1 May 2012

Finding your value at home - part 2

I received a followup email from Joannie that said: "I have a girlfriend only 18months younger than myself (I’m 36) who has two gorgeous boys aged nearly three and 14months. She has been making the difficult decision as to whether to return to paid work after her second round of maternity leave. She was telling me she feels so torn about wanting to raise her boys herself rather than grandparents or child care but she’s struggling to deal with her feelings of “not contributing to the home financially”. We have been discussing this in great detail and I’ve been left feeling how sad that Mothers or Fathers that don’t re-enter paid work force are left feeling guilty and unworthy. As if what they do each day is not important or valued anymore.

Not contributing to the home financially! That makes my blood boil. When you leave the workforce to work at home, it is your job to manage the home with the money available to you. What is careful shopping for bargains, meal planning, stockpiling, making green cleaners, baking bread, making soap, cooking from scratch, recycling, mending, buying in bulk, caring for children? What are all these things if not contributing to the financial viability of the home? There is more than one way to contribute. Homemakers work as part of a team - there is a homemaker and a breadwinner. Both equally important. They can be a male homemaker and female breadwinner, or the other way around, they can be the same sex. One makes the money, the other uses it wisely to care for the family and pay the bills. If we don't value these partnerships of one breadwinner and one homemaker or two breadwinners who are part-time homemakers, then we lose out as a society.  Our countries are populated by families with children who raise those children to take on the role of breadwinners and homemakers when it comes to be their time. We are not a solely a commercial enterprise. We are not working primarily to keep the country going, although that is a valuable side benefit, we're working to provide a good life for our families. We have a human component that is vital and without it we fail - morally and commercially.

Never forget that a dollar saved is better than a dollar earned - you do not pay tax on a saved dollar.

 Opa and Jamie having breakfast on the weekend. Jamie was happy, he had his banana and his favourite gorilla toy.

I challenge all the homemakers here to record the savings they make over the course of a month. There will be savings, I have no doubt. Work out also how much it would cost to return to the work force - in work clothes, transport, lunches, haircuts, everything. When you add child care costs into that equation, often it doesn't make financial sense to go back to work. When it does, the benefits of parents rearing their own children should be considered along with whether both parents want to work. In some families, both parents want to work, in some both parents need to work. In other families, a decision is made that one will go out to work and one will stay home to work. All decisions are valid for their own reasons and no one has the right to say that the decision someone else makes to work at home or in the workforce is not right, or not enough. We can all help this along. Stop judging others on the choices they make. I support homemakers, I support women who have to work and who choose to work. I support all women. I hope you can too. If you're in work at home or in the workforce, respect the choices other women make, even if you don't agree or understand it. Everyone has their own story, and you never know how destructive your words might be. Either offer your encouragement, or say nothing.

Enough chocolate chip biscuits were baked to do us through the week and to package up a few for visitors to take home.

So, let's get back to the subject at hand. If you do decide to stay at home, make the conscious decision that your career is working in your home. Homemaking is your new job. Learn as much as you can about what you need and want to do - there is no one size fits all in this, each one of us is different. Manage your family like a little business, you'll need to have short term plans, long term plans, work to a budget and look after your assets. This is real work and often you'll develop self reliance along with all the other skills you develop at home. And that, my friends, is a wonderful thing that will help you all through your life.

When you decide to work in your home full time, often you may have to spend sometime moving things around to better suit how you will work. Modern homes and renovated home are usually set up more for entertaining than for home production and family life. At the very least you should set up your kitchen to suit how you work but if that works well, maybe you can move and rejig how the rest of the house works for you too. Forget about what others are thinking - live as you wish, develop your skills and your self confidence and become more self reliant. There is no greater gift you can give to a child than to be there, to express love and support and to show them that the life you've built makes you happy. If you can do that, you'll be a fine role model along with being a fine parent.

One of our Barnevelders perching on top of the tap!

Never let anyone demean the work you do at home. If you have small children, what better work could you have than to guide them, teach them, protect them and to show them, by example, how wonderful life can be? The home is the best place to learn life skills and to pass what you learn on to your children. As children grow, they still need you as their guiding light. Teenagers will benefit from knowing you're there when they come home from school. Giving them your time, in addition to your never ending love, is the best investment in their future.

Own your life.  What you do everyday is so important. Every one of those days make up your life. Your daily work will help define the person you become so whether you're the manager of a dozen employees or the homemaking mother/father of two or ten, put your best into every day so that you get its full value. If you can find a good balance between work and the time to enjoy what you work for, you'll be in the best position.

ADDITION: My thanks to Madge who sent this newspaper clipping relating to this post. Thanks Madge.

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