x116 (hipster housewife)

Recently I’ve been reading a lot of discussion based on the postmodern feminist homesteading movement. It’s been refreshing and I really wish a lot of these resources were as popular – or even existed at all – back when I was in high school. I remember telling my high school guidance counselor and my therapist at the time that I didn’t have any solid career goals – I simply wanted to be a stay-at-home mom (and a foster mom), and whatever work got me financially settled until I reached that point would do. They both responded by telling me there was something wrong with me. For a bright young woman growing up in the era of third wave feminism and attending a school that prided itself on its academic achievements, it was unheard of that I wouldn’t be excited about college and a career and using those two aspects of life to define myself. That line of thinking was reserved for the girls who had a lower GPA and perhaps were already mothers. That line of thinking was reserved for the girls who were “damaged” and would end up on welfare – something nobody in my insular community thought would manifest for me. I was destined for “success” – the kind of success that is measured by expensive, good schools and solid careers that produce money and “happiness”. But at my June 2007 high school graduation date, right before the economy tanked, nobody could predict that this kind of “success” would be hard to come by – for everyone.

I didn’t expect to become a “radical homemaker” or a “hipster housewife” because I had no other options. Did any woman in the 2k era think that? I figured I’d work a little, get married, work a little more, and then settle down, and the whole affair would be a choice. For me, though, there was no choice. Unlike the lack of choice imparted by society in the 1950’s and previous decades, the lack of choice that was fought against by second wave feminists, my lack of choice came from a disability. “Standard”, or career-focused work, was too stressful for me. And honestly? Sometimes work around the home is too stressful for me as well. But, overall, it’s considerably more manageable – and for me, much more rewarding.

I shouldn’t need outside validation to bring home the point that there isn’t anything wrong with staying home and managing affairs there – and to a certain extent, I don’t. But it’s amazing to see how the movement – if you can call it that – has grown and changed since I graduated and started trying to find my way as an adult. After the career-driven 80’s and 90’s, more millennials started adopting the attitude I had – work is not the be-all end-all to life, and there are more ways to be a contributing member of society beside bringing home a paycheck. Of course, this brings to light various racial and class inequalities – if I wasn’t engaged and co-habitating, and if I didn’t have the option of presenting this as a conscious decision my fiancée and I made (and to a certain extent, it is), then I’d be considered a welfare burden. People who come from a lower economic bracket or marginalized race have a lot more obstacles in the way of social judgment when it comes to this area as well. If the roles were reversed and my Black fiancée was the stay-at-home dog-mom and keeper of the home and I was the career woman, the judgment faced by her would be much harsher. Once you’re not white and educated, making the decision to be a homemaker is no longer deemed a conscious one by society – it’s assumed that you had no other choice. And when the element of choice is taken away, that’s when conservatives decide you have less value and deserve less rights.

I like to think of the benefits of me staying home to make sure things run smoothly. Our pets get considerably more attention than they would if we both worked outside the home. I’m able to do a lot of cooking from scratch (and would love to learn to do more), something that I can’t imagine is easily manageable for two adults who commute to a full-time job every day. And while I wouldn’t consider myself a housekeeper-grade cleaner (I actually tried to be a housekeeper once; after about an hour my boss gave me what I had earned thus far and told me to go home), the home is considerably more well-kept and we get much more downtime on the weekends than it would be otherwise.

Despite all this – the burgeoning modern movement that has captivated both liberal and conservative folx, the extensive histories of homesteading as a valuable way to make a living pre-industrialist and capitalist society, the first-person testimonies of stay-at-home moms everywhere – I still find myself having to justify my choice to anybody and everybody who asks. I recall the husband of someone I went to church with stating that he wished he had it as easy as “staying home and playing with the puppy”, while I was struggling with crate training and keeping up with the ordinary housework on top of that. Maybe managing a household is easier for neurotypical or non-disabled folx, but given that statistics show that women do most of the shopping, cooking, cleaning, and childcare for their households even when they do work outside the home, I suspect that this husband was blissfully unaware of the weight his wife had been pulling. And unless I’m adding considerable community socialization or increased DIY projects to my schedule, saying things like “Well, this week I baked bread, worked on creating a cute goal chart to help myself live more purposefully, finished my library book and cut down on the time it takes to clean the kitchen without sacrificing the quality of my work!” tends to sound… boring. Like I’m not doing anything with my life. Like I’m struggling to make myself sound interesting. The small goals and accomplishments are the ones that are the least talked about and the ones we’re the least proud of.

So while resources on homesteading and homemaking can be procured in abundance during the current economic and social climate, there’s still a change to be made regarding attitudes toward those who choose to stay home – or toward those who don’t have the luxury of choice and are making the best of things. While the work can seem daunting or a burden to those who don’t have this agency – whether we’re referencing 50’s housewives doped up on antidepressants to curb their boredom and depression or modern single parents who are struggling to provide for their children when outside childcare is inaccessible – for those who desire to work inside the home, what we do is valuable and does contribute, even if we are childless or child-free. It’s not easy, and it matters. And we matter.

5 responses to “x116 (hipster housewife)

  1. i’m definitely with you on this, and i would add one thing that i think is also important to consider: when a person opts to remove herself from wage labor and stay home, she also removes her voice from the one place most people express themselves in the political/social sphere — their places of work — and unless she does something to counteract the loss of her public voice she loses her agency, in my opinion. it’s something i think about a lot and i think people (like me, and you) who view DIY, keeping house etc as a radical act need to talk more about this and how to combat it, because otherwise we just wind up removing ourselves from society at large, which might make us feel happier and more sane, but it does nothing to help bring about change outside the home. don’t take that as a statement about you personally (i don’t know you after all!). just something i think should be added to the discussion on this stuff.
    btw have you read kathi weeks’s The Problem with Work? https://libcom.org/library/problem-work-feminism-marxism-antiwork-politics-postwork-imaginaries-kathi-weeks

  2. Kate – I am definitely with you on finding an outlet that helps integrate you into society. I’m still working on finding one myself; I was attending services at the local Episcopalian church but I found that it just wasn’t in line with my religious views so right now I’m focusing a bit on therapy to make sure I can handle the commitment of volunteer work. For a woman who chooses to stay home I think it might be easier to find something; since I am also disabled I need to make sure I am not signing up for something too stressful. I am interested in either becoming a CASA volunteer or working as a hotline counselor for a rape crisis center. I’ve done political volunteer work in the past (I did the “volunteer vacation” for EQME’s work getting gay marriage legalized in Maine) and I’m still politically active; voting and looking into local politics and such. I have not read the book you mentioned but I will definitely look into it; thanks for the recommendation!

  3. I stumbled across your blog from a friends offbeat home fb post about the ability to change your mind. I read some of your blog, and I want to thank you. What you go through mirrors my life, and it really helped me today to know I’m not alone. I’m a disabled stay at home wife. I was diagnosed with ptsd from past trauma from childhood (also repressed, also can’t be proven) and my adult years, ocd, and I have migraine associated vertigo- which keeps me from working. I especially relate to your church issues, I want to volunteer so badly, but when my issues make me unreliable, I just decide not to even try. My husband pushes me to let the coordinators know a bit of my personal life, but I’m so tired of people treating me with kid gloves or using me as their token go to person. I get exhausted with people assuming things about me.

    That said, before all of this really took control of my life, back in highschool I told my guidance counselor the same as you. I would love to be a stay at home mom, i had bo huge aspirations, and family life was what i craved. I was basically told that I should be ashamed, I was in the top tier intellectually in the hardest classes- how dare I waste that by being a homemaker/mom. As I get older, and help raise my step children, my desire for my own kids wanes, and I’m faced with yet another round of scrutiny. As if coping with mental illness and an invisible illness isn’t enough, I now have to defend not wanting to have kids from my own womb in my 30s. I’ve tried to educate all I can on spoon theory, but I’ve realized that some people just want to dismiss others as lazy. What I have found, since leaving the work force and living on one income, is that my husband and I are saving so much money. With one person to rely on the chores, animal care, random errands, and the budget- things just get really taken care of- even when half my week is spent on self care. Plus, what I eat is vital to my migraines, and being able to concentrate on feeding myself and my hubs properly has made such a huge impact. There are days when I can only load the dishwasher and walk the dog, but I’m finally starting to realize that I don’t have to beat myself up for being happy. It doesn’t mean that I’m settling or being complacent in my diagnoses, it means I’m finally allowing myself to live the life I was given. Being grateful for the good days, and making a list of even the smallest accomplishments doesn’t mean that I (or you for that matter) are trying to seem more interesting or worthy. Our worth doesn’t have to come from what everyone else is capable of doing. (And I won’t be apologetic about being happy when I can make it through a grocery Shopping trip without crying! 🙂 )

    Thank you for your blog. sending prayers of sunshiney mornings your way.

    • Alex, I wanted to thank you for your kind words! I love it when people are able to relate to what I blog about and I, in turn, can relate to them. It makes me feel much less self-conscious and alone, and I hope you feel the same! Despite (or because of?) our disabilities and choice to be housewives, we are worthwhile people and the things we do are important. =)

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