30 April 2012

Finding your value at home - Part 1

Last week I received an email from Joannie who said: "After listening to you on the radio and checking out your blog I then bought your book and as a result my family has named me the domestic godess!. Why? I have created a stockpile of groceries, made my own soap, baked my own sourdough bread, made muffins and slices instead of buying pre-packaged snacks, I have made my own cleaners and as of this afternoon I preserved my first ever jar of capsicums in fact that was my first preserved anything! ...  Another amazing positive has come out of this…..we have cut our grocery bill in half!!!!!! WOW truly something I never thought possible as I didn’t think I wasted money and always tried to buy things on sale, this demonstes the benefits of buying in bulk.

"The feeling this has given me is indescribable, I have always struggled with not being in the paid work force but being able to provide for my family and learning to live simply has given me empowerment, I can finally say, I am now so proud of what I do. My children are learning to make cleaners and preserve goods, bake from scratch and have a simple eye and ask themselves can we live without that? My daughter took it upon herself to make a lemon slice from scratch and take it to elderly neighbors and friends, my 12 year old son made his own bread and I overheard him reciting recipes to his 26 year old aunt who can’t yet cook. These small things make me proud of my job as I have two gorgeous offspring who are learning skills for life."

That is the kind of empowerment I hoped to relay through the pages of my book and I'm so pleased it reached out to at least one family.We've all heard the stories of friends and neighbours being unkind when they know a former paid worker has decided to stay at home to manage the home. That negativity can transfer to the new homemaker and be a small seed of self-doubt that can build into something destructive.

When I first started working in my home as a homemaker, after many years of being in the workforce, I felt no shame or that I was doing less than I should be doing. I'm intelligent, I have a degree, I've been successful in several areas and I knew when I came home, I'd made the right choice for me. None of my friends questioned my decision - they either understood I had decided to change for my own reasons or they realised that criticism would flow off me like water off a duck's back. For whatever reason, I heard nothing. However, I couldn't find any other women who were doing what I was doing and being satisfied by it.

During those first weeks, I wasn't sure what to expect. Either from myself, my home or from my own emotions. I knew this was where I wanted to be and I hoped I would enjoy being here. What I didn't expect was to feel powerful and more alive than I'd felt in years. To know that I could structure my day however I wanted it to be after years of fitting into a commercial environment and working to deadlines, well, that alone made me believe I could fly. I didn't have to do anything, and yet I wanted to do everything. There were so many possibilities in front of me! I felt like I'd really found my home. Over the months that followed, I taught myself as much as I could. I read about cleaning, brushes, microfibre, chemicals, preserving, nourishment, making cheese and bread, home maintenance, productive organic gardens and many other things. The more I read, the more I remembered from my upbringing when my grandma washed her dishes at a stone sink and my mother boiled sheets in a copper boiler. We are not so far from that past time; it happened in my lifetime in Sydney. Life has changed so fast.

It made me realise I had a rich heritage, not in money and possessions, but in how to build a strong family and how to look after them well. I came from a family of hard workers, prime homemaking stock, and that made me really proud. When my friends asked what I was doing, I proudly told them I'd made a new kind of bread or sewn some baby clothes or bought more chickens. I was doing important work and I wanted everyone to know it. This was not anything to feel ashamed of and I was not going to keep quiet about it. I searched for an Australian book on the subject and couldn't find any, so I wrote my own book. I felt that if others didn't know about the beauty that is lurking in every home, they should be made aware of it. I kept hearing that women who chose homemaking as a career were downtrodden and miserable but I had lived on both sides of the working track and I knew that working in my home opened up possibilities for me, it was my liberator. I wasn't disadvantaged and powerless at home, I was thriving.

What I had found was a way to bypass going to work to earn money by using the money we had available in a more sensible way. If I made my own products, not only did I have better quality, they were healthier, cheaper and more environmentally friendly. By working in my home I had the time to shop for bargains and to use everything I had to it's full value. By working at home as if it were my career, I'd opened up a different kind of future for myself - one where I felt valued and creative and where anything was possible.

When I looked around to assess after my first year at home I realised I was doing meaningful work, I was making a difference and the home where I used to rush in and out of had become a comfortable oasis in a sea of outside craziness. I read about women criticising other women for staying at home - bored housewives sitting in front of the computer or TV all day with nothing to do - none of that came close to what was actually happening in my home. I'm not sure why women criticise other women. Working life can be difficult for all of us and it's not right to attack others to make yourself feel better. That kind of behaviour is new to me. We didn't do that to each other when I was much younger. Back then, at least where I lived, other women were seen as friends, not competitors. We respected each other and the decisions we made.

This post is getting to be a long one and I still have a lot on my mind, so I'll continue this tomorrow when I talk about making that transition from work to home and self reliance. I know there are a lot of women and men out there that struggle with this. I successfully made that transition and I'm glad I did. I am happier now than I've ever been. Find out why tomorrow.

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