Too often, modern homesteading asks women to return to the toil so many of their grandmothers left behind. No matter how progressive the homesteading couple, the unfamiliarity and the physical demands of DIY living make it easy to fall into traditional gender roles -- to retreat to the stereotypically masculine and feminine skills most of us still learn first and best. The result is that in many modern homesteads, despite highly evolved intentions, men build the houses, and women, like their pioneer-era counterparts, cook over the wood stove. Make candles. Or scrub the floors. Wash clothes by hand. Or care for the babies. This old-fashioned division of labor means that women are often the first to encounter the worst realities of homesteading. While their partners are outside, impressing the neighborhood with their construction skills, women are inside, confronting the cultural invisibility of domestic work and the social isolation of rural life. Both are working hard, but one gets more public props than the other. Put another way, it doesn't take too many solo rounds of hand-washing dirty diapers to kill the romance of modern homesteading, and bring on critical whine from both partners. The trick to success is role reversals. Its okay for men to cook, clean house and wash shitty diapers too. Both partners need to get wood chopped, split and stacked. Gardens need hoeing, weeding and feeding, not to mention harvesting and canning for winter storage. Unless you plan to buy your meat hunting and fishing needs to be done so there is meat for the winter. Its a sun up to sundown job to live off the grid 100% of the time. These are all things to be considered long before you begin your life off the grid that you romanticized about in your head. Reality sucks, but its necessary. Successful homesteading takes planning and adequate cash flow to get you through some unexpected expenses or for an emergency. If you plan to have animals then they need your attention as well not only for feeding or milking or collecting eggs, but for when they get sick or are having babies of their own or when you need to slaughter one or two to feed yourselves, unless your planning a vegetarian lifestyle which few homesteaders do live on for short times or if they do fulltime, they may not live not for long. Thats another reality. What skills do you have when you get sick or injured on the homestead? Help may not be so close. So This could be your reality check?
I don't find traditional gender roles kill the romance at all, if you embrace it, appreciate each other's work and each gets to go outside the lines now and then in areas you want to or need to. It's only when you go into it hoping for or expecting something else that it's unfulfilling.
As I slowly add to my property I keep ease in mind, growing easy to care for plants, setting up animals so they are easy to get to and care for, planning an ecosystem of perennial and self seeding food plants. When we make the switch to primarily wood heat we'll invest in a splitter, much as I love to watch my husband chop wood and kids stack it when the volume that needs doing goes up we'll need the machinery. I handle the slaughtering (small animals, we may pay a butcher when we move up to pigs), I guess I just want to handle it because I'm afraid somebody else would botch it and wound the animal, and it's only right to take that responsibility myself. I wouldn't dispense with the washing machine with a babe in diapers still. I don't find diapers a big thing at all, dump them in the wash, soap and borax, and run it plus an extra rinse, I guess others have an aversion so it seems a heavy burden.
So, Willy, do you live off grid? What solutions do you find for these complications? Welcome to Mothering.com by the way. Do you have kids? A wife? How does she like homesteading and how much do you find yourselves succeed in the progressive style gender role thing?
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