Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The up side

I'm still thinking about the work-job-thing that people who are mostly in the unpaid private / domestic sphere do. It occurred to me, on re-reading that post, that perhaps it reads as more negative / whiney than I'd intended. I wasn't going for the smell of burning martyr, but I can see how talking about domestic work and its lack of recognition can smack of that. And really, that's not the full picture. Every job has its upsides - well, most of them do - and it's not all unremitting effort and no reward, being at home.

So, to redress that - or perhaps just to nuance it a bit - I thought I might post today about the five things I like best about being a (mostly) unpaid and (mostly) domestic-sphere worker.

1. The rhythm of my days is more natural / tied into seasons and weather than when I worked fulltime out of the home.
Being with young children, running a household without a clothes dryer and with a growing food-producing garden, and only having the use of a car two or three days a week, I am much more aware of weather, seasons and phases of the day than I ever was when I worked in an office. Our days and weeks are informed by a seasonality that helps me feel more connected to everything, and less like a ghost inside the walls.

I also like the stop-start rhythm of a day with children in it; with just C at home now, our mornings are always full-on, busy and physically active, but our early afternoons are often quiet and sedentary, involving books, crafts or TV. Things get busy again in the mid afternoon, as we pick up the big kids and swing into after-school furore, then wind down to peace sometime around 8:30pm. This mid-day quiet time works very well with my own biorhythms, and it's definitely something I appreciate about being at home.

2. I have a very significant amount of control over how I order my work, how I complete it, and how I prioritise it.
At the end of the day, as the person who is primarily responsible for the maintenance of the house, daily care of the children, and logistics for all of us, I am free to decide which household jobs are essential and which are optional; whether it's more important to clean a bathroom or bake cupcakes; whether we'll have shepherd's pie or risotto for dinner, and so on. I can't really contain the amount of work (if only!), but I have a much larger degree of direction in determining how and in what order task my list will be attacked than I did when I was in an office. When I worked fulltime, organisational priorities, of necessity, shaped mine.

3. We have weekends!
This might sound like a weird one, but what I mean here is, simply, that I am usually able to complete most heavy-duty household work, errands etc during the working week, which means that we don't spend a whole day or even more at the weekend doing household tasks (as is the case for many of my friends, who, superhero-like, juggle two fulltime working loads with children). It means that, except for rare weekends - like the one coming, which I'll be spending mostly at the Emerging Writer's Festival - the five of us can actually share some real downtime.

4. I can daydream
A lot of housework is just menial labour - tasks the hands perform without need of the brain's supervision. I am an inveterate daydreamer from way back, and it's pleasant to me to let my mind wander as I scrub and fold, wash and dry. I think I've become a lot more creative, and more confident in my creativity, for having this mental free-range time for my fancies.

5. I get to be part of my children's daytime worlds as well as their evening ones.
As my children get older, I thought I'd find it was less important for me to be physically around and available to them, but I'm finding that's not the case at all. The hour after school is a particularly crucial time for my two elder girls to have with me, even on the days that they don't say anything earth-shattering (which is most of them :-). That doesn't mean that after-school playdates or after-school care are verboten - we do those too, as the occasion demands - but I do see it as a real plus of being at home that I can mostly be there for that time. (So much so, in fact, that when I return to structured employment after C starts school in 2014, I'll be looking for a job that allows me to be at school for pick-up at least 3 days a week).

Anyway, that's just me. YMMV, naturally!

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