The Aroma of Warm Bread Rising and Other Things We’d Miss Out On

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I'm in the midst of a fabulous new read, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and just had to share with you something the author, Barbara Kingsolver, said that caught my attention.

It's uncommon to hear a feminist admit the losses and burdens accompanied by the removal of wives and mothers from the home. I thought it was just so telling, that these should be the observations of one who has "been there, done that" as far as establishing herself. She sees, in part anyways, the dilemma of feminism and has come to value family time, the art and tasks of homemaking and even the role of the mother in setting the tone in her home, things which are sadly being lost and even despised in our current culture.

"…Cooking is a dying art. Why is a good question, and an uneasy one, because I find myself politically and socioeconomically entangled in the answer. I belong to the generation of women who took as our youthful rallying cry: Allow us a good education so we won't have to slave in the kitchen. We recoiled from the proposition that keeping a husband presentable and fed should be our highest intellectual aspiration. We fought for entry as equal partners into every quarter of the labor force. We went to school, sweated those exams, earned our professional stripes and we beg therefore to be excused from manual labor Or else our full-time job is manual labor, we are carpenters or steelworkers, or we stand at a cash register all day. At the end of a shift we deserve to go home and put our feet up. Somehow, though, history came around and bit us in the backside: now most women have jobs and still find themselves largely in charge of the housework. Cooking at the end of a long day is a burden we could live without…

When we traded homemaking for careers, we were implicitly promised economic independence and worldly influence. But a devil of a bargain it has turned out to be in terms of daily life. We gave up the aroma of warm bread rising, the measured pace of nurturing routines, the creative task of molding our families' tastes and zest for life; we received in exchange the minivan and the Lunchable. (Or worse, convenience-mart hot dogs and latchkey kids). I consider it the great hoodwink of my generation.

Now what? Most of us, male or female, work at full-time jobs that seem organized around a presumption that some wifely person is at home picking up the slack- filling the gap between school and workday's end, doing errands only possible during business hours, meeting the expectation that we are hungry when we get home- but in fact June Cleaver has left the premises. Her income was needed to cover the mortgage and health insurance. Didn't the workplace organizers notice? In fact that gal Friday is us, both moms and dads running on overdrive, smashing the caretaking duties into small spaces between job and carpool and bedtime. Eating preprocessed or fast food can look like salvation in the short run, until we start losing what real mealtimes give to a family: civility, economy, and health. A lot of us are wishing for a way back home, to the place where care-and-feeding isn't zookeeper's duty but something happier and more creative."

I'm so grateful to be able to be at home, achieving my "highest intellectual aspirations" in the midst of the incredible task of supporting and caring for my husband, nurturing and training my children, nourishing and feeding us all, and making my home a productive and welcoming haven. πŸ™‚

So, what thinks you about this quote? Do you think it's an accurate depiction of families today and the impact of the loss of a mother at home? All thoughts are okay, just keep it friendly, please!

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  1. i kind of wonder what she would have to say about it if she wasn’t also a pulitzer prize winning novelist…i think that each person is different and finds satisfaction on their own path. i am definitely an advocate for homecooked food, domestic bliss, etc. but in my home it is managed by both my husband and i, and we both have outside pursuits as well.

  2. …also, i have also read that book and remember that home tasks are pretty equally split among all the family members, including her husband (who also works.)

  3. sorry..one more…i think if a person is truly happy creating the home environment as their main form of creative expression, then who cares what works for other families? i am definitely not pro-lunchables, but i think there are many ways to achieve the same goal of nourishing a family.

  4. This resonates with me in a big way. 7 months ago I started my life-long dream of being a SAHM, and I am so blessed with this task. I also REALLY want to read this book now… are you reading it with Simple Mom’s book club?

  5. I have been a SAHM most of my married life and feel that this is right where I should be. I thank God everyday that he is allowing me to contribute to my family in this way.

  6. Like you said, I find it fascinating that she almost “rambled” into discovering the great irony of the feminist movement. A very telling observation – I’m glad you shared the quote. During this time in my husband’s career (he’s gone from 4:30am – 7:30pm most days), I cannot imagine our household surviving were I to be working outside the home! I’m thankful to be the keeper of our home and my husband’s helpmeet.

    God’s Word remains the key to making sense of our roles in life. Blessings!

  7. Just wanted to say that I read that book recently and thoroughly enjoyed it! Made me think a little more about where my food comes from and how I can do a good thing by seeking to buy locally whenever possible.

  8. Wow. That is all so true!!

    Makes me even more grateful to be the keeper of my home; the one who feeds and nourishes my family in creative and healthy ways; the one who teaches my children to be upright, Godly citizens in this world; the one who makes sure the laundry is done so my family has clean clothes to wear; being successful in my job so my husband can be successful in his.

    The mistake some women make is they try and have it all. They try to be full-time homemakers and parents and work full-time outside the home, and they are wiped out and exhausted all the time. Family time does not happen, meals are conveniently packaged… I am actually relieved to see that a feminist even sees this!

  9. Oh, wow. What a great quote. Thanks for sharing it with us. What she is saying is precisely the reason I quit my teaching job when our first was little and our second on his way. I knew I could not both teach well and care for my family well… at the same time… so I chose to care for my family.

    Kind of funny how it seems that we have more money now than when I was working outside the home, and I was the one who pulled the bigger salary. It was all about management, for us.

  10. I also appreciate you sharing this, & the irony of what happens when we change our culture so much trying to gain “equality.”

    I wish so much i could be a “mama” in the SAHM acronym.

    I struggle with anger over this issue. For several reasons, keeping my home is a very difficult task for me. I sometimes get angry when i’m highly stressed & doing it all. “When did i sign up for this?” i wonder. And it is sometimes hard to know what my role should be.

    Thank you for sharing this quote. When possible (thru economics & personal choice) i think it is really good for the family if a parent – & that’s usually mama – is able to stay home.

  11. I spent most of my young years and early 20’s thinking that the WORST thing a woman could ever do to herself was have children and stay at home. Ironically, I’m now doing just that. And even better…. I love it. It’s hard. Very hard. Dying to self is never easy. But I think that this quote really shows something important. For years women were made to believe that the only way we could be equal was if we worked along side men. Funny thing is, even in the workplace we still aren’t equal. Ultimately, we sacrifice our lives to build into ourselves, forgoing everyone around us, then walk away feeling unfulfilled. Now, don’t get me wrong, working outside the home isn’t wrong and I bow down to the women who make it work. But, at the same time it pains me to see that we live outside our means constantly (at least most Americans), then complain that we don’t have time for our family. We live on a modest income and monitor our spending, to ensure that I can stay home. I honestly believe, where there is a will to stay home, there usually is a way. I have friends in similar situations (husband is in grad school making very little) who stay at home with their kiddos.

  12. No one can do it all. Something slides. Usually it is the woman herself or her loved ones. I have been both at SAHW and a working woman, and as a person who believes in equality (thus making me a feminist) I feel women should do what is best for them. However, I can’t imagine leaving my little ones all day. And I also watch so many working women, who then spend their weekends pulling the second shift. Is that really “it all”?

  13. I’ve read this book three times (finally left the library one alone and bought my own LOL) and that section definitely caught my eye the first time around. I do have to say Sarah is dead-on with her assessment: it’s very “easy” for the author to step back and investigate these things when her family has been able to return to family land and live the way they do in the book. Many folks today don’t have that option – either because they’ve given it up and just *think* they couldn’t make it financially or truly financially can’t do it.

    When I think about it, even writing those very words afford her the option of living the way she does. She’s still a working mom – and with older children (one grown and off to college during the course of the book, even). Throw a few toddlers in there and things might be a little different. πŸ˜‰

    THAT said, I did really enjoy the book, which is saying something because I disagree with her on several other levels and have actually very purposely not read more than a few pages of her novels. It took a lot of thought and considering for me before I even checked A,V,M out at the library – and more of it to actually buy the book. It’s now a part of my “homestead” library as I can continue to learn so much from it; I still don’t read her other works, though.

  14. Great post. I love this book and have read it a few times. I am also a sahm and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I can’t imagine how my home would be if I were at work all day, well worth the sacrifice for us.

  15. Sarah, thanks for the great comments. I guess my biggest question in regards to all the families making it “work” in other ways is, is it really, truly working for them?

    Amanda, I feel exactly the same way when I think about my husband’s busy schedule and how little energy he has to do extra stuff around the house. It makes me so grateful that I’m able to be at home!

    Kathryn, thanks for sharing so honestly. I so appreciate your heart to stay home for your family, and can sympathize with the difficult that you aren’t able to do so. *hugs*

    Yep, Sarah, I agree that where there’s a will, there’s a way. We did it on less than minimum wage when we had our first baby, so we know that it’s possible!!!

    Melonie, I do agree that she’s in a position in life that makes it easy for her to say something that would sound very difficult or even impossible to others. As far as her other writing, I’ve never read any of it and I’m sure that I would disagree with much of it. I still disagreed with parts of this book, but the majority of it was excellent so I overlooked the parts I didn’t care for. πŸ™‚

  16. I completely agree. Having been at both ends of the spectrum, I am so grateful for God opening my eyes to being at home when my oldest was almost 2.5! Now, that I stay home AND have 3 kids, I cannot imagine not being with them all day and having someone else caring for, feeding and teaching them.

    My husband and I have discussed this a lot recently and he has decided he wants us to write a book about “where have all the mother’s gone?” I do wonder sometimes how the women that are working outside the home willingly, not as a necessity, manage. I would be off the deep end by now, most definitely!

  17. This was my favorite chapter in this book, and like you, I was drawn to these paragraphs specifically. Why can’t more women recognize this and follow through on it? How much happier the world would be!

  18. I also enjoyed this book. Thank you for sharing this quote. I was just talking with a woman last night about this very thing and her coming to terms with not being a career woman and how hard it had been for her. We are trained to think that if we go to college or get some certain training, that we are then obligated to “use it” in a career. And it is hard to accept some days that I am using everything I have learned in training up our children.

    I have a very good friend who does try to have it all in the sense of working outside the home and raising a child and although I respect her choice completely, there is a huge cost. One that she is comfortable with. But I would not be…her home is not a restful place. Everyone is always rushing and there is a high level of stress in the air.

    Another great book one this subject is The Price of Motherhood. We all need reminders of the importance of what we are doing at home! Or at least I do. πŸ™‚

  19. “It’s uncommon to hear a feminist admit the losses and burdens accompanied by the removal of wives and mothers from the home.”

    Isn’t the point of feminism that one now has choice? To either work inside or outside the home as dictacted by one’s own desire, not prescribed by others?

    I do agree that life runs more smoothly when at least one adult of either gender is at home.

  20. I think many families need to take an honest look at wether or not it is worth momma being gone. From simply a monetary standpoint, with my level of education (which is a BA plus some grad work), it would cost over 50% of my salary to put our (soon to be) two children in childcare every month. That right there tells me it isnt worth it. I would much rather be at home, be frugal with our money, and find ways of making a little on the side to supplement than go out, get a job and miss out on my babies very impressionable and amazing first few years.

  21. This quote reminded me of the moms I meet at my La Leche meetings and how so many of them want to stay at home and even have more than two children, and yet they are trapped in their jobs. You can see the sadness in these women caused by what they believe to be the necessity of “having it all”.
    Another thing I think about is that staying at home is just as demanding as any career I know of when you homeschool while taking care of little ones, use frugal means to save money since you’re not “out there” making money and try to keep your family healthy. It takes a good deal of time and effort. But I love this way of living and wouldn’t consider doing anything else with my college degree.

  22. wow, I enjoyed reading this entry on this blog, helped to reinforce what I was already feeling. I’ll have to find the book and read it. I had to return to work for about 3-6 months after our first baby was born (dh was out of a job) and it sucked to be gone so long during the day and then come home to care for a baby, cook, clean etc (even with “some” help from dh). I did as little around the house as I could get by with. I’ve been at home ever since dh’s insurance kicked in after he found a job 13 years ago…and several years ago I think he mentioned something about “over my dead body will you work outside the home again.” He much prefers to come home to enjoy his family and I prefer him to be able to do so. Yeah, I handle the shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, kids etc. but it sure beats working outside the home and then coming home and splitting up chores. At least I know what’s in my kids’ food, and where/what they are doing during the day and I help my hubby by being able to run errands for him when needed. Certainly is a lot less stressful!

  23. I think its pretty accurate.

    Its so sad, I have often said that feminism gave women a choice, supposedly, but it became harder to be at home due to the lack of encouragement and support from others. Comments like “what do you do? Oh no, I meant a ‘real’ job” totally get me down, and I am totally commited to being a SAHM. (By the way, a man actually said that to me). The impact of comments like that is that it might make women think that their job is invaluable.

  24. Thank you for sharing this, Stephanie. It was an inspiration boost I truly needed this week.

  25. the truth is that you would be hard pressed to find a woman, even a “stay at home mom” who has no outside duties. feminism just tries to make sure of things like that she would not be be underpaid or not paid at all, that she would not be sexually harassed, that she would have equal opportunity, etc. the problem is not with feminism, it’s with people who are NOT feminists who undervalue the work of a homemaker. a recent study showed that the average stay at home mom would be making about $140,000 a year if she was being paid for the separate tasks she is performing. it is absolutely valid work, and deserves respect.

    stephanie, i think you must understand the value that a women working outside the home can bring to the home environment if both parents make sure that the kids are getting everything they need from their parents, either the mom or the dad or both if possible. for instance, you are publishing this e-book, and i imagine that if it did very well, and you were offered a publishing deal, a book tour, etc. that you would at least consider it. if you accepted it, perhaps some duties would shift and some new routines emerge, but a good parent knows how to both create boundaries around their home and how to teach their kids about service in the world as well. as women, we need to stop going at each other on the issue, each trying to make oneself feel more secure in her decision by tearing down the other when, really, nobody knows the whole picture except the family itself. my best friend’s mom was an ob/gyn, and she had an amazing upbringing with lots of bread baking in the oven πŸ™‚ — my mom was a SAHM, and I was raised on “Chicken Tonight” and TV.

    I am going to choose to continue to read Kingsolver’s words as I always have — that she is saying that it is not UNfeminist to bake some bread, to stay at home, to revel in making Christmas decorations by hand, and to unapologetically take the time to do so; it is unfeminist not to have a choice in the matter. I agree that 1960s feminism, the one she was a part of, may have, in some cases, gone a little too far in rejecting the homebound ways of their mothers — mothers who may have wanted to be doctors, painters, e-book authors πŸ™‚ , but not had the venue or respect to do so. Things have balanced out a lot more now — she would probably have felt the need to address her peers, though, who may have balked at her writing a book pretty much all about gardening, cooking for others and home life.

    I happen to be a SAHM right now. I am planning on homeschooling my child, too. I also have a career that I am lucky enough to be able to bring him along for when I have to do things for it outside of the home. If my dream/training was to be a doctor, teacher, etc. though, I don’t think I necessarily would have not had children so I could not be torn between one thing or the other — no, I would have just made sure to have an amazing circle of support, plenty of legislation that lets me take at least two years off for nursing if i want without losing my job, other legislation that allows time off for my husband so he can also stay at home, flexible hours at work for parents, and lots of communication to make sure that everyone is TRULY getting what they need. I agree that both parents being at work for reasons of financial greed is not great — in some cases, though, I really believe that God has called these people to share their gifts with the world, and that it does not mean that those people should not have kids. Imagine a world without amazing female teachers, doctors, singers, authors, politicians, bakers, botanists — imagine if these amazing people would have also been amazing parents, but did not have kids because our world is so unwelcoming to women who have kids and want to continue to share their talents with the world. We all want the same thing — the goals have not been met yet for either party — for the women who stay at home and are told they don’t really “work” and for the women who want to continue to practice their profession, but have to fit into terrible, unhelpful lifestyle models to do so. We need to work together, not bicker over which way is right. Neither way really is yet.

  26. btw: when i said the things about legislation in favor of parents, i did not mean to suggest that i would not be a doctor, teacher, etc. unless those things were in place. what i did mean to do was to shine a light on the real reasons living can feel so stressed sometimes when both parents have jobs. there are other countries that are much, much more supportive of mothers who also serve outside the home.

  27. I DO really agree with that commentary, and it’s something that I’ve been thinking for awhile now. It’s nice to see that it is an idea that is coming into the mainstream.

  28. This was the first Kingsolver book I read – I started one of her novels and was… not impressed. But this book really hit home with me, and I’m also looking forward to using her recipe for putting up tomatoes progressively. πŸ™‚

    I love being a SAHM. I went back to work when our second was 3 months old, and worked for 3 months before choosing to return home… I now look back and think “What did I miss?” We prefer to not have any regrets when it comes to our children’s upbringing – that’s why we’ve chosen to have me stay home.

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