Thursday, June 18, 2015

So, like, what do you do?

Here's part 2 of the question we had on Issues, Etc., from an entity called the Joyful Lutheran Housewife. The question is what to say when people ask you what you do in your house all day, every day.

What a housewife does in the absence of considerable wealth is operate on a different economic model. Her household's primary resource is time rather than money. She donates her work to her family, rather than selling it to someone outside the family and purchasing from someone else the work the family still needs. To make up for the monetary loss, she saves.

Saving doesn't look like it used to. Most of the things women produced when households were centers of production have gotten very expensive to produce. Buying a pattern, fabric, and notions for a dress costs more than buying a disposable dress from H&M, and that's without accounting for the time of making a dress, and assuming you've already got a sewing machine and everything else you need for sewing.

A job well done. Source
What the housewife might do is put in a lot of time at thrift stores. She might discover that mending is better than ending, and learn to fix things instead of buying whole new sweaters and chairs and kitchens. She makes do instead of starting new. She spends all day making a supper that doesn't look like an all-day project, but didn't come from boxes. When somebody leaves a contractor bag of green beans on her doorstep in July, she forgets her plans and puts in a hard day to give her future self a freezer full of free and easy veg. She forages, no joke. There's other stuff too, but maybe you get the idea.

The other thing is that the layout of a housewife's day is completely different from someone who goes to work and comes home. It is not very structured, especially if there are kids around. It is unpredictable because it is flexible. If someone in the house asks her to do something, or someone from outside the house calls or stops by, she stops what she's doing. She stays home to be available to a neighbor who might need her. Responding quickly to a person in need is her immediate priority.

One thing we say to people we love is, "I'm there for you." To a housewife, there is a place, not a friendly abstraction. She is physically there for real people who need real things. For families in which some financial tightness is accepted in exchange for the lady's availability, she contributes whatever resourcefulness at which she excels to their internal economy. There's a thing about that with pennies.

The Joyful Lutheran Housewife still needs an answer to her question. How about, "I operate on an economy of extreme resourcefulness so that I can be available to my neighbors." That's catchy!