As many mothers who begin to ‘stay at home’, I struggled to define my role and justify my decision to cease employment. I know there are some women who chose to ‘stay home’ and never look back, but for me it has been a journey of making meaning and discovering what it means to a home-maker. I have come to see my role as one who strives toward right relationships with God, others, creation and self. I would argue this is what it means to be a Christian and for each of us, this pursuit will look different. But for me, right now, it means seeking to return the home to a unit of production in the midst of a consumer culture.
As I was solidifying my ideas of being a homemaker that seeks to live simply, work toward sustainability and serve community I came across this article in the New York Times and promptly found the book Radical Homemaking by Shannon Hayes. While Hayes’ book doesn’t claim to be Christian, I was surprised that her view of the ‘Radical Homemaker’ lined up with the Christian vision of seeking right relationship with God, others, self and creation that had been forming my definition of homemaking. Hayes describes radical homemakers as
More than just soccer moms, Radical Homemakers are men and women who have chosen to make family, community, social justice and the health of the planet the governing principles of their lives. They reject any form of labor or the expenditure of any resource that does not honor these tenets. (pg 13)
In our contemporary context we’ve been taught to see the home as a haven from work and productivity. Labor saving devices and processed foods have made it possible to distance ourselves from the daily work of homemaking. And while there is a place for both rest and convenience, part of the quest to see the home as productive means valuing work as something life-giving and something to be embraced, and not as something to escape. It means embracing skills that have been cast aside by many as unnecessary and even degrading. If I add up my time and materials it is cheaper to buy winter caps for my family, but I choose to make them because the act of creating the things we need leads us toward a more real understanding of cost and gives us much more value. Hayes states
When we regain connection with all that sustains us, we regain a creative spirit. We rediscover the joy that comes with using our hands and our minds in union to nourish, nurture and delight in our families; we tap the source of true creative satisfaction, the ecstasy that accompanies a home that lives in harmony with the earth’s systems, an the certitude of a life guided by principles of social justice and non exploitation. (pg 83)
I would add that in doing this we draw ourselves not only in to right relationship with creation and further the work of social justice, but we also further our relationship with the Creator of all things, as we become more fully human and bring about the kingdom of God.
Emily has a masters from Regent College in applied theology. She is a homemaker and keeps a daily blog on the extra-ordinary of daily mothering and domestic arts.