt off! I would much prefer to just be a stay at home mum without working!

  34. Such a mixed-up world we live in. When women had few professional choices, no one questioned that there was work in the home to be done, and that obviously someone had to do it. They may not have valued it as much as paid work, but the role and the need for it was unquestioned. Now we have choices, and the idea that anyone would choose to stay home and do those chores that magically don't get done by themselves when everyone's at work is bizarre to people. I think we may have thrown the baby out with the bath water on that one! If anyone considers themselves a feminist, then they must understand that what feminists have fought for is not the right to go to work outside the home per se, but the right (for men and women) to have choices dictated by interests and abilities, not gender. Regardless of how much my husband and I work, there are still chores to be done, and we are both too exhausted, and more interested in spending our precious off hours on other activities. My being home will change that, for both of us. I never expected to be considering a new career as a homemaker, but my body can no longer tolerate a sedentary job in front of a computer all day. I am looking forward to the work of being a homemaker, because I feel better when I'm moving in a variety of different ways, and housework certainly provides that. To me, it's not such a weird thing; there is a need for someone to be holding down the fort at home--usually it's two someones doing enough to manage, but not as much as they'd ideally prefer; some years ago, it was my husband, when he quit his job. It all makes perfect sense, if you're not hidebound by traditional gender expectations...or equally stuck in being in opposition to them.

    I just found your blog, Rhonda, as I was looking for resources as I make this transition. I really enjoy what you have to say, and the information you share. Thank you.

  35. You are amazing Rohonda. Thanks for being you AND sharing the you with all of us. You help me grow with almost every post.

  36. Thank you Rhonda for another wonderful post. Although I cannot yet afford to become a full time homemaker, I'm following your advice in many subjects and am trying to live a more sensible and sustainable life. I would like to tell you that I tried your recipe for laundry detergent (it was very hard to get the ingredients as Borax and Washing Soda are unknown in my country and many online suppliers don't ship these products abroad, but I finally found a pharmacy that was willing to get this for me from their supplier. Soap flakes can't be found either but that was easy, I just grated a bar of soap). And I love this detergent! It's as good or even better than the (quite expensive) one I used to buy and so much cheaper! Thank you so much for your guidance and support.

  37. I was amused this week when my female housemate, my teenage daughter and me were out fencing the paddock for our new house cow, while my husband was inside cleaning and looking after the children. Since he has almost no interest in farm or garden work, he's taken over most of the house work while I'm the farmer (and the cook/food planner). Our household gets by happily with people doing either what they love or what they dislike least, irrespective of gender or expectations.

  38. Dear Rhonda

    As a 52 year old bloke, I'm also a new Dad with a 5 year boy, and a 2 and a half year old daughter.

    My partner is a health professional who works in the public sector and in her own private practice.

    In the last few months, I've reduced my wage-earning hours to 3 days a week. This is principally to be available for our daughter Gracie, who has generalised developmental delay due to a Chromosome 18 disorder.

    Before Gracie came along, we had already started to make changes - by moving to a smaller house, riding our bikes for daily transport, cutting down on our consumerist lifestyle, and so on.

    But just recently I have tried to embrace more and more the notion of being the 'housekeeper', by seeking more responsibility for keeping a home: the cooking, cleaning, caring of the kids - just trying to effectively and warmly run the house.

    I'm not there yet, as my partner will attest, but I'm still trying.

    I even bought a CWA Cookbook the other day! A great book of not only recipes, but housekeeping hints as well.

    Thank you for your post.

    All the best


  39. Love this post Rhonda thank you, very timely for me, and I also love the comments, equally so! I can relate to so much of what people are so intelligently sharing regarding identity, resentment, roles.....I have been so confused as I've transitioned from independent working woman to stay at home mummy and as I commented on your first "power career" post, I am now finding my glad to have found you as a resource as I continue down my homemaker path! Can't wait for your next post! :)

  40. I have often thought that working actually costs money. There is day care for the children, a work wardrobe, fast meals in the form of packaged food purchased, or eating out because of lack of time. Staying home, or working from home, can, as you point out, actually save money. It is scary at first giving up a good paycheck, but soon you find that the paycheck really wasn't necessary and your family is actually happier.


  41. Thanks for refocusing my thoughts. My hubby and I have had an expensive year by our standards, improving our home and buying things we want and need including a new car. Next year, I need to live a bit more simply by focusing on the needs. I'll come back and read this post when I need to remember the important stuff. Thanks.

  42. I work and my husband stays at home caring for our daughter. We evenly split some duties like cleaning the apartment, but I am in charge of finances and cooking because I am much better at it than he is. That means a lot of packaged food because he doesn't want to cook from scratch and I choose not to spend my weekends cooking meals for the family for the whole week.

    For us, his job is caring for our daughter (and in the spring we'll add a son to the mix). The other homemaking duties you listed in this post and the last aren't part of his job, in our household.

    I do wonder what it would be like if they were. :)


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