Sunday, July 8, 2012

Homemaking without kidmaking

Something I've mentioned in previous posts but never actually discussed at length is what it means to be domestically minded when you don't have kids. This is particularly relevant because in the preceding post I pretty explicitly said stated that married women should seriously reconsider participating in the job market. This naturally begs the question - then what? The short answer is that I'm not sure. It's easy to babble about community service and "endless opportunities" without saying anything particularly helpful or encouraging. Considering that housework is less physically arduous than in previous years and that not every woman wants to sit around knitting afghans for other people's children, wives can find themselves with a decent amount of time on their hands. I say this with the guilty knowledge that for me such time all too often gets converted into old novels and cooking shows on Hulu. Not exactly the picture of industrious housewifery - except that right this moment I actually am because of my paint spattered clothes which indicate a freshly painted pantry. But, I digress. The point is that with so many women looking outside the home (shall we say domestic sphere?) for meaningful work it can be hard to figure out what we're supposed to do after we've folded the laundry and swept under the kitchen table.

With that in mind, here's my "Good Heavens what if we don't have kids and I end up stuck in this house alone with Allen forever!?" list (so far):

1. Cook more slow food. 30 minute meals are great when you've got an hour between piano practice and Wednesday night Bible study, but in my experience good food often takes a while. While it might not take a whole lot of time all at once (pot roast for instance), it often takes a few hours of being to kneed or stir or baste once every x minutes.

2. Invite people over to eat said food. Most moms would probably like a break and plenty of bachelors (of both sexes) would almost certainly enjoy a home cooked meal eaten at a family table. And of course there's always the time honored tradition of inviting the pastor over for dinner.

3. Read something intelligent and discuss it with my husband (or friend if he's really not interested). Allen and I already have the best discussions, and I look forward to us having many more.

4. Learn a new skill - piano or photography. While this could devolve into mere personal fulfillment I think a skilled woman, by her very nature, has more to offer those around her. That could mean something as simple as being able to lead a round of Christmas carols or being the unofficial family photographer at reunions, but it could also lead to wider opportunities. For myself, I rarely get deeply enough into any particular subject to master it, but I do enjoy dabbling with new skills and hobbies.

5. Get involved with Christian education. Even if I decide that pursuing full time employment is definitely out I expect there are ways to get involved. There's volunteering obviously, but I could also look at part time work in a classical or home school coop setting. Those are situations which would give me a substantial amount of time for purely domestic pursuits while reducing my job competition with men.

6. Cultivate friendships. If you're not holding down a job and/or trying to raise three kids you really don't have many excuses for not getting out there and working on your relationships with other people. The world keeps bemoaning the lack of community, and women with time on their hands to listen, to talk, and to encourage sounds like just the ticket to fix it. (Did I mention I don't make new friends easily? Yeah, this one I really need to work on.)

7. Love other people's kids. I know that having other adults in my life I could trust or least enjoy being around made a big difference in my life. These were people who encouraged skills my parents may have overlooked or gave me confidence that their confidence in my intelligence wasn't mere parental wishful thinking. There are already three kids in my life that I love to visit, but in church with so many young ones I could afford a few more little friends. (Funny aside, I had picked up the youngest after church while talking to someone I hadn't seen in years. After a couple minutes talking with this lady the little girl's mom and I just sort of blinked at each other and had to straighten out just who Mama was. First time that's ever happened.)

8. Travel. I don't know where this fits in under good Christian housewife, but I plan to keep traveling as long as possible. Lets just say that if the Heavens and Earth are God's art gallery I like to go poking around in the different exhibits.

9. Be readier to volunteer at church. I don't just mean teaching Sunday school. There are plenty of times that the deacons will have a request, but in the past I've just been too tired/busy to do anything.

10. Get more involved in my city/state/neighborhood. I must say I have no idea how this will work. It's not something I saw my parents model pretty much at all except for their interactions with our elderly neighbors over the hill. It might mean volunteering at a community garden, getting involved with local political campaigns, or helping maintain the local trail systems. I mainly just figure you can't whine too much about everything running downhill if you aren't occasionally willing to patch a leak or two yourself.

Well I reckon that's my list. There's probably a whole lot I'm leaving off of there, so if anyone wants to make any suggestions I'm all ears. I realize that a determined mom could probably finish off my list at some point in her child raising career, but the idea I'm contemplating is that since moms are really a subset of housewives our lives (in broad strokes mind you) shouldn't really look all that different. We keep house, cook meals, serve our friends and family. Those without children just have more disposable time with which to cultivate their talents and serve those outside their immediate family. I admit there are plenty of times when I wonder whether I'm really wasting time better spent on some "larger" vision, but for every doubt I get a little throb of conviction telling me that the largest thing I ever accomplish might be to do some of those small things well.

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