Making a Home

A his­tor­i­cal arti­cle from 2000.

My main work is home­mak­ing —both in the sense of cre­at­ing the pleas­ant, healthy phys­i­cal space in which we live and in the sense of anchor­ing the dis­parate indi­vid­u­als who live here into the fam­i­ly unit that is our home in a much larg­er sense. I chose to leave inter­est­ing, well-paid work out­side the home to be at home and be the pri­ma­ry care­giv­er for our three kids (with the sup­port and encour­age­ment of my part­ner, of course). We with­drew my daugh­ter from pub­lic school in favor of edu­cat­ing her at home, and hope that some­day we will be able to do the same with his chil­dren. We’ve had reac­tions of sur­prise, sup­port, mis­un­der­stand­ing, and encour­age­ment from var­i­ous friends and fam­i­ly mem­bers. I hear from var­i­ous pro­fes­sion­al con­tacts reg­u­lar­ly, and all of them seem to assume that sure­ly this is a tem­po­rary thing. Why would­n’t I want to go back to work? Aren’t I bored? Would­n’t I pre­fer to be out mak­ing money? 

When you keep house, you use your head, your heart, and your hands togeth­er to cre­ate a home—the place where you live the most impor­tant parts of your pri­vate life. House­keep­ing is an art: it com­bines intu­ition and phys­i­cal skill to cre­at com­fort, health, beau­ty, order and safe­ty. —Cheryl Mendel­son in Home Com­forts

In a word, no. I occa­sion­al­ly miss some aspects of work­ing, but I’m cer­tain­ly not bored. I’m not intel­lec­tu­al­ly sti­fled. It isn’t dif­fi­cult to fill the hours of the day with far more excit­ing pur­suits than sit­ting in traf­fic or far more pleas­ant con­cerns than won­der­ing if every­thing is okay at my daugh­ter’s school. Yes, I occa­sion­al­ly miss some of the inter­ac­tions I had at work and some of the tech­ni­cal chal­lenges. If I did­n’t have inter­net access to per­mit me to stay con­nect­ed to peo­ple and infor­ma­tion, I might find it more bor­ing to be at home (but I did­n’t have any trou­ble find­ing ways to fill my time in pre-inter­net days, so I doubt it). If it weren’t for the fact that I hap­pen to live in a place where I’m sur­round­ed by more things to do than I could ever pos­si­bly squeeze into my life, maybe I’d feel more iso­lat­ed. As it is, I don’t feel iso­lat­ed, bored, exclud­ed, or stifled. 

I spend much more of my time in fas­ci­nat­ing con­ver­sa­tions with one of the world’s most extra­or­di­nary peo­ple —Katie —than I did when I was col­lect­ing a pay­check reg­u­lar­ly. I don’t spend any more time doing house­work now than I did when I spent sev­er­al hours in traf­fic every day. There’s a lot more time in my day for going to the library, read­ing, stitch­ing, mak­ing music, and play­ing than there was before. I feel sad that every­one can’t be here at home with us for most of their days. There’s hon­est­ly some guilt that Sam has to go out into traf­fic every morn­ing and deal with work­ing out­side the home. How­ev­er, there isn’t any resent­ment over being at home, and I don’t feel less impor­tant, less intel­li­gent, or less valu­able in any way because I am a homemaker.

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