Pages

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

On My Mind

I know I don't often write long thoughtful or informative posts, but I've got one today for those who are in the mood (and have time) to read and possibly participate in a discussion over the next few days. If you don't feel like reading the whole post, would you mind going to the end and answering any one of the questions? I'm quite curious!

The thought came up on a message board I visit that affluence is subconsciously, or maybe even consciously, defined as the distance between a person and the provision of their own daily needs. I brought up the subject, again briefly, while chatting with a new friend about the butchering of meat. Fun topic, no?

Since then, I haven't been able to get related thoughts out of my mind. When I can't get something out of my mind, the best way for me to process it and 'let it be' is to write it out.

I considered the possible levels of progress as our money, resources, knowledge, and skills increase. (I realize some of my descriptions are slightly colored for the sake of discussion.)

1. The very basic survival: following the animals and food, movable shelter, clothing made from skins, dishes from carved wood or pottery, washing occasionally in a river. Every waking hour devoted to basic needs.

2. A step up: using purchased tools to fell trees and build a cabin, rifles for hunting, plows and seeds for crops, honey and maple syrup for treats, digging a well, cooking in a fireplace, weaving material on a loom, spinning thread and yarn, teaching children to read using the Bible, Pilgrim's Progress, and Robinson Crusoe after the day's work is done. Life is hard and often dangerous. Tragedy is commonplace.

3. Building a house using milled lumber, buying grain to make bread, housing livestock in barns and pens for butchering, a barrel of molasses purchased at the country store, a nice orchard and vegetable garden --drying fruit or storing veggies in the cellar, using a clothes line to dry the laundry, baking in a bake oven, a community-run one-room school house children attend over the course of a few years (during the winter when home labor is less intense).

4. Having a house built by a contractor; purchasing flour, meat, honey and sugar and other supplies at the store while canning many fruits and vegetable from the garden; running water and electricity, simple appliances; buying cloth to sew clothes, yarn for knitting; newly found free time is spent making up games, creating something, enjoying conversation, playing music, getting together with neighbors for dances (quilting, discussions, or sharing food...).

5. Buying the cookie-cutter house in the suburbs. Clothes are purchased along with everything else. Food comes in boxes, tubs, bags, and cans. There is an appliance for everything. Children are in childcare or public school until they go off to college. Cars have DVD players and gaming systems. Free time is spent being entertained rather than entertaining one's self. Children's games are organized and regulated by adults. Who needs to actually make money? We've got credit cards now. Life expectancy is much longer. Workplaces strive to be safe. Modern medicine keeps many of us from dying from diseases, in childbirth, or due to accidents.

6. Now we've made enough money to have the laundry taken care of at the dry cleaners, house cleaned by a cleaning lady, health maintained by a trainer at the gym, bellies filled with restaurant food, and private childcare and school for the children.

7. But who really wants to leave the house to get everything done? Home staff for laundry, cooking, exercising, cleaning, decorating, phone calls... personal needs taken care of at the spa because everyone needs a day out with a chauffeur to drive us there. Nannies and then tutors or exclusive boarding schools for the children.

8. I didn't think there was another step, but my sister mentioned that many kids (and adults) don't ever see the money made in the first place. It has always been handed to them, always will.

I think we are doing a disservice to our children by removing them from the process of providing for their daily needs. Each generation needs to know that the memories they have of the process often aren't shared by their children.

I may remember watching my mother kneed bread dough, the yeasty smell of rising dough, the feeling of punching down the dough and watching it 'deflate,' the irresistible smell of baking bread, and the first bite of hot bread: crunchy on the outside, warm and soft on the inside. When I buy a loaf of bread and eat it, I may have somewhere in my subconscious a connection. An idea that wheat was grown, ground into flour, mixed into dough and baked, but do my children?

The world often looks down on or pities those who have no choice but to spend their time providing for their own daily needs or even providing basic services for others, but how much more does it not understand those who choose to do things for themselves rather than 'buying out' when money is available.

I am thankful that my children don't spend their days laboring in a field, but am I actually taking something away from them by not letting them experience the connections? There can be an immense amount of satisfaction and accomplishment in 'doing for ourselves.' Not only that, but thankfulness often comes from knowing what 'could be.' I would be so much more thankful for a bar of soap if I knew the laborious procedure the pioneers went through to make soap.

In no way do I intend to romanticize the hardships of the past. There are so many things I would choose to purchase rather than do for myself. I'll be the first to admit that I am both lazy and squeamish. If I had butchered animals all my life, it might be easier to me, but a dead mouse sends me over the edge.

I do think, however, that children and adults alike should have a decent grasp of the process by which our food comes to us. If they can participate to some degree in the process, even better. A field trip to a dairy, growing a veggie garden, baking bread--each of these things could serve to make connections.

There are so many questions to ask:

What is the purpose of wealth? To have the money to pay others to provide for our basic needs? To have more time for recreation? Luxuries? Security? To impress others?

Do we really have more time for recreation the harder we work?

What conveniences would you not want to live without?

What conveniences do you think actually serve to make our life more complicated?

What do you enjoy doing for yourself that you could pay someone else to do? Why do you enjoy it? Is it more enjoyable knowing that it isn't something you have to do, but something you want to do?

What are you interested in learning to do on occasion or as part of daily life that you currently purchase ready-made or have done for you?

Is life easier now? Simpler? More complicated? More enjoyable?

What steps can we take to foster in our children appreciation, participation, and basic understanding of what it takes to provide for his or her basic needs? Is this important?

Do the majority of Americans find fulfillment and great satisfaction in their employment?

I'm reminded of a story that a friend told me a while back. Some of you may have heard a version of it, but here is my short rendition:

A poor fisherman spends his early mornings fishing, sells his fish, and then comes home to his family. A rich man comes along and tries to convince the poor fisherman to get a real job, working for 30 or 40 years to build his wealth so that when he is an old man he can spend his days fishing and playing on the beach with his family.

Comments, anyone? Short, long-winded... I'll take whatever you have to give!

18 comments:

simple mom said...

Wow. Loaded questions. And stuff I think about, too.

"I am thankful that my children don't spend their days laboring in a field, but am I actually taking something away from them by not letting them experience the connections?"

My thoughts exactly. In fact, I may be closer to your kids' generation than you - not in age, but in experience. I have no recollection of my mom baking bread. My memories are of making a snack after school of Wonder Bread, lunchmeat, and American cheese (or is it cheez?) slices.

And not that convenience food is a sin (well, that's debatable), but there really is something that is missed when all food, money, and other services are just handed to us. I can see skills like gardening, sewing, and even cooking DYING OFF in a few generations, because no one thought to pass it down to the next generation. Kinda sad. I think, in some ways, it's yet another positive to homeschooling. I can do science lessons with my daughter while also teaching her how to bake bread. We can do botany and gardening 101.

I know I have more thoughts, but I also have a preschooler making a fort in the living room with couch cushions - better go supervise...

I Was Just Thinking.... said...

Wow, what question do you want tackled first?
I guess I'll just take the basic undertone of your essay and address that.
It seems you're asking does wealth make us richer - not financially but more fulfilled and capable.
16 years ago I was blessed to visit the former Soviet Union when it was just the former Soviet Union. There was little on the grocery store's shelves. If you wanted toothpaste - one brand, soap - one brand, brand, two choices, etc. At first in was aggravating. But when we returned to Colorado and visited King Soopers I was overwhelmed, confused, and frustrated. Now there's a lot behind the freedom of choice and capitalism but there's also something ensnaring (can I make that a word?). So many options before us, so much done for us makes us lazy and stupid, humble opinion I know.
I remember reading about Nathaniel Bowditch a few years back - a self taught genius who designed a navigation system with only a few years of formal schooling under his belt. Reading this biography (Carry On Mr. Bowditch) I thought how convenience in our lives today has taken away that hunger to explore and initiate learning on our own. One doesn't need to know how to bake bread, slaughter the pig, milk the cow, grow their own potatoes, make their own laundry soap, figure out where they are by looking at the stars. We can go to the "experts". This may be good for our GNP but how does it affect the individual and their ability to provide for themselves - if we are constantly dependent on others to provide our basic needs where does that leave us?
Boy these our random thoughts?
But the more I read in the blog world it seems there's a growing backlash to this dependence on someone else taking care of our basic needs. Do you sense that too?
If you look at the U.S. and how the average family lives - in debt because our basic needs now include those basic wants (that's a discussion on media waiting to happen) I think in many aspects of our lives we are much poorer than folks in Malawi, India or Papua New Guinea. Folks without choices, who are closer to the creation of supplying those basic needs of life, seem to recognize what are needs and what are wants, what's a necessity and what should be treated as a treat and therefore not expected everyday, every week but maybe once a year.
I'm trying to teach my kids that dessert isn't something I'll provide every day. It's just for the weekends. It's a hard habit to break but I think, for me, it demonstrates what the U.S. is used to and expects (dessert every day) when in reality what is best financially, dietarily and spiritually is dessert once a week, keeping the special special.
Done!

Dreams of a Country Girl said...

very insightful, you are speaking to my heart. i seems we (as a nation) have strived for wealth and lost simple joys in the process. it seems we have allowed a dream of easy street to steal our reality of the "now" we live for what we might have when we get there and we lose sight of what we do have right in front of us.

i must; however, speak to the comment
"The world often looks down on or pities those who have no choice but to spend their time providing for their own daily needs or even providing basic services for others,"

...the world (ie Christians seem to be grouped in the sterotype most often) on working moms, wealthier class,people with annie, etc. I know this to be true i do not think class makes you and good or bad parent -- daily choices do. Homeschooling for some is the right choice, bording school for other is the right choice. what i hope to do, and fail miserabley at daily, is to NOT judge (Heidi, I do not think you judged at all) but to force on me and my family because at the end of the daily that is the only think I have contril over and the only thing I will be held responsible for. So many times, we (myslef very much so included) begins to think our way is the best way and if others are not following, we pity them. i hope that we become a generation that lives in the moment -- whatever we feel that is right for us -- and stops looking to see how awful the Jones' poor kids are or how much the Smith's poor husband has to work so hard,or how the Davis' have to cook their own bread, bless their hearts...but we see what we can learn from the Jones', Smoth's and Davis' and how we can value them for who they are.

The Kramer Family said...

This is an incredible topic that is at the core of my heart these days.

We've been living on a farm for the past two years and have experienced something stir deep within our hearts. There is just something about being engulfed in God's creation daily. It causes you to notice things- His power, His glory, His sovereignty. We are in a constant state of awe!

There is an incredible Christian book that goes into great depth on the progression of society becoming more dependent on others over time and focuses primarily on the women's role. It is called Choices by Mary Farrar (love this lady!).

I believe that women have bought into this lie that they can have it ALL, whatever 'ALL' is. We think we can have the career, the fancy home, the perfect family, an amazing marriage, wonderful children, and a vibrant relationship with the Lord.

But, I believe that this isn't the case so often when women are trying to balance ALL of this. Something does in fact suffer. And often times it is within our own walls- our children and marriage. Just ask any women who spends hours a day at work. Ask her if the Lord, her family, and marriage is getting her BEST.

If you look at families 100 years ago (which isn't that long ago in the broad spectrum of history), families co-existed together. Every second of the day was spent together. They hunted together, baked together, sewed together, and gardened together- just to name a few. They did all of these things because their life depended on it for survival.

I'm not proposing that everyone move out to a compound somewhere remote and never involve themselves in others lives and just keep to themselves on their perfect little farm. I believe the Lord has called us to be light in a dark and dying world.

My point is that not too long ago in our society, the home was central to their lives. It was everything! Nowadays it is hard to find a family that spends more than 2 hours TOGETHER.

How have we come so far as to go from doing everything for ourselves to now almost doing nothing for ourselves? We pay people to cook, clean, bathe our dogs, and, yes, some even pay people to watch their children all day long.

I do say all of this humbly. I haven't got it all figured out. Up until 2 years ago, I was a women who thought I had to prove myself to the world and make a name for myself. But, this is a lie from the devil.

The Lord calls us to make Him famous. Not ourselves. When I grasped (and am still trying to grasp this), I am free- off the hook! This shifts the focus on Him instead of myself. I believe that the role of a women is that of a servant. This may sound ridiculous to some. But, when I look at the life Jesus led, He was the ultimate servant. He came to serve and to love. I can't think of a better way to spend my time than to serve and love others.

The time we have with our children is short in comparison to how long they will be out in the world.

An overflow of all of this has been for me to start taking a look at what we've been dependent on others for. I've started making my own cleaners, breads, and eventually we will get to a point that almost everything we eat comes from our farm. I know this isn't feasible for most. But, it might be more feasible to hook up with local businesses and farms to provide food for your family instead of buying things from supermarkets. The 'Eat Local' movement is huge right now. Google it and see what you find. There is a wealth of info out there.

I believe there is something about being able to visibly see how our food is being raised/harvested/grown over just buying things off the shelf. Not to mention that it is a lot healthier for us too.

I think I've rambled on enough. Sorry! I didn't intend for my comment to be this long. This has just been a cry of my heart for the longest. I haven't got everything figure out and have to trust daily in where the Lord has me. It is easy to get sidetracked in a world like today.

Blessings,
Lynsey

The Kramer Family said...

One more thing. I believe that Titus 2 calls the older women to teach the younger women. Recently, an 'older' (I like to say wiser and more beautiful) woman spoke to something along this same line of womanhood. There wasn't a dry eye in the sanctuary because her words were piercing.

Here is what she said:

I grow increasingly convinced that God values children much, much more than we do.

We value a clean floor more than children. We value free time more than children. We value the good dishes more than children. We value going out to eat or watching grown-up television shows more than we value children.

All the world, including the church, tells us that children are a bother, perhaps even a mistake. If you don’t believe that, introduce a family with many babies into your church and see how long it takes for someone to say, “They know what causes that, don’t they?”

We have let the world convince us that a large family is a curse, when the Bible clearly teaches that many children are a blessing, a sign of God’s great favor.

If I had the choice right now, there would be more children in my family. And I think I might be brave enough to let God decide how many.

I remember that it seemed a little frantic around my house when the children were little. I never got “it all” done, whatever “it all” is. There was not much privacy or money or free time. There was lots of laundry and garbage and stinky stuff. The boys were going to be 2 and 4 forever. It was never going to end.

Don’t get me wrong - I enjoyed my boys. But it was all colored by that worldly, selfish, hurry-up-and-grow-up attitude. And then it was over. I woke up one morning and they were almost as tall as me. The next day, or so it seemed, they didn’t even live with us. Now there is not much garbage or laundry or stinky stuff. And there is much more privacy and money and free time.

I’d trade in a heartbeat.

I would do laundry around the clock if it meant I could have one more day with my little boys in my home. I want the piles of blue jeans back. If my family had been larger, perhaps I would have grown in wisdom and learned to treasure the tiny victories and agonies of everyday. Perhaps not, but at least it would have lasted longer.

You think they’ll be little forever. You can’t imagine being able to handle – afford – care for another little life. But you can. And it will be over before you know it, with plenty of years left to use the good dishes.

Heidi said...

Oh, yay! *Thank you* ladies, for getting through all that and responding. Your comments are very valuable to me!!

Simple Mom~ I agree that many of those skills are dying off in the general population. I see many of them as life skills for my kids... I don't know what their income will be (or fortune/misfortune) and I know too many people who need those skills and don't have them! I think homeschooling will make that easier for us as well. I hope to teach many of those skills in the context of life. (I know all about couch cushion forts... have fun. :))

I Was Just Thinking~ I was hoping you would respond. :) Loved your comment. I know, too many questions all at once, LOL. Your statement, 'I thought how convenience in our lives today has taken away that hunger to explore and initiate learning on our own,' is right on! I also agree that the diferentiation between need and want is very blurred. I think there is a backlash, but I can't imagine that it will ever extend to the majority of the population. Will that pull us apart?

Country Girl~ Yes, I do think we've lost sight of the simple joys in life! And, yes, you are so right. The judging definitely goes in both directions! I'm not a militant homeschooler :) but I'm sure that I have a tendency to judge in other respects, and that is just as disasterous. We, I, need to love others simply as people and do our best to live our own lives with deliberateness, taking time to think (and pray!) about what is right for our families. Thanks for sharing your heart.

Lynsey~ Thank you for sharing your experience on a farm. I love it! In many ways, I would like to raise my boys on a farm, but I am glad to at least live in the country. We'll be trying to eat more locally over the next couple years. I love taking the boys to our farmer's market. Yes, children are an incredible blessing! Some days it does seem like they will be 1,3 and 6 forever :) but I know that life goes by so very quickly. We do a lot of snuggling, laughing, and loving around here. Not so much cleaning house! Affording the kids isn't so bad, but the sleep deprivation is overwhelming! After each boy, I thought *now* I deserve a sleeper. And each boy slept less and less. Debilitating exhaustion is tough, especially when there are little boys in the house, LOL! Almost didn't make it through pregnancy/infanthood of #3. I love the Titus 2 mentorship model. I really need to find a woman like that in my life. Thank you so much for your thoughts!

Julie said...

I just recently found your blog and have enjoyed it immensely. But this post really struck a cord with me. I was up in the middle of the night unable to sleep and read this. At first I thought that I would comment right away. Then I decided to think on it a little and come back to it. I am sure glad I did. The responses you have received are amazing!

I, too, have been feeling the need to be less dependant on other people for my needs. I have also been evaluating my wants which were always needs in my mind. I needed a fancy car. I needed a big house. I needed impressive clothes. I had the mind set that because my husband had a certain job that I had to look the part. Now I think how silly I was.

I have two girls 6 and 4. It is my goal to teach them the "finer" things in life. Those would include the taste of a tomato that they grew themselves. The satisfaction with making something by hand and giving it as a gift to see someone else enjoy it. To travel to other lands to see that we are not the only people on earth (like most Americans believe) and that what they do is not better or worse just different. To be transported by a book to somewhere that only their imagination can take them. Those are just a few things that I can think of off the top of head.

I think that wealth cannot be measured by money. Money will not go with you when you pass. Wealth is measured, at least in my mind, by your experiences, the people who are your friends, the family that you hold dear, and a relationship with the Lord. Can any of those things be had while trying to have all the material things? Doubtful.

I believe that our society as a whole has to slow down, take a deep breath and shed the "I deserve this" mentality. People were just as happy with less not that long ago. Probably happier. I don't have an answer on how to do this but I love seeing the discussions on blogs as of late about simpler lives. Maybe as a whole we can start a movement to bring back that mindset. I am glad that I am not the only one who thinks about this.

kimberly said...

Our family began researching Natural Foods in November 2006 as a way to help one of our boys with his behavior problems. Through all of our research, we were led--quite gently--to the discovery of the Kosher guidelines that God set forth in the Bible. I found a beautiful book at my local library called How to Keep Kosher, by Lise Stern, which I have since purchased and has become one of my personal favorites.

One of the things that struck me most in Stern's book is the discussion of slaughter and all of the rules and regulations that surround that act. Every detail is checked to make sure that the animal's death is quick and painless, as a measure of respect for the animal who is giving his life to give life to us. I realized while reading that book that when I go to the store and buy a prepackaged shapeless piece of wrapped meat, my children have no concept of what it even is, much less where it came from...and they certainly don't recognize that a life was given for theirs.

The end result is that we just got 5 baby chicks last week to use for eggs--and a variety of other homeschooling skills! In two years we will butcher them and use them for meat, hopefully giving the boys (all of us, really) a better understanding of the food chain and the circle of life.

Meaty topic (pardon the pun)....you are providing something for me to meditate on over the laundry today! My husband and I laughed recently (as he was learning to craft working bows and arrows and I was teaching myself to spin alpaca fleece) at how we are continually moving "backwards"!

Jen Rouse said...

What a deep topic. In my opinion, this is a place where, as my husband likes to say, we need to get off in the middle of pendulum. That is, not swing too far to extremes in either direction, but determine what works for our families and then live it out.

It's easy to romanticize the past, I think, and I appreciate that in the "steps" you described, you included the fact that in pioneer days, life was dangerous and death a fact of life, so to speak. I think many conservative families today like to think that if we all lived 100 years in the past, then creating happy, godly families would be so much easier. The "modern world" is not the problem; sin is, and that's been a part of humanity since the beginning.

That said, I do feel that we're living in a time in which technology, for all its wonder (like the forum we're using to discuss this issue!) takes away from the real things of the world. I would rather see my children play with sticks in the mud all day than watch TV. The fact is, though, our lives consist of both mud and some TV shows, and I've got to find ways to balance that.

I think things like growing a vegetable garden, or at least visiting a farmer's market or a farm, can help our kids understand where food comes from.

I've taught myself to do things like bake bread and quilt, because they're skills and accomplishments I take pride in. I like creating something with my hands and then standing back in satisfaction, knowing how many hours of work went into those things, far more than I do buying things at a store. My girls watch me do these things with great interest, and I hope I can pass on those attitudes, and those skills, to them.

Hope these thoughts aren't too rambling; thanks for a great post.

Heidi said...

Julie~ I enjoyed your list of the 'finer' things in life. :) I've been thinking a lot about the 'I deserve it' mentality as I read through Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. It is shocking what we Americans get ourselves into debt-wise with that attitude! Thanks for commenting.

Kimberly~ That sounds like a fascinating book! Thanks for the recommendation. I agree that many steps we take (in other aspects of life as well) seem like steps backwards, but I think of C. S. Lewis who says that there is no use going forward if you're on the wrong road. (My paraphrase, anyway. :))

Jen~ Oh, I completely agree with getting off at the middle of the pendulum, LOL! I really don't want to go back 100 years, nor do I think things were perfect (or anywhere near perfect) back then. I, too, am trying to find a balance for my family. Living it out is the hard part. :) To me, part of this discussion was about being deliberate. Even if I choose not to butcher our own meat (not going to happen), I want to have thought about it and made the decision. And maybe there are other areas in which I can compensate, or will make the decision to change.

Everyone, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your comments! Thank you for taking the time out of your busy days for the conversation. (And keep them coming if you're interested...)

Gina said...

What a great topic-it's been on my mind for the last few weeks-well the food part of it anyway. I so long to teach my kids how we get the things we do and that what we have is a gift-we are not the source of our provision, God is. Funny thing is my husband was recently laid off, making simplifying necessary. It certainly changes the way you think.

For health reasons we've been working towards eating more whole foods and less processed stuff that looks nothing like God intended food to look like. Also less meat that's been fed with growth hormones and who knows what else.

Definately feel the desire to make life more simple-always have. (although like most of you I enjoy and appreciate the modern conviences we have and usually take for granted) We are looking forward to summer and more trips to the farmer's market and maybe a small garden (or at least a try, it's harder in Central Oregon-we so miss that about living in the Willamette valley-lucky you Heidi).

I totally appreciate and agree with Julie's comments on the finer things in life and the measurement of true wealth.

Love the quote from the Kramer family too, all this makes me continue to ponder and think about home schooling our son in the fall, rather than just send him away for the day.

So much to think about here-thanks for the food for thought!

Heidi said...

Gina~ Thanks for weighing in! I'm glad you found some food for thought here. It usually isn't so deep, LOL. Yes, summers in the Willamette Valley are perfect for gardening and such. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else!

Country Girl~ I've been thinking about your comment all day. This parenting gig can be so passionate, no? It seems so easy to get caught up in defending ourselves, judging others, or even wanting to be an embassador so that others might experience the joys/benefits/etc. that we are! Really, at this point, I want to be deliberate about my choices. I know many people are just as deliberate about public schools, working, keeping a very clean house/not worrying about a clean house, unschooling/classical education, vaccinating/not, attatchment parenting... the list goes on and on. And it *does* come down to what is best for our own family. The thing that I catch myself on, though, is doing things just because that is what I've always done/everyone does/it's easy/etc. I want to make sure that my choices are *my* choices. And some things I won't be able to do even if I want to. I either have to accept it, or work to change it. I know I'm just babbling on... I really do think that, other than certain black and white moral laws, most everything is gray, and we do what we feel led to do!

Carole said...

Jen said,
The "modern world" is not the problem; sin is, and that's been a part of humanity since the beginning.

...

The fact is, though, our lives consist of both mud and some TV shows, and I've got to find ways to balance that.

I like those statements. They're both good reminders for me since I can be easily swayed into the "this is too much excess" camp. :) Not that I'm ready to ditch my dishwasher or anything.

I read your post early this morning and haven't had a chance to sit down and comment until now. This topic sends my thoughts off onto many little tangents. Here are just a couple:

A while back I was considering how some women work full time to earn money to pay people to take care of their kids (nanny), house (maid), health (fitness clubs), food, etc. while I stay at home and do all of those things myself (um - I'm my own fitness club? well, you get the point). At times being a stay at home mom can be more than frazzling and the idea of being away from my kids sounds lovely. But then it dawned on me that all I would be doing is working to pay for myself since myself was at work and not at home. Does that make any sense?

We (Americans) have this idea that we "have" to work because there are so many things that we "need." (I'm not trying to attack women who are in the workforce - this applies to men as well - it's a mindset that too often works against a lifestyle of contentment.) So we leave our kids and families behind in pursuit of the American dream, all the while missing out on the most precious days of our lives.

I guess when I realized that I could be out there working to pay for a good caregiver for my kids OR I could be that caregiver myself, I felt that I'd attributed a monetary value to what I do all day long. It wasn't so much a debate about whether women should work outside the home - it was the realization that women have always had full time jobs; some come with salaries and have pretty big overhead costs; others are more "back to basics" with Mom, Dad and the kids working and learning side by side.

My husband was raised in a family that truly values hard work. Both Tim's parents are gifted as servants and he and all 4 siblings are extremely hard working. I value that work ethic and am happy to know that at least 1 of us has it in us to pass that on to our children. Yes, I do want them to know where milk and eggs and chicken and carrots (etc.) come from. I want them to know the hard work that people invest into their professions, however society may look upon them (farmers vs. doctors - both are critical to our society). I don't think the question is whether I have to move to a farm in order to make sure my kids know that oatmeal doesn't grow in a cylindrical cardboard box. We'll find out where it came from and maybe even who grew it, when possible. What I really hope is to teach my children about people, to teach them that every individual deserves respect, to model for them the value in valuing others, to be a family that chooses to give out of the little that we have instead of hoarding it in order to live for ourselves. I know that true contentment lies there; it's just a matter of keeping in perspective the gift that each day brings.

DebMc said...

Interesting post!
Without really answering your questions, I'll toss in the comment that when we travel in Europe, the more money we spend on hotels, transportation, and meals the farther from the culture we get.
I'm delighted that God insisted we travel on a budget while we lived in Belgium and EXPERIENCE the culture as close to native as we could.

Interesting post. I'll enjoy thinking about it.

the good, the bad & the ugly said...

Heidi,
Funny this is the first time I have shared our dreams with anyone, other than my Mom and Dad. My husband and I are on the cusp of purchasing land and starting a small farm. It is my husband's childhood dream. He has spent the last year and a half, since he became self-employed, researching and working towards that goal (thus the tight budget I am always referring to:) ). We are becoming increasingly passionate about buying locally grown foods, enjoying the outdoors more, and being together more often.
I don't think one has to own land, especially a farm, to revive old values. But I do think that somehow we need to rethink our fast-paced schedules and why we do what we do. We (husband and I) decided to stop what we were doing (living in a huge house in a suburb of a huge city with a fast-paced, high dollar job), quit being scared, quit worshipping things, and venture to dream a little with God. When we did, the cat was out of the bag and our lives have never been the same. We have days when the sacrifice of finding our hearts' desire meant spending less and doing less. Some days this was a real struggle for me. But, ultimately, we have discovered what we are here for, deepened our love for our Creator, and become a much more tightly knit family. We are loving our life, and there is no turning back now!

Dreams of a Country Girl said...

heidi -- i love your spirit. you are beautiful inside and out. let me first say that i cannot believe you could even read my comment through all the typos. this is a teriible flaw of mine -- one of the many.

i want to make it clear that i do not think you are a judgemental person. i have just had the priviledge -- or curse, all how you see it -- of sitting on both sides of the fence. i am see how both sides are judgemental and honestly very hurtful at times. i think there are GREAT moms out there homeschooling, and i also think there are GREAT moms out there with nannies and housecleaners.

i have stayed at home with my kids. i went back to work 1 year ago -- out of necessity -- i have a house cleaner, a nanny that comes to my house 4 days a week,and i enjoy what some would consider the finer things. is this my desire? no, not at all. i actually will be changing things ... but right now, i am doing what i must to take care of my family. i find it that often people will judge people for not choosing theirpath in parenting/schooling/food choices etc. i just try to think that i have no clue where they are coming from. i try to listen and hear why they make the choices they make and honestly, when i do that, i learn more than ever.

bottom line is, i do not think there is a blanketed right or wrong. i think, just like you said, it is a lot of gray. at the end ofhte day, i am responsible for my family and no one elses. and who am i to say that their way i wrong or less than mine?

i truly believe that every momma out there is doing the best she can...the best she knows how to do. i hope to inspire and help, maybe just a little.

i love you and you have inspired me soooo much.

Heidi said...

Carole~ I really loved this comment:

"What I really hope is to teach my children about people, to teach them that every individual deserves respect, to model for them the value in valuing others, to be a family that chooses to give out of the little that we have instead of hoarding it in order to live for ourselves."

Very well said!

DebMc~ Thanks for commenting! I'd love to travel that way with the boys in the years to come. :)

The Good~ Oh, I'm so excited you shared your story! Looking forward to hearing more about your journey...

Country Girl~ Thanks for sharing! I agree that most moms are passionate about their families and try to make the best decisions that they can. (It is soooo personal~which often makes us defensive/judgmental/protective/or taking on the roll of ambassador.) I'm proud of your for doing what it takes!

Anonymous said...

I just happened upon your blog today. I wanted to tell you about a book. "The Omnivores Dilemma" by Michael Pollan. If you havent read it, its a must read. Its insanely informative and eye opening. He speaks of how picking up a package of meat at the grocery store takes away from our knowledge that it was once a living creature. He investigates where our food comes from. The processed, the big "organic" and the locally grown organic. He also hunts for the first time in his life, and slaughters chickens at an organic farm. He then eats meals made up of all of the food. One processed industrial meal and so forth. Its a gem, if you havent already read it, I'm sure you would enjoy it, and you should pick up a copy. :)