Friday, February 18, 2011

Putting home back in the center of things

As part of her argument in Radical Homemakers, Shannon Hayes looks back over the history of domestic life and sees a major shift that occurred as the world became industrialized and production shifted out of homes and into factories.

"By the time men were fully ensconced in the workforce and the children were gone to school, the women were left, isolated, at home. They were still charged with procuring food and necessities to ensure the comfort and survival of their families, but now they did it as chauffeurs and shoppers."

That quote resonates with me. I hate how my To Do list can sometimes be just one long list of errands, as I drive my car from one huge parking lot to another huge parking lot and shuffle through stores purchasing things that I then drive back to my home and unload into the house. My other role, of driving the kids around to all their activities and to school, is also an unsatisfying chore.

The division of labor in my household could be described as "He earns most of the money - she spends most of it". I don't like that either.

I first realized years ago, when I was a stay-at-home-mom reading about how to be happy at home, that the main discontent I felt was with the feeling that I was primarily a consumer and not a producer in life. When being a housewife, homemaker, or mother is primarily about shopping, it feels like there is something out of whack.

Now that I have a full-time (and fully rewarding) job outside the home, I find that I still have the responsibility to shop and drive for my family, and it's still just as out of whack. I don't want to leave my house an empty shell; I don't want to spend more time with my family in the car than we do in our home.

So how do we stop being shoppers and chauffeurs? What other ways of living are there?


  1. A good question. One I think about often. Maybe it happens once the kids are grown. I know I didn't shop and chauffeur before they came along.

    I keep hoping moving us way out in the country where going to the store is called "going to town" and is an all day, once a week experience. I know it's a pipe dream.

  2. I appreciate your thoughts. I am an at home homeschooling mom. I have been steadily working to eliminate my driving and shopping as much as possible. I have turned to grocery delivery services and mail pick-up/on-line banking and shopping. I figure if I can't eliminate the shopping, I can eliminate the driving associated with it! I also try to carve out parts of the day for driving and kids activities - either the morning or the afternoon but not both. I also try to arrange for ride shares as much as possible with friends who have kids attending common events.

    The thing I dislike the most about the whole driving/shopping element is that I end up feeling like I exerted maximum energy for the least impact and reward. I love homeschooling and being home with my kids. I wouldn't trade it for the world. I guess it comes with the territory to be the chief procurer and chauffeur as well. I just try to marginalize it's roll in our daily existence as much as possible.