Old school

Sometimes I just can’t get enough weekend.

I know I am not alone in this. But I don’t want to just sit around and eat bon-bons, or watch endless movies. It’s not even about biking or hiking or visiting museums (though I’d like to do some of that, too). No, what I want is time to plant an enormous garden, then preserve all the fruits and veggies I grow in it. Time to bake bread and cookies and pies from scratch, and make soups and casseroles, so many that I’d have a freezer full, and would never have to settle for canned soup again.

I’d like more time to really clean my house – yes, I enjoy cleaning! Getting up close and personal scrubbing the wood floor, dusting the piano and rearranging all those framed photos is like tasting each little bit of my lovely home, as if it were a delicious dessert I want to savor.   And I’d like time enough to sew up a quilt from all those old t-shirts I set aside, or maybe make some pillows or linen napkins or handbags.

But here’s the thing. I am a feminist. And I crave more time to do the housewifey things all those early feminists wanted to liberate me from, so I could go to work.

It’s complicated, I know. The feminist take on working in the household and/or working outside the home is  – for me, anyway – not about avoiding the domestic arts, it is about having the freedom to choose them for yourself— or not. It is the liberation from expectations that you must be a certain way and do certain things in order to fulfill the image of being a woman. Feminism says, you can be whoever you want to be.

I am so grateful that I have choices about how to be a woman in the world.

And the truth is, I love my work. The people I meet are inspiring, and telling their stories is fulfilling. If I didn’t have my work, I am sure I would miss it, perhaps even feel trapped in the very domestic chores I now crave.

But working sure does get in the way of finishing that scarf I started knitting four years ago, or coming up with a pie recipe for the food co-op baking contest later this month. As my sister suggests, I need to be two people. One working. One knitting. Or cooking. Baking. Or crafting.

I am lucky that I do have some time, that I do sometimes get to bake a pie or two. Like on Thanksgiving weekend: We had four days off work. That’s twice as many as we usually have! I baked six pies over the course of the weekend. I went for walks and runs, and I even got out the sewing machine to make an eyeglasses case. If I had more time, I could have made a better one—this one’s really pretty sad. But it’s a start.

My sister has it down. She is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but I’m pretty sure it’s okay to call her Mormon. She also majored in Home Ec when she went to college. She is the one I call when I’m excited about my new kitchen sink, or when I’m baking and need a recipe for apple cake. All of my sisters bake, but this one bakes a LOT. She bakes for her church, for one thing. The Mormons are all in when it comes to community, which they create right in their church, but also all around them. At least that is my understanding. I am like that, too.

Anyway, in my sister’s family the roles are very clear: she runs the household and raises the children, and my brother-in-law is the breadwinner.  They work as a team. And they embrace their roles, they fully inhabit them, and with relish. No one questions who should be doing what and what percentage of the housework is done by which partner, or who earns what percentage of the family income.  This is, by the way, how my sisters and I were raised in the 1950s through the 1970s, and it is how my sister’s children are raising their young families.

And there’s this: Think for a moment about how it feels to be the man, locked into the whole work thing. Put on your shirt and tie and go to the office, pull on your Carhartts and mount your tractor, find your mechanics shirt with your name embroidered on the breast and get to work whether you want to or not – you have a family to feed. Thanks to many conversations with my honey,  who has worked and been the primary breadwinner for decades, I now understand that men feel pressure, too. Some women may feel suffocated and forced into a homemaking role that feels unnatural and wrong for them as individuals. But being forced to step up and provide, whether you want to or not  –that’s no picnic either.

I was a single parent for a while. I can relate.  There were not so many pies in those days.

I guess it comes down to choice.

Choose to be a homemaker or

Choose to have a career or

Choose both.

I choose both. That is exactly right for me.


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