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What is a Radical Home Maker?

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default What is a Radical Home Maker?

Post by Adrian on 21st March 2010, 7:40 pm

This weekend I read an article that defined my life perfectly, it actually gave me a new job description, the radical homemaker. I felt inspired enough to start a new section dedicated to living the live alternative.

Here is the article that started it all

Meet the radical homemaker:
A new breed of stay-at-home men and women is rejecting consumer-focused lives in favour of looking after their families and communities

It can get a little awkward when people ask Rick Juliusson what he does for a living.

“I – I’m a stay-at-home dad,” is his standard reply.

Mr. Juliusson notes he’s also many other things – an independent farmer, a writer and a contract consultant for non-profit organizations. But since he quit his job as an executive director of a Vancouver-based international development agency a year and a half ago and moved his family to a five-acre farm in Duncan, B.C., Mr. Juliusson considers his main role as a father to his two young boys.

“It’s very hard for people to slot me in as ‘Dad,’ ” he says. Even though he embraces his identity as a stay-at-home parent, he says, “to get out of the habit of defining myself by what I do to make money – that was the habit that’s hard to break.”

Yet Mr. Juliusson proudly counts himself among a new breed of homemakers, a growing movement of men and women who are choosing to give up the rat race in favour of looking after their families and communities. In pursuit of a more personally fulfilling and ecologically sustainable lifestyle, these so-called “radical homemakers” are relying less on monetary income and are, instead, picking up domestic skills such as vegetable gardening and cooking to help meet their basic needs.

But don’t think radical homemakers are falling into the same trap of mindless drudgery and relentless servitude suffered by 1960s housewives, says Shannon Hayes, U.S. author of the new book Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture. Although today’s homemakers are returning to the home front, they’re doing it “with a sense of not being consumers in the home but being producers, which takes a whole other level of sophistication,” she says.

When Mr. Juliusson decided to step off his career path, his wife, a childbirth educator, became the family’s primary breadwinner. Although that meant slashing the family’s income of $90,000 a year to about a third, the couple have also cut down on their consumption and learned to grow much of their own food.

Mr. Juliusson tends cows and chickens and grows his own fruits and vegetables. He also intends to learn how to keep bees.

Their lives are much richer as a result, he says.

“Our income went down, but I don’t think our standard of living has dropped a bit.”

Jes Goulet of Cobble Hill, B.C., made a similar choice. Instead of pursuing a career in information technology, she decided to become a stay-at-home mother, while her husband, an IT manager, became the main earner. To care for her family on a single income, Ms. Goulet grows her own food, bakes bread, sells handcrafted jewellery and barters her sewing services among her community for eggs, milk, honey and other goods.

She also makes her own laundry detergent, toothpaste and shampoo.

“The tradeoff is that nobody’s paying me for the work I’m doing,” Ms. Goulet says. “We’re still getting all the things we need, but I’m having to pull it out of my own back pocket.”

Ms. Hayes says radical homemaking families vary widely. Some live on farms, while others in urban settings, yet all live according to four common tenets: environmental sustainability, social justice, family and community, she says.

Instead of diversifying their financial portfolios, radical homemakers think in terms of diversifying their “well-being portfolios,” she says.

“[They] realize that your well-being is not tied to finances. It’s tied to relationships, it’s tied skills, it’s tied to creativity, resourcefulness and a sense of peace, intellectual challenge – these are the things that enable our well-being,” she says.

While researching her book, Ms. Hayes met many radical homemakers across the United States who live on incomes of as low as $10,000 (U.S.) to $12,000 a person in each family.

In British Columbia’s Cowichan Valley, Zane Parker, a father of one who lives on a 10-acre farm with three other radical homemakers, says he aims to reduce his reliance on his work as a sustainable energy consultant. Instead, he says, he’d like to open a local blacksmithing business and trade his services among his community. At present, he estimates he earns about $20,000 (Canadian) a year.

Even though he enjoys consulting, “I don’t want to have to do that for money,” he says. “I guess for me to be able to stay at home on a sunny afternoon and go for a walk is more important than having a solid corporate pension plan or something.”

While that means less financial security, “I think there’s much more real security in terms of having more control over your circumstances,” Mr. Parker says.

But living on a drastically reduced income can be stressful, radical homemakers say.

Ms. Goulet says it causes tension between her and her husband.

“He doesn’t like being the sole provider financially,” she says. “There’s conflict about it. It can be really stressful, but we kind of pull through it. … He also recognizes that what I’m doing has value.”

Mr. Juliusson, meanwhile, felt the crunch last fall, when he realized the family had only $250 remaining in its bank account.

The revelation spurred him to start up an at-home consulting business to help charities raise money, while the family cut costs in every way it could. They reduced their monthly budget for food and household supplies from $500 to $300 by relying more heavily on their supply of dried, frozen and canned homegrown produce.

“It was a brief panic moment and then it was a roll-up-our-sleeves moment,” he says.

In spite of these challenges, Ms. Hayes says it’s possible for radical homemakers to retire without a lot of money by relying on their resourcefulness and their relationships with their families and communities. She believes the latter are more stable than financial institutions.

“Who would you rather trust?” she says. “Would you rather trust that your pension fund isn’t going to get whisked out from underneath you or would you rather trust the relationships that you’ve invested in your family?”

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default Re: What is a Radical Home Maker?

Post by Compostwoman on 21st March 2010, 8:40 pm

I think that is a very good job description for us as well...!

Interesting article Badger, thanks for that.

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Post by Guest on 21st March 2010, 10:01 pm

We had the official census this year in France. There was no classification for what I do as I am not a wife and my son is no longer here. I am not unemployed or seeking work. The idea of self sufficiency has no term in French. The censor was most amused and interested. So I'm recorded as "something else".


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default Re: What is a Radical Home Maker?

Post by Adrian on 21st March 2010, 10:07 pm

The most interesting quote for me was this - “to get out of the habit of defining myself by what I do to make money – that was the habit that’s hard to break.”

Like others here, I work 7 days a week, but only a small proportion of my work is about making money, yet that is what defines me - the landscape/horticulture part. The smallholding, dog/cat/chicken wrangling, homemaking part gets ignored, yet that takes most of my time and energies.

Still, its good that the old stereotypes and definitions are being challenged and we alternate types are being recognised...

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Post by polgara on 21st March 2010, 10:15 pm

Very interesting & thought provoking
Pol

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Post by MrsC on 22nd March 2010, 7:51 am

That's a really interesting article Badger. As you say the hardest thing that I am finding since I left my paid work at Christmas is explaining to others what I do. Most of my peers here work in London and can't imagine not doing so. The word housewife makes them almost pity me, but that's all I feel I've been able to use so far. Obviously I can't do much of the physical stuff at the moment, but the term radical home maker sums up exactly what I want to (and aim to) do here.

If I had a pound for every time I get asked how much day time TV I watch I'd be very rich in these last three months. So many people seem to struggle with the idea that I can quite easily fill my day with things round here!

Thanks for sharing the article Badger.

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Post by Dandelion on 22nd March 2010, 10:37 am

Zoe wrote:We had the official census this year in France. There was no classification for what I do as I am not a wife and my son is no longer here. I am not unemployed or seeking work. The idea of self sufficiency has no term in French. The sensor was most amused and interested. So I'm recorded as "something else". [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

As in 'wow, that's really something else'??

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Post by Dandelion on 22nd March 2010, 10:50 am

I feel as if I've gone through the process backwards - I had 12 fantastic years as a mum and homemaker, though we lived on an absolute shoestring, which made me wonder if our children had missed out. (The day we found our son trying to make a computer out of an old cardboard box was one such occasion!) As adults now they assure me that they haven't missed out at all. Since Mr D was ill and had to leave his job/profession I have had to work; fortunately he was well enough five months later to start working again, but we both do low- paid jobs in education which added together still earn less than the average wage in the UK. The advantage for us is the long holidays, and the lack of stress - we both leave work at 3.30 and leave it behind. I do miss the days of being at home though, living to my own time scale, being creative, being in charge of my own domain, but I know there is a reason for this part of my life (roll on retirement though!) I really object to the fact that the government see people who choose to be homemakers as potential taxpayers who should be coerced back to a 'real job'.

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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Post by Mike on 22nd March 2010, 1:08 pm

Dandelion wrote: (The day we found our son trying to make a computer out of an old cardboard box was one such occasion!)

ROFLOL --- Been there, done that. Except it wasn't a cardboard box but a cigar box through which we strung the wires in three dimensions through the tiny ferrite "doughnuts" that were the cores of our core memory (my project partner's father worked for Borroughs so we could get the cores). And the logic was cheap switching transistors (plus some other electrical components) wired into flip flops. Display was just little lights, only a four bit machine, but being entirely soild state actually a reasonably advanced machine for ~1960 or '61 (can't remember exactly). I'm not sure if there were any commercial machines at that date which were 100% solid state.

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Post by Dandelion on 22nd March 2010, 3:09 pm

My son's 'computer' was a little bit more rustic than that - it had a hole for the screen in the box, and a roll of paper which was stretched between two bits of dowel behind the hole, with things written on it!!

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Post by ACarLessFamily on 22nd March 2010, 6:10 pm

I LOVE that description!!
Such a better description of someone who wants to make her/his family one of the most imprtant parts of their life and not just something you fit in around "real work" Wink

The trouble is ther eis no real job description for a home maker (and home maker sounds so twee don't you think??)

My day runs 24 hrs on call. Its me who sorts out kids for school (and the HUGE admin and logistical pressures that come with it). I keep the house running, cook the food GROW the damn food, I look after all the animals and carry out easy DIY. I blog for fun and for sanity and was recently admin for the Power Off Weekend [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] and its a labour of love for the things I believe in.

I feel resentful then when people assume that I bummble about all day with little to do because I'm JUST at home!! Grrrrr
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Post by Guest on 22nd March 2010, 6:34 pm

ACarLessFamily wrote: I feel resentful then when people assume that I bummble about all day with little to do because I'm JUST at home!! Grrrrr

Know the feeling! Growing your own food is quite stressful. I used to work as a senior projects/contracts manager in very difficult situations...I think this was good training! We eat what I grow and before we had the large beds we were pretty hungry by this time of year. But things are good now and I love the freedom and not being locked in some computer centre or car in a traffic jam!

Understanding the value of what we are doing is crucial as it gets us over the harder times. How many of us stand outside and remember to be thankful? Letting the feeling of "well being" strengthen us each day.

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Post by Wilhelm Von Rhomboid on 22nd March 2010, 8:26 pm

Hmm, I'm not sure about this.

I do most of the above. I have been at home since the birth of my first child, did most of the first 18 months day-to-day rearing of the first one, shared duties on the second and hopefully will on the new one. As the first two are moving onto school age, I am homeschooling them. We share growing the veg and fruit, I preserve it and butcher and cure the meat etc. I do the cooking and shopping and ferrying and wipe the moose's nose.
I also fit a self-employed job around all of this, sometimes more smoothly than others. The work I do pays pretty good fees per hour, so I am able to keep us all afloat and fit my work into evenings and early morning and so on.

Is it stressful? Yes, a lot of the time.

Could I earn a lot more if I went to work 9-5? Yes, easily three times as much as I do now, probably much more if I put some effort into it, and that would put us in a very 'comfortable' bracket.

Do people find it difficult where to 'slot me in' description-wise? I have no idea, and I couldn't care less. I don't have to go around all day wearing a big badge saying 'Stay-at-home-Dad' or 'Home-Educator' or 'Loser' or 'All-round Renaissance man' or even 'Radical Home-maker', and what other people think of our lifestyle impinges on me not in the slightest.

And y'know, really, so f***ing what?

The life we live is a combination of conscious choice and lack of (to us) viable alternatives: I homeschool our children because the alternative options are not acceptable to us. I have a job that pays me well to work odd hours at my discretion because that enables us to live how we want. We live where we do because it is what we can (just) afford. We cook from scratch and grow and butcher because what we get from it is better than what we would get otherwise, and because we enjoy it.
And that is the key thing. This is the life we choose. That is all the value we need. I do not need society to value me or value what I am doing. I'd much rather society minded it's own bloody business and let me get on with it.

By all means people should re-evaluate their lives and what they want to do, but if one needs a merit sticker from society then one is doing something wrong.

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Post by ACarLessFamily on 22nd March 2010, 9:24 pm

@Wilhelm Von Rhomboid, I get where you're coming from. I think the trouble is that people like to put you in a box whether you want to go in one or not.
We as a family have often found it difficult to explain to people what we are about (and it comes up often). Although for ease we call ourself Vegan, we are not 100 % because we have rescue hens and eat their eggs.
People like to pounce on this and go "Ah HA!" but really it just easier to say "Yes, we are vegan" rather than "Yes we are strict vegetarians who eat eggs, only not YOUR eggs or shop brought eggs or anything from the shops with eggs in, only eggs from our own chickens, who we rescued and anyway the eggs come whether we want them or not so what am I MEANT to do with them?? Throw thenm away!!??"

Which is a little long winded when your're just having a normal conversation crylaugh

People like to know your "social standing" for better or worse (really worse...).
People want to know if they think you are worth talking to (ask my mum about the time a career woman at a party asked her what she did and then turned and walked away before she had even finished saying "housewife").

You're right, its nice to say feck 'em all...they're not worth knowing, and I don't think I'll be dropping "radical homemaker" into conversation anytime soon.

When people ask me what I do I tell them the truth....I keep the whole damn world turning Wink
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Post by MrsC on 22nd March 2010, 10:21 pm

Billy - I understand your logic and agree that none of us "should" have to fit a label, but in my semi-confused state at the moment about what I do with my life (putting Baby C aside for a moment) it feels kind of nice that what I am doing does fit in with what others do and isn't totally crazy.

Hope that makes sense. Maybe I just like reassurance.

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Post by Compostwoman on 22nd March 2010, 10:26 pm

Badger wrote:The most interesting quote for me was this - “to get out of the habit of defining myself by what I do to make money – that was the habit that’s hard to break.”

Like others here, I work 7 days a week, but only a small proportion of my work is about making money, yet that is what defines me - the landscape/horticulture part. The smallholding, dog/cat/chicken wrangling, homemaking part gets ignored, yet that takes most of my time and energies.

Still, its good that the old stereotypes and definitions are being challenged and we alternate types are being recognised...


Very little of my "tag" line (Environmental Educator, Forest School leader, Holistic Therapist, Smallholder, Organic Grower and Master Composter.) actually makes me any money.....a lot is done as a volunteer....

but it is stuff I am proud to know and do, so I use it as a life description, anyway.... [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

If I chose to chase after lots of work etc I could earn lots more money...but then I wouldn't be working to live, and feeling a little better..I would be living to work, and feeling a lot worse..

But yes Billy I agree...I do this because *I* want too....and can just about afford to...so I do. [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

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Post by Guest on 23rd March 2010, 12:58 pm

MrsC wrote:Billy - I understand your logic and agree that none of us "should" have to fit a label, but in my semi-confused state at the moment about what I do with my life (putting Baby C aside for a moment) it feels kind of nice that what I am doing does fit in with what others do and isn't totally crazy.

Hope that makes sense. Maybe I just like reassurance.

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Post by Compostwoman on 23rd March 2010, 1:26 pm

Mrs C I think we all like reassurance that we are not alone in how we feel about things....thats one of the reasons we hang around on here with each other, surely? [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

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Post by polgara on 23rd March 2010, 2:24 pm

Surely the word radical, as defined by the Oxford English, describes us perfectly?
We are doing things that are not necessarily the norm at this time. We are changing for whatever reasons the way we live & think.

I am happy to tell people about plastic bags, rubbish etc but the thing I enjoy most is telling them is that since retirement & a lower income, I have time to shop for the best value, not the quickest or cheapest & we do actually save money, eat more healthily & the food tastes real.
Interestingly as I think about it, it is more the way my parents lived back in the 40s-50s.

On forms & things I rarely admit to being a housewife, I usually tick retired or other. Perhaps people like Badger, CW, Zoe etc could try putting something like working towards Self Sufficientcy.
Pol

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Post by Wilhelm Von Rhomboid on 23rd March 2010, 2:47 pm

polgara wrote:
Interestingly as I think about it, it is more the way my parents lived back in the 40s-50s.


So hardly radical, then?

It all seems a bit ostentatious to me. "Hey man, we're Radical!"

A lot of the other home-ed parents round by us are "Radical Homeschoolers" - it doesn't mean much in terms of what they do with their kids, but they spend a lot of time talking about it over coffees.

But hey, whatever smokes your tyres. If calling yourself a New Life Pioneer or whatever is what you need to feel good about what you do, then go ahead. If it it helps people understand that you have an active busy life, because you describe yourself as a Radical Homemaker, then super. I can't say if someone introduced themselves to me as a Radical Homemaker it would mean very much to me to be honest.

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Post by Aberlemno on 17th July 2010, 6:49 am

Having been a stay-at-home mum for over 22 years, now with grown-up kids, it never occurred to me that I was at all "radical". I just put my family first. We didn't even have the wage-earner as my husband had health problems, so things were extremely tight, but it makes you learn new skills and it's surprising how self-reliant you can be when you have to. I've always grown a few vegetables, picked fruit from the wild, made preserves, baked, cooked from scratch, bartered, tried to make sixpence do the work of a shilling and hated waste. Way of life.

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Post by Sparhawk on 17th July 2010, 9:48 am

When you strip everything else away & go back to the natural order of things, how can any situation where the female of the speicies is a "homemaker" be radical...

Before anyone starts that wasn't supposed to be a sexist comment!!!

Aberlemno wrote:tried to make sixpence do the work of a shilling...

I like that phrase, never heard it before...

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"the luxuries of civilisation satisfy only those wants which they themselves create..."
The Worst Journey In The World - Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1922)

"Fleeing from the Cylon tyranny, the last Battlestar, Galactica,
leads a ragtag, fugitive fleet, on a lonely quest—for a shining planet known as Earth."
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Sparhawk
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default Re: What is a Radical Home Maker?

Post by polgara on 17th July 2010, 12:44 pm

Older than I am Sparhawk.

................................................................................................................................
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
Elenor Roosevelt


] Enjoy every second of your life, because time races by so much quicker than you think...

So take care of yourself, be Happy, Love Deeply and enjoy life!


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polgara
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