I recently finished reading Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes. Using a couple of dozen case studies, Hayes argues for a return to a more traditional home life that doesn’t depend on two incomes, over-scheduling, and consumerism. Instead, she encourages a re-thinking of needs—financial and material—that—as a result—honors the environment, increases self-reliance, and better fosters a sustainable economy.
I love the idea but struggle with it on a day-to-day basis. As a society, Americans have become far too disconnected from the food chain, buy more than they need simply to spend money (myself included), and equate stuff with happiness. As a family, we try to eat in a sustainable matter, purchasing roughly 90 percent of our food locally. We use the library in lieu of buying every book we need. We garden, bake our own bread and make our yogurt, limit our children’s television viewing, and strongly limit the types and number of toys our children have in our home. We develop a budget at the beginning of every year and again at the beginning of every month, and we track our spending almost daily.
I’m not writing all this to make myself sound good—or feel good—but to try to understand the right balance given the society in which we live. I’m also writing this to try to start understanding how to reconcile this type of lifestyle with the one I always thought I’d have.
I never thought much about having kids—until I had them. I never thought much about home ownership—until I owned one. I never thought much about domestic arts (despite being exposed to many of them while growing up)—until I started doing out of necessity and interest.
I thought about traveling, a lot. I thought about buying all the clothes and shoe that I wanted and liked. I thought about having an interesting career with business lunches and work travel.
But now, here I am. A 35-year-old stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). I knit. I sew. I bake. My family and I are living a quasi-radical homemaker lifestyle. With two kids and a spouse that works outside the home full-time—and travels for work—I can’t imagine a different lifestyle. As I’ve posted before, my rhythm and my family’s rhythm wouldn’t work so well if both my wife and I were working. Despite that, this SAHM, radical homemaker rhythm doesn’t put me completely at ease either.
It’s hard to forget about the excitement found in planning and going on a trip somewhere. Or the joy from finding a fabulous pair of shoes, the perfect skirt, or an intriguing novel that must be read immediately.
It takes constant reality checks and reminders of how good I have it to keep the balance. Perhaps these sound like the musings of a former spoiled child just now learning to live within her means. There is some truth to that (although not spoiled while growing up, I wanted for nothing).
Although I’m proud that we live within our means and are debt –free (other than our mortgage), it’s still hard not to be disappointed every once in a while that I don’t know when I’ll next leave the continental United States and that I have to consult my budget to determine when and if I’ll be able to buy a new dress for an upcoming fundraiser.
I read a couple of things recently that helped me put some of this in perspective. From Pema Chodron, “Practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you and me or whoever we are right now, just as we are.”
And from Cyndi Lee, “When we recognize that the fight we are engaged in is only a fight with ourselves then we understand we can take responsibility for creating our own happiness.”
For ease of mind and feeling like I belong somewhere, I’ll keep trying to accept where I am right now—quasi-radical homemaker or not. I’ll keep trying to simply be where I am right now. To stop thinking about what I else I could be doing. To create my happiness here and now.
Upon completing this post and re-reading it a few times, I realized how incredibly whiney and spoiled I sound. I’ll accept that and post this anyway. I know I’m not the only one that feels this way from time to time.