9 September 2010

Passing on what we know

We all use different clocks. Ours at home is more a seasonal time-frame, or one that revolves around meals and sleep patterns, whereas the business clock is run to the financial year and revolves around nine-to-five and the weekend - that great payoff for putting in time during the week. We have different holidays too. In the business world, time is set aside for employees to have annual leave/vacation. There is a complete break away from the normal day to day tasks of the work place. Time is spent recovering from the past year and getting ready for the year ahead. At home, it's a different story. There are no weekends, no after hours, no over time, no vacation or annual leave. Oh, and did I mention, no pay either.

I used to be a nurse, then I got a degree in journalism, literature and communication and became a writer. I worked as a journalist and technical writer during the 20 years before I 'retired'. I firmly believe that training is required for all work, particularly those vocations that require judicious decision making, consistently good outcomes and high standards. We would never expect a doctor to perform surgery without training and practice, and we don't want accountants without training advising banks and businesses. Yet we seem to be fine expecting our younger generations to be raised by people who aren't trained. That training was once done on the job by mothers and older women, now, on the larger scale, that has disappeared. We expect consistently good outcomes and high standards from each successive generation, but we are failing now, more than ever, to support the work of those young mothers and fathers who stay at home to raise our future citizens. Oh, and did I mention, we don't pay them either.

I don't expect to be paid to stay at home and I think it's a silly notion to believe that a country can support such community welfare payments for SAHM and Ds. It would send most countries broke. But I do expect a certain amount of training to be available to those women and men who decide against a paid career and seek instead to stay at home, teach their children, shop for bargains, mend and sew, and generally do anything to scrape the money together to do it. There used to be a subject at taught at schools called 'home economics'. It was a training in cooking and home management with a little child care thrown in. That was offered in the times when mothers still passed on that information to their daughters. Now, when the motherly teaching of the art of homemaking has all but vanished completely, and when it's needed more than ever, home economics is no where to be seen. A prime example of if we don't talk about it, it doesn't exist.

Well, there is an elephant in this room, ladies and gentlemen. It's the generations of children being raised without knowing how to cook or clean, let alone make a budget or bake a loaf of bread. When they leave school and have their own money, instead of saving money for a home, they have to spend most of it buying already made food to eat and chemical cleaners that poison the air all of us breathe. They don't know that soap or vinegar or bicarb could clean almost everything. They think they have to spend money to buy everything they need to live. It is not their fault, but all of us, ALL of us, suffer because of it.

Where are the responsible governments who even though they insist on training for all manner of jobs, turn their backs on this as if it doesn't mean anything. Many local governments now are teaching water harvesting, organic gardening and how to raise chickens. Why don't they see the need for cooking from scratch classes, mending and sewing, and how to raise children? And where are all the older generations who should have been passing on their knowledge? Those older women and men who would, in the past, mentor, guide and teach? Where are our role models? All we have now are vacuous celebrities who seem to be even more useless than the rest of us. I couldn't care less if THE wedding is on or off or if that was really cocaine in her bag, I want real life, I want my grandchildren and their grandchildren to know how to live well and I want home economics back in the classrooms.

I want people to care.

At my Frugal Home workshop the other day, the ladies thanked me for sharing my knowledge. I appreciated the thanks but I asked them to step up themselves and talk about what they're doing and teach what they know about. We all have that responsibility, especially those of us who wish for a better world. We are the ones who have to start sharing what we know and being part of a world wide solution. If we want a world full of thriving sustainable communities, we need to help create them. Governments rarely lead, they follow and they do what we demand of them. Demand this.

I have no doubt that learning the skills of simple living can help heal those parts of our world that suffered through the economic crisis. Slowing down, living within our means, being genuine people, living deliberately and sharing whatever it is we can teach is a significant and radical first move for all of us. If you want mothers to pass on knowledge again, if you want fathers to be the kind of role model that children respect and want to emulate, then you need to lead them to it. All of us, not just me or you, but all of us, share this responsibility. We need to share our skills and knowledge with our younger generations and by doing so, hopefully we'll get back to caring, safe, supportive and happy neighbourhoods again.

Do you know of schools that still teach life skills, particularly home economics? I'm very keen to get a conversation going about how we pass on what we know to others. Are you doing it? if so, how? Please share your thoughts on this important subject.

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