Since Eden was born over 7 months ago I have not made time to read anything. It’s been hard to find the time, honestly. But I am one of those people who think reading is crucial for keeping our minds sharp and continuing our education throughout our lifetime. I ordered three books based on things I’m currently passionate about: homesteading and homemaking and being a mommy.
Unlike my husband, I do not retain information well at all so I thought if I wrote about what I’m reading as I go along it might help me remember things better. Plus, you may want to go out and purchase the book too!
The book I’m currently reading is “Radical Homemakers,” by Shannon Hayes. I’m only about a third of the way through it and my mindset has already radically changed. It’s not about the homemakers most of America tends to have in their head where the woman slaves in the house and kitchen all day (in her apron, of course) and her husband comes home from his job and sits in the recliner with his beer while she serves him the rest of the evening. It is not about that at all, but the book actually emphasizes the equality between men and women, and that men can be homemakers too. Hayes states, “But as I spent time with happily married Radical Homemakers, egalitarianism was a resounding theme in their discussions of their domestic lives. In these households, men and women share both authority and responsibility.” Radical homemakers are helping to bridge the gap between men and women and create equality between men and women in our world.
The first half of the book is mainly history of how we as Americans ended up consumed with money: both attaining it and spending it. Basically, if we radically change our mindset and lifestyle we can quit our jobs and go back to the basics by living off the land, cooking our own food, trading with neighbors, and making our own medicine from herbs we grow. Yes, you will have way less by society’s standards, but you will have so much more: a life family focused and fulfilled instead of empty because all you do is work and buy things. Ralph Waldo Emerson stated, “Give us wealth, and the home shall exist. But that is a very imperfect and inglorious solution of the problem, and therefore no solution. Few have wealth, but all must have a home.” I’d rather my home not just exist, but thrive!
If you’re reading this you are probably thinking this is nuts and completely unrealistic. But people are doing it! The second half of the book is actual stories from families who are living this way. The author (who also lives radically on her family farm) traveled across the country interviewing people who are radical homemakers. Some are single, married, have no children, and some have lots of children. There are a few families where both partners work from home and some where one still works outside of the household. (I can’t wait to get to that part of the book!)
Hayes points out that everything starts in the home. She says, “It is time we come to think of our homes as living systems. Like a sour-dough starter, the home’s survival 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, blueberry bushes, culturing yogurt, fermenting wine and sauerkraut, brewing beer, milk goats, 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 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.” Being a homemaker creates social change in our world. In Shannon Hayes’ words, “…The work to heal our ecological wounds, bring a balance of power into out economy and ensure social equality starts with our choices about what to eat, what to buy (or, more importantly, what not to buy), what to create, and how to use our time and money. Indeed the major work of society needs to happen inside our home, putting the homemaker at the vanguard of social change.”
There are dozens of quotes I would love to share with you, but then I would have to copy the whole book here for you! As you can see, it is a radical way to live, and Chad and I are in the process of doing so. We are so thankful we have a handful of friends who are on this path of radical homemaking with us. Having a support system is crucial because this lifestyle does cause you to have to rely on others for some things. Sharing canning recipes, trading vegetables, and sharing tools to name a few. My hope is that one day Chad and I will not have to rely on a grocery store to shop. Joel Salatin (a renowned chicken farmer) talks about his wife grocery shopping. She traveled all the way to her root cellar where she kept the food she had preserved! If they needed something they did not produce themselves they either did not eat it or traded items with another farmer to get what they needed. Chad and I have already made drastic changes in the food we’ve been purchasing and consuming. I genuinely believe the food we put into our bodies, the chemicals we put on our skin, and what we use to clean our house have an effect on our bodies physically and emotionally.
When it comes to food, Americans have stopped cooking and rely on fast food and preserved food full of artificial ingredients. Families no longer share meals together. Moms and dads work insane hours and give little attention to their children. And we wonder why 66% of America is obese and depression and suicide continues to be a severe problem. Cancer rates have also increased over the years. “Psychologist Michael Yapko observes that when societies achieve America’s standard of living, their rates of depression increase. He found that in those societies where depression is less prevalent, there is less emphasis on technology and consumerism and greater emphasis on family and community.” I believe this to be 100% true. We think we need to work, work, work, so we can buy, buy, buy. We need the latest iphones, cars, fancy houses, fancy clothes, go to big concerts, eat out at fancy restaurants, etc. Most people I know who work full-time are miserable and would do anything to work from home and take care of their household full-time. (And I know there are circumstances that no matter how hard you tried you could not quit your job right now.) But there are many people out there who are not willing to change their mindset and live on less in order to do so.
Shannon Hayes mainly focuses on those who work in large cooperation’s. I hope I am not sounding judgmental in any way during this post. Though I am a homemaker, we have been blessed in ways that have allowed me to do so more easily. Not to say, it is not hard. Chad and I live very frugal lives to allow me to stay at home (I hope to write about our lifestyle more often on here). Hayes also encourages those who work in a setting that promotes social justice and contributes to the community. I have been very convicted from reading this book so far and if you read it I’m sure you will be too (even if you already work from home). We all need to have a mindset that is family focused and less about having the nicest stuff and the world will be a much happier place. We need to change our lifestyles in ways that promotes social justice and hinders large cooperation’s and the industrialization of our food.
Basically, we need to go back to the basics. And for those who desire to do so it can be done. I believe it is a process of conscious choices, but choices that can be made if we’re creative enough. I am so excited to continue reading this book, and I cannot wait to see where this journey of radical homemaking takes my family.
I know this is a long quote, but it sums up everything I’ve read so far. I will leave you with this:
“We have lost the innate knowledge and tradition crafts essential to countless functions for our daily survival, with the end result being a disconnection from our communities and our natural world. So complete is this detachment that we are unaware of the ecological and social damage created by mass production for our daily needs. Screened from the production process, we buy chicken breasts without considering the workers in poultry factories who must breathe toxic fumes, or the loss of topsoil from irresponsible grain production. We purchase detergents and cleaners without considering the ingredients that might be poisoning our families and our water supply. We buy inexpensive clothing, never considering who must produce the fiber, weave the cloth and sew the garments for paltry wages, or what country must have its rivers polluted with dyes. No matter where we live, we expect fresh tomatoes in December and iceberg lettuce in January, regardless of the fact that it took more calories to grow and ship them than they deliver when we eat them.
This is not to say every homemaker should start weaving cloth and hand-washing their family’s clothes; with few exceptions, most of us will always rely on the broader industrial system for something. But for each daily need that we re-learn to provide within our homes and communities, we strengthen out independence from an extractive and parasitic economy. As we realize the impact of each choice we make, we discover ways to simplify our demands and rebuild our domestic culture.
When we regain connection with all that sustains us, we regain creative spirit. We rediscover the joy that comes with using our hands and our minds in union to nourish, nurture and delight in our families; we tap the source of true creative satisfaction, the ecstasy that accompanies a home that lives in harmony with the earth’s systems, and the certitude of a life guided by principles of social justice and nonexploitation.”