7 Sep 2007

I saw a brief snippet of a programme about work stress last night. It talked about how work place stress is such a big problem and set to become bigger as people's work commitments increase. For many types of employment work hours have risen over the past few decades and there seems to be a constant push for increased productivity often with fewer workers. People have less job security as companies downsize and the workforce is supposed to become more flexible, that is, put up with increased variability in work hours mostly to suit the company rather than the workers and their families.

Both sides of government here bang on about working families and how to give them the best deal with the assumption that there is no other way than to have all adults out of the house and working for a wage.

Natalie's post about women's work and viewing the family as a discreet economic unit has been making me think about all kinds of things over the past few days. While watching this programme last night my husband piped up with the fact that people assume there is no other way to live a life than to be out there chasing and worshiping the "Holy Dollar".

The thing is, it has to be someone's responsibility to keep the home fires burning, to make and maintain a safe haven, to build the strong foundation that gives the family unit its own culture, its own history and rituals. If everyone is busy, just busy all the time working on things for others in order to get financial compensation for their time then the family home life becomes poorer or non existant.

People then look to other things to give them that sense of belonging, they look to television programmes to live vicariously an imagined life and relationship, they buy supermarket womens magazines to keep up with the gossip about people they will never meet and people who certainly don't give a moments thought to the lives of their legion of secret voyeurs. To listen to people discuss Brad and Angeline as if they are a young couple who live in their street is beyond sad, it's pathetic.

It is a valuable thing to have a vital and enriching family culture that welcomes others into its comfort but recognises that its main function is to support those who live there. We only have one shot at our child's childhood, if it is allowed to pass by in a whirl of parental work obligations, if work is continually chosen over family what are we telling our children about how we value them.

Ofcourse money has to come into the household , we no longer live in a society where it is possible to live without some cash, there are taxes to be paid etc, but we can all make decisions about how we live our lives, about how our family economic unit is going to function taking into account all the members of our family unit including the responsibilities of parenthood and the rights of childhood. There are many ways to be a financially stable family and one of those, the one we have chosen is to have one adult working full time for a wage and the other adult working full time to provide a home worth coming home to. At this stage in our lives it is the wife at home and the husband bringing in the money. It hasn't always been this way and I don't know what the future holds but I do see my job as being of equal importance to this family economic unit.

By being a frugal housewife I believe I am adding to my husband's peace of mind and our quality of life, we spend money on what we chose to spend it on rather than having to follow the fashion of the day.

By choosing to make the majority of our meals from scratch and growing and preserving some of our food I'm not only saving money on the food bill but hopefully building strong healthy bodies that will mean fewer health problems and fewer health bills.

By cleaning and maintaining our home so that it is cheerful and comfortable I'm again attending to our general physical and mental health and also hopefully showing that such work is creative and satisfying. I hope that deep in the soul of each of my children will be a place that knows what a home is and how it feels and they will search for and find that in their own adult lives.

By treating each member of my family with dignified respect and interest and sharing their joys and sorrows when they are in this home, by having the time to develop an awareness of where they are at in their lives I hope that they genuinely feel how much they are loved and appreciated just for being who they are. I hope that because they don't have to fight to be noticed they will know what it is like to be loved and take that with them on their life journey.

By trying to tread lightly on this earth, by not taking more than our share and being willing to share what we have, by actually taking the time to make a decision about how we will react to rampant consumerism that threatens to engulf our culture I hope we are teaching our children that it isn't necessary or desirable to do things just because everyone else is doing them. If you live with a gang mentality, that it is OK to do something because everyone else is doing it, even though you might not completely agree with the gang you will have to bear the consequences of the gang's actions.

By making our home a haven my husband can come home from work and truly relax and thus give more of himself to his family and his home. If we were both working for a wage I know there would be competition about who had the worst day, who deserves to take it easy and who should attend to the needs of the household. I know there would be resentment and I know it exists in many households where both adults work because I have experienced it and I have been told about it by many jaded women in their forties who have tried to do it all. On one level they have succeeded but the price they pay is a constant feeling of resentment and mistreatment at the hands of their loved ones. They have coped for years and because they cope so well it is assumed they can just do more and more. Most women will move heaven and earth to maintain a reasonable home and care for their children whether they work outside the home or not. But some of these women are very angry and some are just plain worn out. They have lived their lives the way they thought they were supposed to and it hasn't delivered the peace of mind that they crave.

Being a part of a family economic unit doesn't mean we all have to be out there bringing home the big bucks. We can make our own mission statements and goals, we can establish our own business plan and run things our way. You can chose to run up a vast credit debt or you can chose to make do with what you have, save up for what you want and then maybe decide it wasn't so important after all. We can decide to concentrate more on the family cultural unit and with good fiscal management we can relax and enjoy the wonders that spring from the creative exploits of our own dear families. I have spoken before about the everyday tasks of a household providing almost endless opportunities for learning and artistic responses, for meditation and self awareness, for dealing with repetition and the unexpected. The way we respond to everyday tasks and situations in our households determines the culture and emotional colour of our families.

PS for those who have popped in to find out about the doll give away I have postponed it until Sunday evening ( Australian time), that's September 9th. I got too involved in doing a spring clean and I haven't quite finished the doll. I hope that hasn't disappointed anyone.

25 Responses to “Family”

  1. Jenny, I am far from disappointed. I just love this post and agree with every single word in it.

  2. Another thought-provoking post Jenny. I found myself nodding at so much of it particularly "But some of these women are very angry and some are just plain worn out. They have lived their lives the way they thought they were supposed to and it hasn't delivered the peace of mind that they crave.".. Can I just say Amen??! :)

  3. Great post Jenny! I'll be linking to it on my blog tonight!

  4. Jenny, You capture my thoughts so frequently, it is almost scary. My daughters are 18 & 16 and I feel they are gaining a sense of independence BUT the other night my heart was warmed when my 18 year old and her mates chose to hang out at our house because one of the friends told her that it felt like a home.....that is worth more than anything in the whole world
    God Bless You and your family Jenny.

  5. i too loved your post. i hope that my children also, as they grow, know how comfortable and safe a home can be and create that for themselves once grown.
    In this day and age of divorce, i know many single mothers who would love to stay at home and raise their children, but circumstances have forced their hand to seek work outside of the home - as well as all of the work in the home.
    I know many who, even if it is in the smallest way - find a rhythm for their home and family that fits for them and their circumstances. And that rituals such as family meals, birthday celebrations, baking on a weekend etc are still done to try and touch base with their children - as we all do. We should support these families who are finding it so tough.
    Great post:)

  6. Hi Jenny
    I loved what you said about a "gang mentality" and it is so very true. Also, I too have known women who are just plain worn out, where working hours, family life, cultural pressures have really took their toll...sometimes these women are angry, sometimes they are depressed and sometimes they're bitter and how can they not be under such pressure? A great post, thank you.

  7. Definitely thought provoking and I am one of many single mothers who would love to stay at home full time with my children, but I know I cannot give my children "enough" if I don't work part-time. I am frugal and watch the pennies and I try to spend as much time with my children doing normal family things. I believe time spent together is more valuable than me working full time. There is a balance between the two. Thanks for reminding me how important this time is!

  8. Jenny,

    Thank you for writing this. It really cheered me up. I'm currently having constant battles with my mother, who belongs to the have-it-all generation, and just can't accept that I prefer quiet home life and peace of mind over huge career ambitions. I'm glad you are able to go against the tide and choose what's best for your family.

  9. HI Jenny,
    You wrote: I hope that deep in the soul of each of my children will be a place that knows what a home is and how it feels and they will search for and find that in their own adult lives.

    That is beautfuly stated.

    I know this is a great gift my parents gave to me. In turn I hope I am passing it along to my children.

  10. What a fantastic post and oh so true. We here in the U.S. have such high expectations of keeping up with other people's lifestyles and the revolving door of debt. And in the meantime, people are miserable because they just keep working to acquire more and more "stuff." You will hear people talk of needing two incomes to make ends meet, but are living in a very nice house and driving an expensive car. People don't want to give items up--unfortunately, it all comes with a heavy price tag, usually at the expense of our children.

  11. Beautifully said Jenny!... If only more people could read this...

  12. Well said, Jenny! Have a wonderful weekend. :)

  13. Just said so perfectly. Blessings, Tami

  14. Wonderful post - I am in complete agreement. Thank you for your well thought-out words!

  15. BRAVO!!!!

    I'm just learning all this now in my own life!

    Thank you ..

  16. Jenny,
    Thank you for giving us your thoughts on home and family. I especially loved this sentence:

    ~If everyone is busy, just busy all the time working on things for others in order to get financial compensation for their time then the family home life becomes poorer or non existant.~

    I think this is exactly what we see happening all around us....families becoming poor rather than rich in love, forgiveness, health, contentment and so many more virtues.

    Bless you!
    P.S. I'm linking your article on my blog too.

  17. I wish I could put those thoughts into words as wonderfully as you have. Thank you Jenny!


  18. I have been thinking about writing about this issue for quite some time now. A very well written, thought provoking post :0)
    I enjoyed reading it very much.

  19. Wow, I'm amazed. What you write is so true, I wish more people could understand that dividing the household work into "bringing in money" and "making a home" isn't to let one of the spouses get the easy part while the other get the hard one. It's equally important. Thank you so much for a lovely post, if you do not mind I'll post a link in my blog =)

  20. Jenny, what a way you have of writing my own thoughts...but writing them so beautifully. I was until 3 years ago a slave to the double wage. It nearly took a nervous breakdown for both myself, and my husband to realise it had to change, but change we did, and neither of us can now imagine how we ever coped, or what it was we were aiming at. Nicely written.

  21. Jenny, I first read this post after seeing it linked by Rhonda at Down to Earth. I loved it so much I printed it, cut it out and pasted it into a notebook of favorite things. I am just starting out blogging as a goal I set for my 40th year. I linked to this post within mine. I hope that is okay.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

    1. Hi Natasha, congratulations on your new blog and of course it it great that you would want to link to my post. Actually I just re read this post and enjoyed it too. Can't believe it is 5 years since I wrote it.


Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I don't always have time to reply but I do read every message you leave.