I used to be a very different person than I am now. I used to purchase everything. I never used to make my own meals. Homemade seemed like a waste of time. And if you would have told me that I would ever put cloth diapers on any child of mine, I would have promptly laughed in your face.
That was the me of about fifteen years ago. I was young, unmarried, childless, and had a lot more time on my hands. And then I had my first baby.
Once my oldest daughter was born, I quit my job to stay home with her full time. We did a lot of growing up together in that first year. And the more time I spent with her and away from the pressures of the world, the more I started to think about what I was teaching her. What I was modeling for her. What lessons she was getting from me about life and living and the pursuit of that which matters.
As I said, I had quit my job, and with that came a bit of a loss of my identity. For as long as I could remember, I had worked and worked hard, whether it was in school or at a job. I defined myself in many ways by my intellect and my capabilities in the workplace. Then it dawned on me that if I’m supposed to be teaching this little person about what is important in life, how could I do it if I wasn’t so sure myself.
And that’s when I started to re-evaluate things. If I wasn’t making money and couldn’t define my worth based upon what I was doing, on what would I define myself? How do we put our skills and talents to use if it isn’t in the pursuit of a paycheck or a degree?
And slowly as I started to ponder these questions, I started to come up with some answers for myself.
Finally I was able to put away the mentality that I was what I produced. I was able to ditch the idea that I was equal to the esteem others found in me.
Slowly I started to realize that we aren’t really here to compete or produce or win the esteem wars. We are here to experience and to influence and to love.
And I think this is when I started to really see the value in making things for my family. Sure, I could go out and buy decorations for the holidays. I could hang them on my walls and decorate my mantel, and it would look really pretty. But of what value would it really be? What memories would it hold, and how much of our holidays would be based on consumption rather than value?
I could go to a restaurant and order my family food that tastes really good (probably better than what I could make) but what am I teaching them about serving others and creating with our own two hands.
And I could go into a store and spend a small fortune on diapers that could be tossed into a landfill when I was finished with them, but what would that be teaching them about thrift and stewardship and disposability?
Through all of this, I started to realize how our culture of consumption is really one that takes us away from self-reliance. When we ask others to make for us and cook for us and even think for us, we give away our ability to do for ourselves. We start to lose our sense of competence, and I worry that we might be teaching our children that these things cannot be done on our own.
I have become big into crafts. Creating things fills my spirit and makes me feel more alive. It gives me tangible results and the confidence that I can make things with my own two hands. And whenever my daughters want to join in, I do my very best to find some way to get them involved. I let my girls help me cut out decorations and wrap presents and decorate cards for people. I am teaching my five year old how to cross stitch, and I am looking forward to Christmas when I am going to get her her very own children’s sewing machine.
I enjoy all of these times with the girls and I look forward to so many more as they grow older and more capable, and I cannot wait until I am able to demonstrate to them just how much they can make with their own two hands. I want to help them build confidence in their own agency.
We live in a culture where we could literally buy anything. If we had the means, we wouldn’t have to make or even do anything for ourselves. But I believe there is so much we give away when we hire out all of these basic tasks responsible for maintaining and sustaining life.
It’s not quicker to make things on my own, and I haven’t found it to be all that much cheaper, but the rewards go so much deeper than money and time, and they are ones that I hope are passed on to generations as my girls develop the love for handmade that I have.
Amanda Knapp, M.A., is a stay at home mom to three little girls. She writes about her experiences with motherhood and her search to find the meaning of it all on her blog, Indisposable Mama.