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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Married with a Homestead

I'm sorry that I am unable to give proper credit to the person that brought up this topic, I have forgotten.

Someone in another blog asked if we as homesteading wives are painting ourselves into a corner. I found that interesting, and have been thinking on it ever since. What would happen if our spouse should stop homesteading? I know that there are a few of you that read my blog, whose spouse has yet to fully embrace the simple life, and many of you are single. But a significant number of you are married. Has this thought crossed your mind? As uncomfortable of a subject it is, it is one that should be discussed.

One of my main reasons to bring this up is that my husband is working on one of his days off for a local motorcycle shop. He has one day a week to do all his chores. I have picked up the slack and have been doing his chores. I have discovered that on our way to simple living that we have taken on traditionally male and female roles. I cook and clean, garden and can, tend children and animals. While my husband does maintenance, prepares soils, builds needed equipment and out buildings and most of the heavy physical labor. Nothing I think we should be ashamed of, I don't feel this throws the feminist movement back 100 years. And this past week of more physical labor than I have managed to do in years, is showing up on me as scares and fatigue, soreness and depression. But to keep the homestead functional it must be done.

Of course I realize that woman had more roles on a traditional homestead then most people give them credit for. And yet these things were not a typical day for them. They had their female roles and would take the place of their husband's when the need arose. But what about us? The spoiled females of the new millennium. Do we step into those roles willingly? Readily? Maybe.

Being married with a homestead causes a sense that more things can be accomplished. Of course this is truth, because there is two of you. But what would happen if suddenly you were alone? I already throw tantrums like a two year old when the cows decided not to listen to me. Will I have the time to do everything that I did before? Of course I will not have the time, and I would need to rethink my plans.

Maybe it is time for all of us that are married with a homestead to step out of our traditional roles for a few days. To tackle both our own chores and our spouses and quickly answer these questions. I am doing so now. And have discovered that I need my husband, and I need him to show me how somethings are done so that if something should ever happen, I can continue to live this way with fewer obstacles.


Wendy said...

I found the same thing you discovered. My husband works a full-time job away from home, and we don't have a full-time homestead, anyway (only a quarter-acre suburban lot with a garden and some chickens). But even with just a quarter acre, there is a lot to accomplish, especially since I've given up some of those "modern" conveniences, like a clothesdryer and store-bought bread, and doing things by hand takes a lot more time :).

I used to think I did everything, but I've come to realize how much my husband actually does do, and even though we haven't really divided up our "duties", per se, he is really good about picking up the slack for me when I can't get to something (like mowing the little bit of lawn we have). So, I have done this exercise and the answer for me is that we are a unit, and we need both of us fully functioning for the unit to run smoothly ;). I hope to become more dependent and more self-reliant on our tiny farmette, but doing it alone, even with as little a space as we have, would be incredibly difficult ... and not nearly as much fun ;).

Gina said...

The same thing here (except I also work a full-time job off the 'stead). In fact, because I do it so rarely, I often forget how to start our lawn tractor. I take it for granted that Sr will take care of it.

I also think quite a bit about what would happen if one of couldn't work (or died) and I could learn to start the tractor, but I am not sure Sr could cope with the bill paying (my job) or setting needed appts (also my job) or planting the garden...

I tend to be rather bad at building things and I do not like tilling.

It would be interesting to trade roles for a month or so. This would really give some light to what we handle (and they don't) and what we take for granted that they will do/take care of.

Actually, I just remembered I have no idea how to hook up the livestock trailer...hmmmm

Jami said...

Oh my gosh, I would hate it if I had to go it alone. Is it do-able? Probably, but two sets of hands make things seem more manageable, and two heads working create lots more ideas about how things could be made simpler or better.

I think hubby would struggle if he had to cook (heaven help us if he had to), or if he had to find the patience to pay the bills, but I do know he would manage alright if the need arose.

I have often wondered if roles became "traditional gender roles" more because of ease/ability than anyone trying to keep women under thumb. Think about it. Women tend to be caretakers, which leaves us with (ahem) more patience than many men. Men are typically physically stronger, which makes some jobs much easier for them than for us. I don't know if it's as much about feminism as it is about specific strengths of each sex that make them more cut out for certain projects. Neither sex is better, just different and maybe better suited for different tasks.

Robbyn said...

I worry about this, too. Do we want to tackle the whole shebang as we're aging, and what happens if my husband dies? (not to be morbid, but I worry about it!) Can I possibly have the heart to do it by myself, since no kids would be at home (that we know of) with us beyond the near future? Since we're moving to land to ensure our ability to be independent of supermarkets, what if I can't grow enough to live on, all by myself? Or what if one of us becomes disabled, or with a debilitating illness?

I don't have all the answers to that. I'm still thinking about the subject of aging on the homestead...and the emergency scenario. Boy, is community (however it's expressed) seeming like an essential...

Carla said...

Interesting what you say about traditional roles. Here in Canada, Alberta historically has been the homesteading. And they breed strong women and the men respect that. I don't think it's any coincidence that they were the first province where women had the right to vote.

MeadowLark said...

I second Robbyn's comment about "community". There's a reason my Grandma had 12 brothers and sisters and my Grandpa had 10 brothers and sisters. Farming (homesteading, sustainable living, whatever you call it) is HARD WORK. Period.

We don't really have a homestead, per se, just a baby garden which is almost entirely my baby. That said, I needed to trim a few branches from overhanging limbs the other day and had to get hubby to start the pole saw (something wrong with leaking oil) and cut the branches. I'm sure I COULD do it (I was a US Marine for heaven's sake) but I don't WANT to. I like having a "man around" to do some of the "crap jobs" that I don't like. And I'm sure he feels the same way about laundry and cooking, so it works fairly well.

We do both work outside the home... him in a fairly stressful job with lots of hours. Me, not so stressful, since 80% of my job entails surfing the internet. Although it doesn't necessarily include stopping by and commenting... (looking guilty)

It would be truly hard to have the life I'd like (the life many of you already have) without him.

Shauna said...

The "academic" books out (studies of homesteaders) there about "modern homesteading," such as those by Rebecca Kneale Gould, Jeffrey Jacob, and Eleanor Agnew point to the traditional roles taken on when homesteading is undertaken (these studies are mainly about the 60's and 70's movement, but Gould's book has some of the back-to-the-landers who stayed on the land). Gene Logsdon, Wendell Berry, and others also address the return to traditional gender roles in homesteading families. Some of these books address the gender factor, while others do not. It's interesting to see that many of you have experienced this as well. As for me and my husband, we are not yet homesteading, we are in the planning stages but have significantly simplified our lifestyles, so I haven't had this experience yet. I wonder what the future holds. Thanks for the great post and excellent info as usual.

Anonymous said...

Just an anonymous post from a new reader who doesn't yet have a homestead but is getting more and more hooked on the idea...

How about the situation where the woman happens to be the "breadwinner" and doing the main job of getting the money for everything, and the man happens to be a home-based artist? In our family unit it is the man who does most of the cooking and other home chores anyways, I just don't have time for it (nor skills!). So are the homesteading traditional roles really about _homesteading_ as such or are they related to gender roles in society on larger scale, such as men tending to be the ones who have a better paid job? If men are more likely to get more money, it is reasonable for them to work outside. And if there are children involved, I guess it happens very easily that the woman stays at home which then leaves most of the home stuff to the woman.

But there are exceptions as always. In our household the man might be responsible for technical things, like fixing the computer, but even I'm able to do quite a lot of nerd stuff on my own. I just feel better if I don't _have to_. I used to be alone for a quite many years and during that time I had to manage alone many things, like putting furniture together and other stuff. I actually wonder sometimes how on earth I did all that.

To be honest I can't think of a thing only one of us could do. We are just as good or just as helpless in most practical chores. For example, at the moment neither of us has a driving license so even the "car factor" doesn't count. At the moment I feel that the thing about homesteading is to learn everything together right from the start. I am more experienced with animals, but I'm more likely to travel, so there's no way I can keep the animal thing to myself. He has to be able to handle all of them just as well as I do (or even better, as he's the one who's going to spend more time with them). So I was just wondering, should we prepare to specialize more to different things if we get the homestead or will we be able to maintain this sort of unity? Does anyone out there have a homestead with reversed gender roles? Or both partners working at home?

But anyways, thanks for the post, I really started to think about workload sharing issues now.

Phelan said...

Wendy, hear hear!

Gina, that's kind of what I meant. There are so many things our husband do that we don't, and might not have a clue as how to do. My husband is showing my some of the things, and the others I am doing by fire. Good luck with that trailor!

Jami, exactly, and I attempt to clarify it in today's post.

Robbyn, I don't want to think about it with aging. I am hoping that by then we have accomplished most of it and no more new labors emerge. I am hoping for generational homesteading.

Carla, I am not saying that my role is not a strong one. My family was bred to work. Stout, square should and hard headed. It was merely an observation of what has taken place here. I still do many things that most women don't when it comes to physical labor. My arms look like Popeye's!

Meadowlark, community is very important no matter where you are. I have stressed that fact many times over the years. Right now if my husband dies I have 4 male neighbors that will help me. ( only 2 women and they too are the caregivers) I love having my man around, and it is hard to imagine my life without him. But it is something to think about. Our life is about to get harder and the chances of a tractor accident become closer to reality, s it is something I must think about, and perhaps prepare for. Even with a spouse, this life can get overwhelmingly difficult.

Shauna, thank you for the information. Gender roles are sneaky things. Your future in homesteading might be different then some of ours, and it might be the same. I wish you luck on you goals.

My new anonymous friend. My husband and I do learn things together. Some things he knew already and some things I knew. ANd we share, sometimes the moment of sharing happens in the heat of IT'S GOING TO DIE! moments, but we do share and learn together. I attempted to clarify on the gender subject today. Thank you for your comment! And welcome to my blog!

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