I’m a child of the 80’s. I lived in the suburbs with a white collar dad and stay at home mom who taught me, along with my teachers, that I could do anything I wanted, just like my male classmates. Going to college and having a career was my pre-destined future thanks to the tremendous work of the feminist movements that came before my time. To this equal rights future I marched, while my own mother made a home for my father, sisters and I, doing the work of daily meals, homework, holiday specialness, PTA meetings, shuttling us back and forth from extracurricular activities and making sure our house was kept together through all the ups and downs of family life. Onward I went, sleepwalking through a Business Administration curriculum at a large growth-oriented university, the kind that taught you about big business and how to navigate the rat race of large corporations. It was all very…normal, expected, hum-drum.
I went on to work for a big corporation, then smaller ones that serviced big ones. I made a decent salary, lived an entertained life, had a smart boyfriend or two and was reasonably happy but longed for more meaning in my life. Like many of my female friends, I had entered into the business world only to discover I didn’t like it there. I couldn’t have told you why at the time, there was just something amiss, something that didn’t fit for me, even though I was promoted and valued by the companies I worked with.
So I started wondering about what I could do to fill this unnameable void. Perhaps if I was in charge of something, I would feel value and meaning. I looked to the business world again, this time starting my own company, one that focused on serving the community instead of the big businesses which primarily served bank accounts. During this time something shifted. Instead of carving out a career, I began to sculpt a way of life. I felt my contribution to society suddenly rife with meaning, and experienced tremendous value, yet the scope of the responsibility was overwhelming. Surely there was a way to belong and contribute without working myself into ill health.
Along came motherhood. I was dumbstruck. Why hadn’t being a mother and building a family been an option, a path, something to hold ambition for? Why had a career in business always been my chosen path to try and express my instinctive nurturing, especially when that is typically the last place those qualities are encouraged? How had I turned a love for dinner parties into a restaurant instead of making a home and just throwing dinner parties? My mother made a home… why wasn’t it okay for women in my generation to desire that as a life path? Reflections on parenting eventually brought me to wonder why it also wasn’t okay for men to want to make home either. It used to be that everyone worked their land together, home was the center of a slower paced life, and town was a place where all the families grew in a community together.
After all this time, I’ve come to realize that a mothers place is at home. It’s also the place for fathers, children, grandparents, some chickens, a goat and a big garden. The cubical, daycare, assisted living and the grocery store are all poor substitutes for family, tribe, community.
We’ve collectively agreed that earning money for someone else to take care of our loved ones is being responsible. What if we collectively agree to take active care of our loved ones in ways that are unique to each of us – some of us like to grow food, others cook it, others tell stories and sing songs to lift us up. This is the true work. Work that is shared amongst all of us so that none of us is required to be everything to anyone. Recognizing our misplaced responsibility is the first step. Adjusting our valuation of what it means to contribute to society away from how much money we make and towards how much love we cultivate around us is the next step. When we see these critical factors, we can begin making gradual lifestyle changes to stop outsourcing and start giving our personal version of care for our community. There may be some re-skilling involved, which is just a fancy way of saying making those fun extracurricular activities more central to your life – learning to cook, raise chickens, garden, weld, sing, play a musical instrument, sew. You will be less reliant on a paycheck to purchase manufactured food, clothes and entertainment and lead a more creative existence that generates good times together instead of stressful times apart.
It’s about time all of us returned home, where are heart is.