Friday, May 22, 2009

Work and parenting and idleness and me

image from the Wilder Homestead

I've been thinking about my weaknesses lately.
Which I'm told is a popular pastime.

It's led to some thoughts that have led to some more thoughts that I'd like to write down and make sense of and put out "there" to be thought over and evaluated.

What is it with people and work?
The lion's share of everything that has been invented in the last 100 years is intended to eliminate or minimize work. It's like we're allergic to it. But what do we intend to do with ourselves once we eliminate all the "work" from our lives? We invent things, we fill it all in with media and hobbies and extra-curriculars and hover-parenting. Despite all the work we don't have to do, we have no more time than we used to.

We don't have to make anything for ourselves anymore, and so we've forgotten how. It's easier and cheaper to run to the store and buy it. Clothes, soap, furniture....

And don't even get me started on food.

I think I'm fully on the "make your own food" bandwagon, and even tentatively behind the "buy local" and "organic" bandwagons (although you'll never convince me that organic manufactured foods like cookies aren't the biggest scam of all time, and I'm certain with many companies that there are lots of corners cut for profit since the word "organic" = can charge more for this product. An organic skeptic, that's me.)

But my REASON for being on the "make your own food" bandwagon isn't nutritional.
It's because I feel like I need something productive to do with myself that feeds my soul.
Plus I need an excuse not to hover.

When families were dependent on themselves to meet most of their own needs, they stayed busy being productive because they had to. They didn't have time to worry as much about whether their toddler was picking up on his ABC's as fast as the neighbor kid or what the latest trend in strollers was... okay, they didn't have strollers. A lot of their parenting was done while working in the home. Kids learned how to work, because their help was needed to keep the family running. I expect that sense of contributing to the family was tremendously good for emotional health. I expect the entire arrangement was good for the family's emotional health.

But the skill I find most elusive is the time management that would have been required to get it all done. How did they schedule their days and their weeks so that they knew when it was time to do each task? And STAY on task? (Have had some Laura Ingalls Wilder on the mind.... can you tell?)

A lot of what plagues us nowadays is our abundance. The laundry and the dishes seem to breed on their own simply because we own so many clothes and dishes. Clutter overwhelms us because we have so much stuff (guilty as charged).

I can't help but feel that we weren't designed to function well in squalor.
(Because I'm 100% certain of intelligent design)

I'm longing lately for a simpler, more productive existence. It's awfully hard to choose to live that way when there's a cheap shortcut available at every turn. Really. Awfully. Hard.

I have goals of living simply and living abundantly. I also have issues with sleep deprivation and a toddler with a short-attention span.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

I have no answers, only questions and suppositions.

But answers are welcome. And advice will not be turned away.


The Libutti Family said...

Great points. I have nothing to add, and certainly no answers, but I think it IS good for kids to be part of the "work" of the household. My dad called it "contributing to the political economy of the household" and I'm STILL not sure of what it means. Abundance is a blessing and a curse, is it not? I keep buying things for the new baby yet nothing gives me greater pleasure lately than throwing out yet another bag of "stuff". I think it's all even-ing out.
Keep thinking about this stuff. I'm curious to hear more about it, and hey, it gives you somehing do to while nursing. :)

Tracy M said...

OH Em, what a great post. I just got back from Nauvoo last night, and after spending several days immersed in Emma's (among others) world, I was so struck by how little they had. You had sheets- you washed them, hung them, pressed them and put them back on the bed. You had a pair of shoes. When they wore thin, the cobbler repaired the soles... And so on...

Walking around the mostly empty town, as summer season hasn't kicked in yet, I was struck by what pansies we are today. We do avoid work. We don't know how to do those basic things to take care of us, and the results are looking like they may not be so hot.

Coming home, I'm determined to throw my kids out in the yard more, hoe in the garden and make them work a little this summer. Entitlement and helicopter parenting aren't yielding good fruit.

One (very small) thing I did (on the advice of a friend) is pare my kids closets down. They get to have seven outfits for the season. That's it. Everything else gets donated. Their choices are limited, my laundry is less, and we aren't buried. Church clothes are extra. I have yet to do this to my own closet, but honestly, I should, because I always wear my favorite few pants and shirts anyway...

Aby Runyan said...

Oh how I would dearly love to reduce the clutter in my house. It's MY own dumb fault it's all there in the first place. Garage sales, "oh it's just a dollar!". The stuff piles up fast. Then there's always, "but the kids PLAY with these toys, I can't get rid of them." I can't imagine how much money I'd have socked away if I hadn't bought so much. . .stuff.
I don't buy the organic stuff at all, I mean we didn't grow up on it and neither did our parents. I think it's smart to be smart about food and not make too many crazy restrictions. But I'd totally go for fresh veggies from a garden, if I ever get around to growing one.
Sometimes I kind of wish we hadto move and could only take one smallish moving truck. Then I'd have no choice but to get rid of pretty much everything we owned.
I think making your own anything is a great idea.
I could go on and on about this subject.

luvs, aby

Katie May said...

All I know is that my favorite day this week was the one spent in the backyard with my girls weeding and tending to our little piece of earth. I was happily surprised at how much work they did! They wore gloves and pulled weeds, threw them away and helped sweep up the rest. They dug in the dirt and found all kinds of creatures and rescued them before uprooting their homes. Who knew a 3 yr. old and an 18 month old could be so responsible??? And that's just it. I had never really given them the chance to be!

And in the end, it was 3 hours with no tantrums. No fights. No (or very little)crying. And now they are very good at keeping it clean because I think they feel a sense of ownership.

I loved this post! Thanks for the reminders.

Carolanne said...

Amen! You are very insightful, but unfortunately, I don't have any answers, but you have started me thinking...

--jeff * said...

em, it makes me so very happy that you can still be profound as even when you have time to organize your thoughts!
(i should ask you to thank sir o for "babysitting" his brother enough that you could let your thoughts be your own for a bit and share them with us).

i went out hiking with my sister today and our conversation did float across laura ingells wilder and the life on the prairie.

i don't have any answers, but you've helped me think.
cheers to you, mle!

Martha said...

These thoughts are wonderful, and I think they cover what many people, especially parents think about. Right now, I'm looking at the piles of laundry still left to be done, and yet I have tons of clothes sitting on my self and hanging in the closet. I haven't had to fold laundry for over a week and maybe even two! The clutter continues to build, and I wonder how does one preserve the past, declutter the present, and prepare for the future?

On the subject of food, because of the cruel way processed food reacts with my body, I've had to become a "make-it-from-scratch" kinda girl. I'm not spectacular at it, and I don't have my own garden, so I'm still at the mercy of Produce Junction and Pathmark... but I've learned some valuable things as to eating homemade food and having it taste good too. So many peeps have to rely on pre-made goods, dressings, and marinades to help them flavor their food. I've learned what flavors taste well together and how to make my own. I've also learned to enjoy the taste of actual food, which I think is important for everyone. We live in an overly processed, overly cluttered, overly complex world that sorely needs a little R&R to come back to its roots and create simplicity rather than more chaos.

But how do we do this? One day at a time. One battle at a time. Living one moment after the next, trying to keep a broader prospective in how we utilize our time and what things we actually need. That's my goal at least... we'll see how noble it becomes! :)

Thanks for the great thoughts and discussion! Love you!!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...