21 March 2013

Homemaking - the power career

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16 AUGUST 2010

I have just finished reading Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes, which was kindly lent to me by my friend and fellow radical homemaker, Sonya, from Permaculture Pathways. I enjoyed the book, and although I was radicalised many years ago and am already doing much of what the book is about, I did get a strong message from it - we need to stand up, be proud of our lives and talk to others about how we live and why we live this way. We need to develop small communities of like minded souls so that what we are doing becomes a common way of being. If we all do that, hopefully those small communities become bigger and young people will learn that having one partner stay at home to keep house, raise children, shop wisely and manage the income, is a valid, significant and acceptable way of living. And not to leave anyone out of this revolutionary equation, those single people, the divorced, widowed and never married out there who work a paid job and who live as simply as they can while they do it, they need to spread their message too. We all need to be role models and show that living a simpler life brings much more than a clean home, connected children, nutritious food and no debt; it brings contentment and enrichment with it, and it is a career.

I have had three careers - I was a nurse, a writer and now I'm a homemaker/housewife. Writing that sentence has highlighted to me just one of the hurdles we face - that of language. When I was a nurse and a writer, everyone knew what those terms meant; with homemaker or housewife they don't. Homemaker is more an American term than an Australian one, and housewife is old fashioned and implies that everyone is married. We need to coin a term that accurately describes this work we do and we need to realise that even though work at home is unpaid work, it has value and it contributes to our countries wealth. I really dislike those terms that make light of our work - domestic goddess, home engineer etc, we need something substantial that describes, in general terms, what we actually do. I do like the term homemaker because it could mean just about anything that is done at home, but I also like home worker.

We all need to help change the perception that happiness is gained by buying it, that economies should grow at the expense of their people and that stepping back from the mainstream idea of buying more than we need, with money we don't have, is a hippy fantasy. And on the more positive side, we need to show our younger people that living this way is empowering, engaging and revolutionary. At the moment young people see staying at home as a drudgery. They have to clean and cook, look after children, and sometimes frail parents, and when the only knowledge you have of those tasks is what is seen on TV or advertising, you start to understand what a negative perception there is in the community about working at home.

We have to show that working at home gives us freedoms that paid work rarely offers. Imagine your first day at a paid job. You're given a range of tasks to do, a time limit in which to do them and standards to meet. All the time someone is watching you, making sure you do everything according to their plan. Now imagine your first day in your new home. You have already talked about your values and needs with your partner, so you set about setting up routines and learning new skills that will support your visions. The sky is the limit. You may do your work to your own rhythm and to whatever standard you set yourself.

You start taking control of your home - this is not a place where you just spend time waiting for your partner to return home. This, my friends, is a work in progress, a place that you want to spend time in, you want to make beautiful, safe and comfortable. You want to create a home that will nurture those who live there and that provides a warm and welcoming feeling to those who visit. You decide on a plan that will see you use your home and the land it sits on to help you live. You decide to grow organic vegetables and fruit in the backyard, get a few chickens, make a worm farm, or keep bees. You want to live an environmentally sound life, to eat organic food, or at the very least, the freshest food you can. You decide to learn as much as possible to cut the cost of living in this healthier and organic way so you set about learning how to make soap, laundry powder, bread, jams, relishes, sauces, and pasta. You start mending torn clothes and household linens, then progress to making gifts and simple clothes for the children, you start knitting and crocheting with natural fibres. In short, you take your new life as the positive empowering career it is and run with it. You make the most of what you have and you reduce your impact on your environment while doing it.

Sure, I agree, no one wants to clean toilets or dirty nappies/diapers, but look at the alternative. Do you want to use a dirty toilet or have your baby unhappy and uncomfortable? Every job has parts that we don't like doing, life is not always about what we want to do. We need to step up to all our tasks - enjoyable and not so enjoyable, just do them and then get back to the rest of it.

I have already seen changes happening. More people are cooking and gardening now than in the past. There has been a revival in home crafts, sewing and knitting. More people are understanding that debt is a life sapping burden and working actively to paid of their debts. Many beneficial things are happening, but we need to drive this along and we need to talk about our lives in a positive way to show others that working in our homes helps build good lives. That might be evident to us but to the general population, it isn't. Let's start talking about the happiness that lies waiting when we live this way and let's show, by example, that housework rewards us with homes we want to spend time in. Stop talking about housework as if it's the last thing you'd want to spend your time on, discover the good in what you do and highlight it. Let's start supporting other women and men in the work they do, no matter what it is, unpaid or paid. We can change things if we start with our own front door and work our way out. Gentle reminders about our way of life, speaking up when we heard someone complaining about housework, writing about this on our blogs, all these things will help make a difference. All it takes is that a lot of us start doing it.

I am doing a soap making class at my neighbourhood centre next month and I'm continuing with my frugal home workshops but I'm also going to think about how I can engage with the young people at our Flexischool and talk with them about this. What will you do? Do you have any great ideas that we could all use to help show that housework is not only radical, empowering and enjoyable, it is also a career? If so, please share.



  1. A long time ago, I decided that I could never be satisfied living my life the way I want to if I kept looking to other people to give my life value or if I needed them to be supportive of my choices as an individual. So I stopped doing that. It's lovely to find others who have a similar kind of lifestyle, not for the affirmation, but for the quiet smile it brings.

  2. I enjoyed this post, especially at this stage of my homemaking journey. I've been at home ten years now, but my youngest child is four, and I'm beginning to get all the 'when are you going to go back' questions. There are very few people here who understand why I plan on staying right where I am. It's nice to read this today & remember how important this work truly is. I'm going to dig out 'Radical Homemakers' and re-read it as well - such an affirming, lively book.

  3. I hope the foot is healing Rhonda, take care & rest up, it's a good time to do all the darning, knitting & reading, Deb M

  4. I think I'd like to read this book. Thank you for the suggestion.

  5. unfortunately for a lot of young people living in the city- having one person being the homemaker is not always an option... with house prices so ridiculously high, people are being forced to work to pay it off... even if they're not buying "stuff", a house can have regular people working full time their entire lives to pay off...
    which is exactly why my hubby and i moved out of the city... i didn't want to be a slave to a mortgage for the rest of my life.... and i wanted to stay at home and raise our children rather than giving that job to someone else... but we were lucky we could make that decision- not all people can find work out of the city... it's so frustrating that our government hasn't done more to stop house prices from skyrocketing... it makes it impossible for the younger generation to get a start in life :(

    1. I hear this a lot and though I think there are valid and very real reasons why this is not possible 98% of them are rooted in "we want the best of stuff". The truth of the matter actually is that the majority of people living on one income aren't doing so because they can afford it but are actually doing so because they can't afford to work ie: daycare costs are way too high, the amount they could bring in would be so little as not to make a big enough difference, etc etc. So it's doable as long as you are willing to make sacrifices like not living in the best of the best neighborhoods or having two cars or cable or cell phones or opting for renting vs buying, etc etc etc. Now I am not trying to say that this is possible for every last person but I am saying that it's possible for far more people than we like to think. I know this because there are many living this life out of necessity. Actually according to recent US census data the majority are living this life out of necessity. The "if you stay home you must be able to afford it" line is a myth.

  6. Like Liz (above), I read Radical Homemakers years ago. Great book! I'm at home once again after working PT in an office job for 6-1/2 years. I don't have little ones at home anymore, but I love being at home FT. I am never, ever bored. There is always something to do and work on to keep my mind and body active. The world is our oyster...we just have to embrace it.

  7. I like the old English term 'householder'. I am the person holding my home together, 'keeping house', caring for family, producing our food. I'm very happy and grateful to be able to do it, and though I sometimes feel a little diffident about announcing that I am a stay-at-home mum, I am noticing more and more that other people are responding that they wish they could do that for their kids, or they wish their partner could stay home. I think that people are realising that a career may not be as fulfilling as everyone assumes, and that 'The Good Life' really is a great alternative.

    1. I love that term householder! I have to tell people that I am a stay at home wife and that is so misunderstood. I have a good idea how much we would not like our lives as empty nesters if I did not take care of our home and needs everyday because we have friends who live like that.

  8. Hi Rhonda,

    This just makes so much sense, I wonder why it becomes such a struggle! I often find myself that I should be doing something 'valid'. Not just 'pottering around the house', which most people seem to regard as wasting time, or having nothing to do.

    So I have struggled with this, and not only this. The struggle has also been to find stucture and order, in an often chaotic brain.

    Reading blogs like yours inspires me.

    So today, I toodled into the overgrown abandoned vegetable garden, dug out a bit of space (this is huge achievement, as usually I wouldnt start it, if I couldnt do the whole lot.....)and stuck in a few veggies.
    Just one little corner in amidst the chaos, but, it is a start, and this afternoon Im going back out there to clear a bit more, plant a bit more.

    And I have just made an apple/almond cake and it is in the oven baking, and I feel an enormous sense of satisfaction. (REcipe from River Cottage 'Everyday', I love to watch Hugh, and I find my heart yearning for the river cottage life).

    I have balls of wool in a rainbow of colours strewn across the lounge, as I start a granny square crochet blanket. This year, instead of going out and buying a birthday present to send to my sister, I crocheted her a granny square scarf

    These things are all a start.

    I make soap, but, here is the funny thing, I dont make it thinking it is for the home, I usually make it thinking I have to sell it, because then it would be a 'valid' use of time and resources.
    Silly, isnt it?


  9. Love this post! I have struggled for a long time with feelings of guilt associated with not turning up each day to a 'real' job. Instead I've chosen to follow my heart, trying to make an income from my creativity. I love working from home, as it means I can be a 'homemaker' as well, - cooking, gardening, decorating and making a pleasant environment. I always thought I would be a woman with a career, and I made it very clear when I got married that I wouldn't be a 'housewife', but I've been surprised to find out that it is doing exactly that that brings me the greatest joy.

  10. I grew up around women that had both lifestyles - most of our neighbours were farmers, therefore the women were at home keeping the home. My mom worked as a nurse, too, but kept a comfortable and pretty home for us at the same time. I agree that there is no perfect term for a woman or man that stays at home - I believe that I am a homemaker even though I also work outside of the home. It just means that my husband and I work a little extra at keeping up the home. Someday though I aspire to be able to stay at home. I could do so much more. Hopefully.

  11. I tend to introduce myself as a home manager. What I do is try to manage the family's resources, to include time and personal energy, so that my family has the best life we can have. I find this to be a joyful way to live.


    1. Ooo I like home manager. The term manager has associations of power and respect and position which being a home manager is all about in a way. We have incredible power t shape the lives of our families in happy and healthy ways. Doing all that we do definitely deserves and earns respect as anyone who runs a house understands (and probably doesn't get enough of either) and it is a position in which to be proud. I am proud to be a stay at home mum and keep home for my family but I LOVE the term home manager. :D

  12. I truly believe that a homemaker has so much value and a job that cannot be denied as unfruitful or unsatisfying. I'm on a journey to learn to be more frugal and self sufficient. small steps in the right direction

  13. Rhonda, thank you for your constant inspiration and encouragement, I finally have realized (after almost 9 years of being a stay at home mum)that my worth as a homemaker is far more than any 'wage' I could have. Not only do I save a lot of money by growing and cooking our food, shopping frugally,and looking after our four beautiful children and our home, the health and happiness of my beautiful family, is worth more than all the money in the world! I have finally found an inner peace in acknowledging the value of what I do and it has brought joy to doing the little tasks I do everyday, enjoyable and not so.
    I hope this finds you on your way to recovery :)

  14. Dear Rhonda, what a great post. I've been at home for 12 years since my son was born, raising him to become (I hope) a well rounded and intelligent individual. In the UK the Government are currently encouraging both parents to work, I guess due to the state of the economy, and have taken away 'family allowance' that has been paid to all primary carers since the 1940s in an unfair way from 'high earners' (I won't go into the too many details but anyone with one member of the family earning over £50K a year have it withdrawn which gives the ridiculous situation of my friend (a stay at home mum) whose husband earns just over the threshold loses it all, and my other friend, who earns £30K and her husband earns £40K keeps it ) and ... surprise, surprise.. last week announced they were giving a (spookily) similar amount back towards childcare but only if both parents go out to work. To me this flies in the face of all their previous rhetoric of 'family values' and 'broken families'. We're moving towards a society who only values paid work, whether that be a parent going out to work, or a nursery being paid to provide childcare for that same parent. Being at home in the UK is becoming harder and harder but I'm lucky, my husband became self employed a year ago and so far it's going well. We work towards that simpler life :)

  15. Rhonda, I found your blog through a member of my blog. I am truly enjoying myself here. I feel right at home. Thank you for that. I love the clothes line your Hanno made for you. So perfect. Wish I had a patio now. My husband and I do have raised beds. We love them. Here in Northern Maine we have such long winters;the raised beds were a great way to extend our growing season.
    I too, am a homemaker/domestic engineer...whatever you want to refer to it as. I love my job, and yes, to me it is a job. One I am proud to have. I love homemaking so much that a friend and I started a group called, "Keepers of the Home". We teach women how to get back to the basics of simple living. The women are learning basic sewing skills, baking, bread making, how to make their own butter/cheese, so much more. We gather once a month and have a wonderful time sharing and learning. What you are doing with your blog is wonderful! I just wanted you to know that. I will happily come back over and over! I will also be sharing it with my friends, as there is so much they can learn from you. Again, THANK YOU!


  16. Lovely post, enjoyed reading and learning few tips. There is so much spirituality in homemaking. As a home-schooling mother it is much more fulfilling for me than any other career...
    thanks again for lovely post.

  17. How to make ice creamYuuummmm....ya, here is the recipe foe delicious dessert. This is really very simple, even kid can try this..!!   Ingredients • Vanilla or any other Flavoured essence 1.5 tea spoon • Cornflou...


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