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I cannot fully express my joy to finally have a title again. I am indebted to Shannon Hayes for this title which is from her book by the same name in which she describes the lives of men and women who are living very similar lives to mine and whom I did not know existed. In fact, radical homemaking is now a movement of sorts.
The question “what do you do?” has been my nemesis for so long now that I have avoided social situations at times so as not to have to deal with it. How would I respond? Ummm…nothing? Ummm…everything? Either could be true depending on your perspective. For the corporate work-a-day world I once inhabited, the correct answer would be nothing. In that world, what you do=what your paid work is=your identity. Mothers generally get a pass in that world as child-rearing is still considered a valid way to spend time and it is usually just a temporary time out anyway.
From my perspective, and that of my family, I do everything that does not involve earning an income (though I do manage our finances) and in so doing create for us all a balanced healthy life lived at a much lower stress level than most of the people I know. We do NOT spend our weekends catching up on all of the requirements of life that we don’t have time for during our hectic workweek. For the most part, we spend our time hiking, visiting, enjoying each other’s company and engaging in creative pursuits. In the past year, I have been making more and more of our products, growing more of our food, forgoing all but the most necessary house cleaning, becoming ever more frugal and slowly decreasing our dependence on purchased goods and services. Cecily too helps with many of these activities as she can balance with her corporate job. And now I know we are not alone. About the book:
Radical Homemakers is about men and women across the U.S. who focus on home and hearth as a political and ecological act, and who have centered their lives around family and community for personal fulfillment and cultural change. It explores what domesticity looks like in an era that has benefited from feminism, where domination and oppression are cast aside and where the choice to stay home is no longer equated with mind-numbing drudgery, economic insecurity, or relentless servitude.
Radical Homemakers nationwide speak about empowerment, transformation, happiness, and casting aside the pressures of a consumer culture to live in a world where money loses its power to relationships, independent thought, and creativity. If you ever considered quitting a job to plant tomatoes, read to a child, pursue creative work, can green beans and heal the planet, this is your book.
I’ve been working on my own definition as well because the above is a bit long for a cocktail party answer. 😉 My working version is “a radical homemaker manages his or her home as the center of a life lived in increasing harmony with the earth and decreasing dependence on corporate products and services”. Not too bad I think. Leaves room for questions for anyone whose interest goes beyond social politeness. One of the passages from the book really resonated with me and lends itself to personalization as well:
It is time we come to think of our homes as living systems. Like a sour-dough starter, the home’s survivial requires constant attention. A true home is inhabited by souls who live, breathe, eat, think, create, play, get sick, heal and get dirty. It will wither in an antiseptic condition. A true home pulses with nonhuman life – vegetable patches, yeast, backyard hens, [sprouts], blueberry bushes, [soaking grains], culturing yogurt, [drying calendula petals], fermenting wine and sauerkraut, [steeping infusions and herbal tinctures], brewing beer, milk goats, [aging cheese], cats, dogs, houseplants, kids’ science projects, pet snakes and strawberry patches. A living system cannot respect the hours on a time clock and requires the involvement of all the inhabitants in order to thrive. When we can see our home as a living system, when men and women both play a role in its care, even if one of them goes out to a job for part of the day, we have taken the first steps to restore the important partnerships our Neanderthal ancestors innately understood. We will have moved toward creating a true Earth Community.
The bracketed items were my additions from our personal living system. This life is not for everyone. It certainly isn’t for this Salon contributor. As for me, it is the life I’ve chosen and I’m so excited about the new title that I had cards made (free from Vistaprint of course) to make it easier to connect with people. Viva La Radical Homemaker!
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