Homemaking, the radical choice

16 July 2013
There is something quite magnificent about taking on the role of homemaker. Whether you're older or younger, male or female, there because you choose it or just filling in time until an outside job comes along, homemaking has the potential to change you in profound ways. When I first came back to my home, I hadn't thought much about housekeeping. I guess I looked on it in the same way our society views it - mundane, monotonous and menial. I eventually dived into my housework with open arms and since that day I've felt honoured and fortunate to be able to call myself a homemaker.

So what is it that deeply divides opinion? How can one group see it as a beautiful and significant way to live and others view it with absolute dread. Why do some see it as a great help to the family finances and others as not contributing to the family at all?

When I first started housekeeping here in my own home, I realised that I'd never really understood the role of the homemaker. I'd seen my mother working in our family home, stretching every dollar to make ends meet. She cooked and did the housework, my father went to work at two jobs and eventually mum got an outside job as well. A lot of people my age saw their mothers go off to work for the first time and I suppose it devalued the work the mothers did at home. Instead of seeing my own mother's move into the paid workforce for what it was - a financial move towards a better life, as a teenager, I thought she wanted to work outside the home because it was more exciting.

No one ever told me about the feeling of control you get when you work in your home as if it's your own small business. We're told that housekeepers don't do much, that they have no power, but in my opinion, the opposite is true. Working full time at home I have the time to make the most of what we have. I can shop for grocery bargains and stockpile them, I can grow food in the backyard, make my own cleaners, sew, mend and recycle. I know that I have to balance my budget, keep the utilities connected, the fridge full and the vegetable garden productive. Homemakers have to be multi-skilled. Healthy food, clean clothes and a comfortable home enable those living there to make the most of the time they are away from home, working or studying. A good home sets workers and students up for success, and that is good for the nation. There is no doubt about it, choosing homemaking as a career is a radical choice.

When I rise early in the morning I feel that I have the freedom to do a wide variety of things. I'm often invited to take part in various things around the place but I feel at my best if I stay and work here on this land. I write my blog, let the chickens out, feed the cat, look at the sky to check the weather, have breakfast, make bread or bake cakes, organise our main meal which we eat at midday, clean up, wash up and make the bed. I do those things almost every day. Sometimes, I make cleaning products, knit, sew, mend, garden, work in the community, preserve food in jars or freeze it for later. And although it might look as though my days just repeat what happened the day before, it feels fresh every day. I get to decide when I sit down and rest. I decide if I want to sit in the garden or work in it. I will work all day or takes frequent breaks, it all depends on how I feel and how much work I will do on that particular day. And all these decisions are mine. I'm not told by a boss when to have morning tea or lunch. I can wear whatever I like, and that pleases me no end because most days I'm here at home I look like a moving scarecrow. Home is the best place to wear out those old clothes.

Homemaking seems to fit simple life like a glove. It doesn't matter if you're a full time homemaker like me or if you do it in tandem with a paid job. Homemaking supports the role of the breadwinner because it allows them to come home to good food, a clean home and happy children.  Sometimes the breadwinner is the homemaker and in that case the skills of homemaking come into their own. Following routines, meal planning, stockpiling, freezing food for later and budgeting help the part-time homemaker like nothing else can. And when it all comes together, when I hear someone say they enjoyed the meal I cooked, or the cake was delicious, or "grandma, biscuit peas", well then I know I'm where I should be. When I go outside and sit watching the garden, seeing what birds are flying in to visit, or watch the antics of the chooks, I don't want to be anywhere else.

Ours is simple work but that doesn't mean it's less important than paid work. It all has its place and it's all important in its own way.  Recently, I've heard a couple of women say that they want my life but the truth is it's all here for the taking, my life is in every home. Everyone can do what I'm doing, all it takes is the will to do it, the mindset to stick to it and the skills to make it happen. And remember, it's all small steps - the will, the mindset and the skills. This is here to fill a lifetime, it's not the 100 metre sprint.