About eight weeks ago, I gave birth to our third child, a daughter. My maternity leave began the day I delivered her, and ever since I have been pondering the working parents’ dilemma: If I go back to work full-time, I can’t afford to pay for the required childcare. If I don’t, I can’t afford to pay for anything else. Sound familiar?
Around the same time that my maternity leave started, my husband brought a book home from the library called Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes. One of the central ideas behind Hayes’s book is that by removing ourselves from the corporate, consumer machine, we will be able to live well on all that we save by not spending. Of course I am really simplifying here, but you get the idea.
My husband and I realized that since the recession began in 2008, we have slowly been moving toward becoming producers and away from being consumers. I’d love to tell you that this change happened because we are socially responsible protestors of all that is wrong with capitalism and shopping at big box stores. However, we were just broke. We dumped consumerism as we knew it because, well, it dumped us first.
What radical homemaking means to me
The idea of radical homemaking means different things for different families and that is what I like about it. For some, radial homemaking begins with canceling a cable subscription. For others, it starts with a re-issued library card. For us, radical homemaking includes both, along with a renewed interest in cooking from scratch, canning, fermenting and cutting down the frequency of our grocery store visits.
To this, we have added clothes shopping at Goodwill and frequent perusal of Craigslist for second-hand household items. We have also planted a semi-successful backyard garden, and have added chickens into the mix.
But do these actions really make us a “radical household?” In a word, no.
It’s not a destination
Radical homemaking isn’t really a destination so much as a mindset. Some days we are better “non-consumers” then others. Frequently, we ask each other if our quasi-urban-homestead would make a suitable storyline for lampooning on Portlandia, a TV show we love to watch while falling off the radical homemaker wagon.
We are still early in our meal planning project, and often feel overwhelmed by the amount of preparation required to stay out of the grocery store as much as possible. More often than we would like to admit, we fall back on last minute take-out orders from local eateries. But the point is that we keep trying to simplify how, what, and when we choose to be consumers. So, what’s the point?
In a (locally-sourced) nutshell: We want to reduce the amount of money we spend mindlessly. We want to send our kids to bed happy with dirty feet and sticky hands. We want to have as much time together as a family as possible.
Does any of this really make me or my family “radical?” I’m not sure about that, but I do know that if I am going to sacrifice and save, I want to be paid in the currency of “more time with those I love.”
What does radical homemaking mean to you? Share in the comments.
Sarah M. is a social media marketer and birth doula in training who lives in Denver, CO, with her twin toddlers, husband and newborn. Read her blog.
Photo: Sarah's chicken and child in their backyard