Many of the things I do with my time are considered women’s work, or worse, hobbies. I am a stay-at-home mom (this is considered a luxury) who knits, sews, bakes, cooks, and is currently attempting to make butter (so far I have whipped cream and tired wrists).
Obviously I have nothing “better” to do with my time.
Here’s the truth of it: we can’t afford for me to not work, but we can’t afford for me to work either–my entire salary would go to daycare and hello, that’s crazy. (Please, please do not take this as a criticism of parents who both work; this is ONLY about my family.)
In the old days, women and men both worked. The men worked outdoors and the women worked indoors, if I may make gross generalizations. Men plowed the fields, built the barn, tended to the livestock, hunted, and otherwise used their physical strength to its best advantage. Women cared for the babies (being natural incubators and having built-in food and all) and clothed, educated, and fed the family. So to call what I do women’s work is not an insult as far as I am concerned. It is exactly what I want to be doing. Traditional roles make sense to me and work for our family.
(On a side note, I certainly don’t think that only women should do women’s work or only men should do men’s work. I think there is a ton of crossover and that we’ve definitely moved forward as a society in that regard. But I think we’ve lost sight of the good things that happened to exist along with the strict roles men and women were forced into. The tasks are not the bad guy here. The fact is that Will is better than I am at a lot of so-called women’s tasks and I am sure there is some traditionally masculine task I am good at. Maybe motorcycle maintenance.)
I find it really interesting that we as a society have turned our backs so firmly on the way things were even a hundred years ago that the “home arts” are considered undesirable. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and just this morning I stumbled on a video of the Yarn Harlot giving a talk on this very matter. A hundred years ago, she said, every family needed hats and they knitted those hats. To buy something you could make was considered crazy. Now, every family needs hats and they buy those hats. To make something you could buy is considered crazy. Frivolous. Making hats is a hobby.
My knitting, a hobby? That is an insult. Yes, I enjoy it tremendously. Yes, I often knit frivolous items. Yes, yarn is dreadfully expensive, and no, we are probably not saving much money by giving handmade gifts. But.
It is my goal for our family to become largely self-sufficient. It is not at all outside the realm of possibility that in five years Will and the hired boy will shear our goats and I will clean, card, draft, and spin that fleece into yarn, which I will then knit or weave into clothing for Sam. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that in the not-so-distant future I will grow most of our food and feed the garden with compost from the waste. I am not likely to grow my own grain and grind my own flour, but I just might bake all our own bread. And I will for sure make all our hats, just as soon as I learn to weave straw because, um, in the desert you really need a different kind of hat than I know how to make. (Oh, fine, I will probably buy our hats.)
I don’t want to withdraw from civilization. I don’t have any intention of giving up technology, I just want to run it off solar power. I am sure I will spend as much time on my computer at the ranch as I do here in town. I doubt I will wake up each morning excited about watering the garden and feeding the chickens. But I don’t wake up every day now jumping for joy that I get to play with a toddler who wants to nurse every five minutes, even though I love spending time with him. I have plenty of moments where I just want a day to myself, and I doubt that will change. What I’m saying is that I don’t think I have unreasonable expectations. I don’t believe I will become someone else when we build our ranch. Honest.
But a return to basics, a move away from the consumer-driven society and into a more self-sufficient lifestyle? That is just what I need. Though as I’ve said before: as long as there is wireless.
Yesterday I was perusing the real estate listings where we want to live. I found ten acres at the top of a rise with 360 views. There are no structures, no water and no electric. There is a well-drilling area. It is perfect. I am sure it will be snatched up well before we can afford it, but it’s the second such listing I’ve found since I started dreaming this particular dream, and I’m sure there will be another.