11 October 2011

Homemaking - the power career

I received an email from a young married woman in her late 20s the other day. She is trying to decide whether to give up a career in teaching to have children and be a stay at home wife. She said her main problem is that she has doubts about being at home, thinks she'll become bored and she won't be as fulfilled as she is now. I told her to stay in her job until she's sure she wants to have children; being a stay-at-home mum is sometimes a difficult and challenging job but if approached with the right mindset, can be enriching and would probably change her in many significant ways. I also told her to read today's post.

I think the traditional view of homemaking is that it is a fairly menial job, one that doesn't take much thought and comes with no power and few opportunities. From where I stand now, I think that view is rather dated, if it ever was true to begin with; from where I stand now, homemaking is a power career. As the homemaker, you are responsible for the health and well being of your family. It's the homemaker's job to look after the family assets, to set up a household budget and use the family income to pay for everything they need. If that is done well, the savings can be used for the betterment of the family - in paying off debt, or for education, travel or hobbies.

If I were coming to homemaking at this moment for the first time, I would see it as a great opportunity to create a decent, warm, comfortable home for myself and my family. I'd take advantage of every spare moment to skill myself in the areas in which I was lacking and I'd welcome the opportunity to organise my home in a way that would help me work and facilitate the home production of many of the products I used to buy.

If I were moving into a new home, I'd want a larder or pantry, a separate laundry room, a sewing and craft room that also held the ironing station as well as plenty of outdoor space for a vegetable garden, fruit orchard, chickens and maybe some bees. Mind you, I pretty much just described what I have here in my own home, so I'm on a pretty good thing and I'm happy to say I'm making the most of it. Men have their sheds where they store their tools, fix the lawn mower and the kids bikes; it's where they can work with their tools close by, have suitable work benches that help them carry out the jobs they tackle. Women's sheds are their homes - we have to see our homes as not only a place to relax and nurture our families, but also our work place, where we use the time we have to produce the needs of the family. I make bread, soap, laundry liquid, snacks like crackers, cakes and biscuits, wholesome food, jams and marmalades, I make cordial in summer from the fruits we grow in the backyard, I freeze and bottle excess vegetables and fruits. For all those tasks, I need various spaces that help me do my best work and where I can set up for some jobs that may take longer than a day. I sew, mend, knit and write and for those activities, I need a working space; a place where I can think, work creatively and where I can piece together bits of fabric that become larger and useful items, or words and phrases that become blog posts, articles and books. My workspace is in one of the old bedrooms. Our house was not set up like this when we moved in, we changed it to suit how we live and work. And it's changed more than once, it changes to suit our interests and the work being done.

One of the first important tasks for any new homemaker is to organise their working space. Take control of your home and your time, don't be afraid to change things that don't suit the way you work or the type of work you do. If you're living in a newly built home, you might find their won't be enough storage space, so you might need to find some old cupboards for your stockpile and your cleaning ingredients. If you're living in an older home, you may need to open up spaces and let in more light. If there is nothing stopping you modifying your home to better suit your family and your work, get to it, make the spaces inside your home the places where you work to your potential.

Most of us do a large portion of our work in the kitchen - so organising that space to best suit the type of cooking we do will make working in the kitchen easier. We also do laundry, so clear the decks and organise the laundry with your homemade laundry liquids and the ingredients for making it, your soaps and ingredients, a rag bag to hold your recycled cleaning rags as well as an area where you can soak stained clothing and store the ironing board.

Many of the older readers here would know that I don't consider craft to be a hobby. For me it's part of my housework. I sew, mend and knit so we have good quality and long wearing scarves, cardigans, jumpers, hats, dishcloths, tablecloths and napkins. I see that as part of my homemaker's work, not a hobby. Back in my great grandmothers' day, making clothing and woollens for the family was part of almost every women's home tasks. Somehow those tasks where either moved to become separate hobbies or were not done at all. They still hold an important place here, I still do all of them, still enjoy them, and they're a part of my work.  

I see homemaking as a dynamic, vital, engaging, interesting, powerful and creative career. It's a career that offers you the freedom to organise your own hours and do your tasks at your own rate. Of course there is no pay, but if you do it well, you'll be paid back in satisfaction and the knowledge that your family thrives because of the work and effort you put into them and home.  Never be afraid of work. Yes, it's wonderful to be able to take time out to sit and relax, but rest is appreciated so much more when it's balanced by tasks completed. Sitting around all day is overrated. Work is where we find ourselves and the reward for that hard work is a strong character, a wonderful family and a comfortable home.

If you're a full-time homemaker by choice or circumstance, never let anyone tell you that working in your home, cooking for your family, sewing and knitting, cleaning your nest and organising the lives of your family is not important work. Sure it can be tiring at times, all jobs are, but from where I stand, in my grandmothering years, I know that I have done my best work here at home. I'm just an ordinary woman and I don't know much, but this I know, with certainty, when you actively take control of your life and your home, when you plan and make decisions and don't leave things to chance, you will be paid back in ways you never expected. Take control, plan your work spaces, organise your family and your work and then sit back to enjoy the fruits of all that with the people you love. But don't expect it to be perfect, learn from your mistakes and celebrate your successes.  It's that simple.

This is a big topic and I've already taken up too much of your time today, so I'll continue tomorrow to talk about the financial side of homemaking. I hope you have a lovely day - enjoy your work whether it be in the home or somewhere else.

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