Housework - because I want to and I like it

15 January 2013
We had to leave very early for the hospital yesterday so I didn't have time to finish my blog. But I have good news! Hanno's angiogram showed a couple of small problems but nothing to be too concerned about. He has some "wall damage", a complete blockage in one tiny vessel that goes no where and a 30% blockage in a larger blood vessel. It can all be treated with medication. Hanno started back on his warfarin last night along with the new pill which he takes once a day. He goes back for a checkup in March. So, angiogram tick, let's move on with renewed hope and confidence. 

Thank you all for you good wishes, prayers, comments and emails. I am sure I have the loveliest and most caring readers on the internet. 

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I received this email recently, thought it was a great topic to discuss, replied to the sender to watch for an answer on the blog, copied the email here, deleted the email, and forgot to ask her if it is okay to use her real name. So, as I'm not sure, let's say this email is from "Mary".

I enjoyed your recent post about homemaking in later life, but I have a question about homemaking for younger people. You speak a lot about being a mother and grandmother, and about how that fits into being a homemaker. My question for you is what do you consider the role of a homemaker who does not want children? My husband has a construction company, and I take care of the paperwork. We have recently sold our company to a larger company, and he will be going to work for them in the new year. His work frequently takes him out of town during the week, and brings him home on the weekends. People are asking me what am I going to do now that I don't have the business to take care of. Many people know that I don't wish to have children, and seem to feel that there's no need for me to stay at home if I'm not a) going to have kids or b) do the paperwork for the company, especially since my husband works out of town. I am feeling frustrated because people don't seem to understand and I'm not sure how to get my point across to them, that working in my home is giving me joy and fulfillment. The people questioning me are people I care about and respect, who care about me as well, so I don't feel comfortable ignoring their questions. I'd like to be able to have a productive conversation but am finding that I can't come up with something better than "because I want to and I like it." Do you have any advice about how I can explain my role as a homemaker, without kids, with an out of town husband and no "real job" to do at home?

Let me start by stating I am proudly working class. I love my work and I think work makes us the people we are. However, I don't believe that paid work is more valuable than other types of work - house work, voluntary work, education and study, being a parent or a carer, or any other type of work. Paid work is necessary for most of us, but the work that really contributes to our well being and mental health is the work done at home, by men and women, to make a comfortable and welcoming home, keep costs down and to increase self-reliance. That is hands-on work where you see a result for your efforts every day. Paid work is necessary to buy or rent a home to live in, to buy food and clothing but apart from the minority of people who love their jobs and couldn't think of doing anything else, most people work because they have to. 


There is a large group of us who have recognised that paid work is not the reason for being; it is what enables us to live how we choose. When we have worked enough to acquire what we need, we can cut back on the amount of paid work we do and just live - doing those things that make us happy. There is no point in working just to accumulate money. When you have what you need - a roof over your head, clothing, food, and the things you enjoy around you, what is the point of working more. Our society seems to celebrate young entrepreneurs who make a lot of money and retire early to enjoy life. They ignore people who work in a way that allows them to do that without making a lot of money. Why is that? If you don't want to buy into the conspicuous consumption model we have lived with in the past 30 years, why wouldn't you recognise your own level of "enough" and then stop paid work to enjoy what you've worked for? 


I have no doubt there will be people who read this post today and know they will never have the opportunity to leave work - they're providing for small children, disabled or sick relatives or have been left with debt. There will be others who don't want to leave paid work. That is their interest. It engages and satisfies them and they enjoy meeting their colleagues every working day. 

And we have many people like Mary. 


Mary, it sounds to me like you've reached your level of "enough". Your husband is bringing in a wage and that is sufficient for both of you to enjoy what you have and to be confident that your savings and investments will see you through. It's irrelevant that you have no children, if you decide to be a homemaker, if you have enough work to keep you active both mentally and physically (and most of us do), if you enjoy time spend on domestic and creative activities, then you're in the right place and you're doing what enriches you. 


I think your job as a homemaker should be whatever you choose to include in your life. Even though you're much younger than I am, your role could be very similar to mine, which is to care for the home, to shop mindfully, to cook healthy food, to clean clothes and linens, to tend the garden, to mend, recycle and repair. To me, that's work; enjoyable work. You'll have your own routine and you'll be baking most days, cooking from scratch, making green cleaners, soap, laundry products, knitting dishcloths, mending clothes, storing food and you'll be doing it all in your own time. You're totally in charge of how you spend your hours and when you look back at the end of the day, you'll feel satisfied that you've done what you needed to do and you'll look forward to doing similar tasks tomorrow. 


I don't know when we moved from working because we had to, to working because we're expected to, but it happened along the way. If you don't do your work at home, who does it? You pay others to cook for you in the form of convenience food, frozen and packaged foods and takeaways, you buy products are are inferior to those you can make yourself, you buy new clothes because you can't make minor repairs, your home suffers if it's not maintained. I think it makes more sense, if there is enough money coming in, for someone to be at home, whether they're looking after children or not. I don't understand the mentality that says we all have to work so we have enough money to buy everything we need and then have no personal input into our own lives at all. It makes more sense to me to have someone at home who can customise the home to suit those living there. And that is not menial work - it is blessing to everyone who lives there, including the person who does the work. 


Mary, I love your explanation: because I want to and I like it. That should be all you need say. You're living the life you want to live. You don't have to conform to anyone else's standards or ideals, and you don't have to be having babies and looking after children to justify your home work. But I understand you want to explain to those you love so why don't you start by saying: "I don't have to work because we have enough. I stay at home because I want to and I like it." And then go on to tell them what it is you do at home, how you save money in a variety of ways, how you have the time to create and tend a vegetable garden and how you're enriched by what you do. Maybe those who are questioning you really have forgotten that this is how we all used to live before paid work became such a dominant force.