Monday, August 23, 2010

I Need A Break! Scratch That, I Really Don't

Today's thesis: Modern housewives have too much leisure time.

And maybe money.

Perhaps I should back up with a bit of an introduction. Several months ago I was meeting with my book group and I made the above statement in the context of reading a novel about women in an earlier, and in many ways simpler, time. Immediately, the group of sister argued the point, "Women are so busy, so active!" they insisted. Well, yes, women are busy. As busy as they have been in any time, and I didn't disagree with that. But I think we need to take a look at all that busy-ness.

If you are reading this post and have just had your fifth (or sixth or seventh . . . ) baby, and/or your family is out of work, I am obviously not writing this post with you in mind. As with most posts on my blog, I'm writing for me in an attempt to work out how I feel about things and provide a forum for ideas.

Women in my generation have re-introduced themselves to many of the homemaking arts. Such skills have regained much popularity in recent years; craftiness has become quite chic, in fact. The difference, however, with our grandmothers is still stark, for all that the skills are the same. Even my own mother sewed because making our clothes was still cheaper than buying them. Into the 80's, many clothes were still manufactured in the US. This is not the case any more, and even China has subcontracted labor to North Korea where labor is REALLY cheap. My friends who sew now, and some of them are amazingly talented in this area, mostly do it to decorate their homes, create quilts that aren't necessarily needed, and to make super cutesy one-of-a-kind dresses for their daughters.

Don't misunderstand. I mean no criticism of the talent itself. My point is simply that a skill that was once essential to survival is now kept alive because of extra time, and money, to pursue hobbies that we like. Cooking in some ways is the same. Convenience products and an over-abundance of restaurants (for any demographic), would potentially take me out of the kitchen if I wanted to be. Instead, I have learned to cook very well because I like to do it. I like nice, high quality ingredients, re-creating my favorite restaurant dishes and making my food look pretty. Is this necessary for getting everyone fed? No, of course not. In fact, my kids would probably be just as happy with a three-night rotation of chicken nuggets, chicken salad and tacos.

This week I've picked up crocheting again after a hiatus of some years. But I'm not making blankets essential for warmth (for myself or others), or necessary clothing or anything wonderful. I'm just making scarves. Because they are cute. Because I have the time.

I read because I have time. I've been to the pool four times in the last two weeks because I have time, and may go again tomorrow. I blog because I have time. I have ambitions to publish a novel. Because I have time.

My sister and I were talking some weeks ago (She sews to REdecorate her house, she runs because she likes to be a size 4. Because she has the time.) and she was saying how she had a friend who often talked about "needing a break" and how easy it was to fall into this trap. Now here comes that word entitlement again. Somehow, because we stay home with the kids and are doing this NOBLE WORK OF MOTHERHOOD we feel that this somehow entitles us to finding multiple ways to carve out time for ourselves.

Again, don't misunderstand. I think that especially for women with large families, such alone-time, me-time, break-time, whatever-you-want-to-call-it-time is important for a re-charge, but I know that I have to be careful in taking advantage of that. It isn't as though my husband gets a lot of downtime himself. He gets very little opportunity to pursue his dearest hobbies, or even ambitions, at work, and is expected to be 100% when he walks into the door at night.

Last weekend at Crater Lake, we got to talking about all the fun things we have done this year. And it is a lot. In fact, after our Disney vacation (mom's awesome Christmas gift to her whole family this year) in November, our family will have done 2 big and 3 smallish vacations this year. I also got a vacation on my own. When I add to that my sweet husband's gentle insistence that I find a friend to take off to Ashland for a weekend with, it has been a VERY good year. Probably more than I have earned. Certainly more than I deserve.

I'm just thinking I need to focus less on getting my next break and more on enjoying the time that I have with my kids. I need to focus more on the work that can be done instead of the work I can avoid.

At Crater Lake, I also realized that there were 500 pictures in my camera, most of which were never posted this year. I have awesome camera skills like that. So in case you think I'm making up the fact that we've had our share of fun in the last several months, here is the run down. Then, of course, feel free to soundly abuse me all you want in the comment section about "lazy" modern women.






































































14 comments:

Sherry said...

I really agree with this post. I know one woman in particular who is always very busy, gets very little sleep and does not take care of her body because she is so "busy." In her mind, all those things she is doing are vital and essential, but the outsiders look in and think that if she would just chill out, she would feel a lot better.

Also, next time you are in Utah, I might track you down and kidnap a child or two. They are really cute.

AmyJane said...

We read "A Lantern In Her Hand" for book club last fall and I tried to start a similar conversation. It was mainly rejected in favor of more whining about how taxed we all are as mothers, but seriously. The woman in this book WORKS all day, every day for her whole entire life! It was a great eye opening moment for me. Thanks for another reminder.
PS Your vacation looks like it was awesome. Incidentally, I don't personally think it's bad to have good times, I just think it's important to be grateful for them.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Yeah! Sherry! I have a stalker!

Lady Susan said...

So, I actually don't think it is the modern woman who has too much leisure time. I think leisure time is dependent on economics. Historically, woman with means had time to engage in hobbies and other activities of their choice. They could hire help to clean their house, do the cooking etc. It is those women who had to work plus take care of their own houses that didn't have the luxury of choosing how to spend their time. I think this is true today. Women who have to work, plus take care of their children and household still do not have time to engage in a lot of hobbies.

Now, I am a stay-at-home mom. Already, I have a certain freedom of my time--I don't *have* to work in order to make ends meet. That being said, I feel like if I were to clean my house the way it should be cleaned (and as often), plus cook, plus engage my kid in learning activities, I wouldn't necessarily have that much leisure time either.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Lady Susan--good point.

It is highly significant that in the US, people spend a much lower % of their income on basic needs like food and water than anywhere else in the world. It is true that we spend a big chunk of our incomes on housing, but that is partly by choice.

It is also due to the two income thing, I think. When families have two jobs, they make more money and are more willing to pay more for a house. This drives the prices UP I think. At least for a while. Then 2008 happens.

Jenny said...

Fancy stumbling on this post after calling myself a Lady Of Leisure...

Science Teacher Mommy said...

As long as you don't call yourself a lady of the night . . . .

heidikins said...

I love this post--so dead on. Love.

xox

Yankee Girl said...

Love the post and the pictures.

Post on Ashland, please. It is on my list of things to do (hopefully someday soon).

Linds said...

I just finished These is my Words and I've been having similar thoughts. I think there is a large chunk of humanity that has no reference by which to gauge its luxuries. I don't think that observation is a condemnation, but I do think that people would be happier and happier with what they have if they realized what the alternative could have been.

Em-Cat said...

Okay - as a mommy on the cusp of quitting work for the first time since she was 16 to stay at home with her babies...this post really made me think. I think you're right Nan. I'm so worried I'm going to get bored, crazy, lazy or all of the above. You're right, I will have a lot more time to do things I like. I hope the things I like to do will benefit my family in some way! I'm kind of, really, nervous now!

Erin said...

Thanks STM! I've thought alot about the comment, "I need a break". Belcantomom from http://belcantomom.blogspot.com/ once commented in a group discussion that perhaps we shouldn't look for those "breaks", that perhaps it is a gift and a joy to be at home with our children. And that we should learn to fully enjoy being in the trenches with them. I know I didn't get the comment just right, but it was along those lines. Anyway, that made me think and now your post makes me think. And what I'm thinking is, I'll share your post with some of my friends here in Bush-land ;).
Thanks!

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

I agree. Whenever I'm tempted to wish for more free time, I realize that I already have lots and I fill every minute of it with journaling, blogging, cooking, etc. If I had an extra minute, or hour, or day, I'd fill that up, too, and wish for more. Humans are insatiable.

I try to be grateful for what I have. Sometimes I succeed. :)

The Rich Family said...

I don't know if you will see my comment...I haven't blog hopped in a while, but just checked in with you...by the way..i miss you...but anyways..I really loved this post.
yes, i did just have a 5th baby, but i really am trying not to focus on my next break...time with my little ones I will NEVER get back. Thanks so much for this post...It is really just what I needed on this SUNDAY EVEning all alone--and will be until tomorrow..or really the next 3 years...