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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