6 January 2013

Is homemaking different for men?

I was going to resurrect some old posts while I was away but I forgot all about it until now. I hope you enjoy this old boy - it's from last December. I'll be back tomorrow with my first new post of the year.   :- )


I received this email from a reader last week and I have to admit I'd not really given the topic much thought until then.

"I was recently introduced to your blog by my husband and his mate, who has been a big fan for a while (they made your laundry detergent on the weekend!). I was wondering if you could do a blog about husbands being the homemaker instead of the wife? My husband is about to leave his stressful job in the new year and is so excited about being at home with the chooks and veggies, but I am wondering how different it will be having a male do the job.

I doubt there are big differences in how house work is done by women and men. The homemaker is the one who makes most of the decisions about how tasks are carried out, what products are bought, what food is eaten, how the cleaning is done, what kind of garden is grown, how to deal with household waste, and how much daily work can be done. The person who will do the work must make those important decisions. I think the differences are less about gender and more about values and the willingness and ability to do the work. Choosing what elements will take you to another level, like whether to add livestock, whether solar panels and water harvesting play a part, how much is enough for the both of you, and taking daily steps towards prudent spending and careful saving and how quickly debt will be paid off - they are usually joint decisions. 

If you're aiming to live as we do, there will be a period of adjustment as he transitions from a stressful job to more relaxed, but never-ending, work at home. He will have to learn the skills he doesn't have now but as long as the motivation to live this way is there, generally that makes you spring out of bed each morning because every day is part of a plan that will make your life better. You have control of your life.

I have no idea how skilled your husband is in the tasks he'll need to carry out, or whether he can cook, clean or grow food. I would suggest if he's just starting out that he does a skills audit. You could help him with it. If he can't cook he needs some good books - I suggest the Common Sense Cookbook for the very basics and The Thrifty Kitchen and The Real Food Guide for interesting recipes with an eye on creativity and frugality. Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting by Lyn Bagnall is an excellent vegetable gardening book, and for a good chook book - I recommend Backyard Poultry - Naturally by Alanna Moore, you can get that at Green Harvest (on my side bar). Once he gets the basics under his belt, he can explore food storage, cob ovens, fermenting, preserving, dehydrating and many other old skills. For that he'll need The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency by John Seymour, which is his original book you might be able to buy second-hand, or if you can't find that The New Complete Book of Self Sufficiency, which is still on sale.

Your husband will have to consciously focus on jobs he doesn't like doing. Cleaning the toilets and mending clothes are as much a part of homemaking as the wonderful and enriching jobs like growing food and caring for chooks. There is an element of mental strength needed to be a full time homemaker. He will have the obvious questions from friends and family and he has to do most of the work, whether he wants to or not. From January on, his job is to shop for bargains, clean the home, cook, grow, preserve and whatever else you both decide you want in your lives. He will be in charge of driving your home life to where you both want it to be. That might be a simplified and mindful eco-home in the inner city or it could be a suburban home with a a little farm in the backyard, just like our place. Both are possible, many other types of homes are too. You will have to decide what you'll do in the home. Just like men who work full time away from the home need to take up a fair share of the work when they're home, you will have to do the same. You'll be the breadwinner, he'll be the homemaker. Both those jobs need to be done well but it doesn't mean he does all the work, it means you work together on your shared goals. You'll have to sort that out. Decide what you can do and are willing to do in the evenings and weekends and then do it consistently and in the knowledge that in addition to the money you bring in, you are making practical contributions to the life you're building together.

Deciding to live a more simple life is a big decision. It is for any couple. But it can work well and it's the best way to get some balance in your lives. Life should not mean accruing debt and then working till you drop to pay it off. If you work at it, it can be a beautiful balance of work, enjoyment and real living. It's not always easy, there are days when you wonder why you're shelling the fifth kilo of peas. There will also be days when you may want to be the homemaker or he wants to go back to work. That's normal - just work through those difficult days and the shared joy of a simple life will return.

I admire you both. There is a common view now that there must be a double income to support today's way of living. But there is a more unusual and enriching way to live. It involves hard work and the ability to step away from convenience and having many of the things that your friends might have. But if you can do it the rewards are significant and life changing. The daily work you do shapes the people you will become; you've already started that process simply by making the decision to start. So hang on to your hats, you are in for the ride of your lives.

And while I'm on the subject of men, I know there are many of you who read here. I get emails from some of you. I would love you to start commenting more. This is not a women's topic, it's a human topic - it's life. I am sure the women would love to read your point of view and it would help you connect with the other men here. We are all just sharing our own experiences, share yours too.


See you all tomorrow!

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