“A thatched roof once covered free man; under marble and gold dwells slavery.”
~Seneca (Roman philosopher)
I just closed up Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes a few days ago. It was a library check out, so I needed to get it back, my fines have gotten a little out of hand lately. But can I just say…I LOVED this book! It was really all that I was looking for in a book this summer. This book sums up my feeling from the last year and a half, and why I am taking the steps in my home to change, instead of trying to change the world from outside my home.
I love this from her introduction regarding all of the radical homemakers she interviewed for the book: “…the happiest among them were successful at setting realistic expectations for themselves. They did not live in impeccably clean houses on manicured estates. They saw their homes as living systems and accepted the flux, flow, dirt and chaos that are a natural part of that. They were masters at redefining pleasure not as something that should be bought in the consumer marketplace, but as something that could be created, no matter how much or how little money they had in their pockets. And above all, they were fearless. They did not let themselves be bullied by the conventional ideals regarding money, status, or material possessions. These families did not see their homes as a refuge from the world. Rather, each home was the center for social change, the starting point from which a better life would ripple out for everyone.”
And I really couldn’t agree more with this: “What is our economy for? Isn’t it supposed to serve everyone? Are our families truly being served by an economy where employees are overworked, where families do not have time to eat meals together, and economy that relentlessly gnaws at our dwindling ecological resources? In David Korten’s words, a true, living economy “should be about making a living for everyone, rather than making a killing for a few lucky winners.” A living includes more than just our paychecks, but would also include our quality of life, family time, resources for healthcare, time to build community relationships, and happiness. Amazing. Actual happiness level would play a part?
This next quote reminds me that lately I have read so often about how hard it is for a stay at home Mom to ever get back on the career track, and quite often that has created fear in me! “Our society is riddled with myths to suggest that anyone who forgoes a conventional career track and devotes themselves to sustainable home and community life is merely squandering their life…Committing her life’s energy to an employer has not made a truly “liberated woman.” A homemaker’s primary job is not to be a consumer. The choice to cultivate self-reliance, curb consumption and live well on less money drains only the extractive economy, but feeds a life sustaining economy. The pursuit of affluence, the ennoblement of excessive work and hyper-individualism are not manifestations of the American dream, but causes of a national nightmare.”
I am most excited about this little declaration, “First and foremost, we cannot give undue care about appearances. It was most comical how, with each appointment I made to visit the home of a study participant, we wre greeted by clipped lawns, clean kitchens, put-away toys and made beds. After a few hours in the home, the toys once more gravitated to the floor, dishes reappeared beside the sink, and the household slowly crept back toward its state of happy entropy. Once the tape recorder was turned off and I complimented them on how beautiful and orderly the home was (such tidiness was far different from my own home), I was flooded by confessions of how hard the entire family had labored to have everything look perfect for my visit.”
Uh huh. How many times have each of us done this? I swear up and down that I want honesty amongst my mothering friends and I how I don’t want to ‘pretend’ I am something other than what I am…yet, over and over I race around cleaning, vacuuming, washing dishes, putting away toy after toy in hopes of coming off as a much more organized, together, tidy mother than I am.
Also, a good reminder to each of us, “Though children’s needs might keep us from meeting our immediate goals, advice columnist Amy Alkon once observed that “Your family is better served by a stay-at-home mother than a stay-at-home martyr.” Being a Radical Homemaker does not mean being a perfect parent. It means doing your best and allowing both you and your kids to have a life.” I often battle the ‘perfect parent’ demon myself. I am learning, albeit slowly, to let go of my own expectations.
OK, enough already. If you have ever felt like your dreams might have just been a little off kilter from what you hear your dreams should be from society, this is the book for you. If you wonder if it is appropriate to give homemade gifts instead of imports from far away lands, this book is for you. If you are ever inclined to grow your own food, keep your own bees, try your hand at sewing, educating your children at home, or otherwise ‘reclaiming domesticity from a consumer culture’, this book is for you.
So check your library or local bookstore today for Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes. It is a gem.Tweet