Sunday, October 23, 2011

Holiday updates and lonely homemakers

Dear friends,

The holidays are over, and now we are going back to normal. Today is the first after-holiday day, and it's hard to believe how fast everything has gone by, how many wonderful memories were created, and how much what I see outside the window resembles autumn. Our sukkah, which hosted twenty people during one memorable evening in Sukkot, has already been folded to prevent it from flying away in the strong winds that have been blowing here these past days.

And oh, what a wonderful evening it was! There is really nothing more joyful than seeing the whole family gathered around the same table (two long tables, in our case), sharing stories and jokes. We put our cookfire to use and made roast chicken for the entire company - a very authentic cooking experience. In the evening, the little ones gathered around the fire, making roast marshmallows and burying potatoes in the hot ashes.

I have quite a few emails piled up, waiting to be answered, and I hope you will be understanding if you are one of those awaiting a reply. The holidays really left me hardly any computer time at all during the past two weeks.

Here is one question I received by email:

"Do you have any suggestions for dealing with the loneliness that can result from staying at home in a society where most women are away at work during the day? I find the isolation trying at times and am open to ideas for connecting with other young mothers who are staying home to care for their house and children."

It's true that sometimes it can get lonely, being the only stay-at-home wife and mother on your street, in your neighbourhood... or even the only stay-at-home wife you know. It's only natural to want to feel accepted, normal, part of a community. There isn't really a magical solution to the isolation stay-at-home wives often feel. 

If there is one piece of advice I can give, it is to be open to finding new friends in the most unexpected places, in most unexpected ways. If you have already been hurt by negative opinions, criticism, raised eyebrows, constant questioning and constant demands on you to "prove yourself" and "justify your existence" as a wife and mother at home, it can be hard to open your heart to someone you don't know.

But you know, not long ago, I made a conversation at the playground with a most wonderful, most delightful older woman - all I can say is that I wish I had an aunt or older friend like that while I was growing up. The subject of our conversation hovered awkwardly around "what do you do", when I said I'm staying home with my children "for now". Then I braced myself and said, "actually, I really love doing it and feel this is where I belong" - and then this other lady felt free to say she feels just the same! You see, the constant questioning made her shy of expressing her real thoughts - and if I hadn't been bold enough to say the truth of what I feel/think, we wouldn't have had the most inspiring conversation that followed. And there is hardly anything more supportive than talking to a fellow homemaker!

Of course, the internet opens many venues for us too - for meeting like-minded ladies in our area or even all over the world. Personally, I am so thankful for the opportunities blogging provides for me, for meeting new people. Some of them, I have been able to meet in real life, others not, but in many cases I was enriched by a flow of wonderful ideas and life stories people so generously shared. I only wish there was more time to expand on this.

And sometimes, we simply must make peace with the thought that we are going against the grain. That we are doing what we feel and believe is right and best for our families, rather than what everyone else is doing. So... perhaps I will always feel a bit out of place in most social circles, but I still believe it is worthwhile.


Miss W said...

Dear Mrs Anna,
I find your post very inspirational.
My life could not be more different from yours, in about every aspect I can think of. Yet what I share with you is the notion that everyone of us should find the place in life where she feels happiest. With that comes the conviction that one should feel proud about one's life choices, regardless of what others may think about it.

Gina Marie said...

Isolation is something I've been worried about as well, but I'm taking the plunge into full-time homemaking for the first time in our marriage. It's weird leaving a job to go home when you don't have children; people in the southern US tend to understand going home for THAT, but not to be a stay at home wife. I'm trying to avoid awkward conversations at my work place so I'm just going to say I found another job; which is true, and it's one I've had all along, but now I'll be doing it full-time. Some people, unfortunately, aren't worth the effort and emotional energy it would take to explain and defend your life choices. It's great you found someone to talk to! There's a lot of stay-at-home moms in my area, so I'll be getting in touch with them in order to stave off loneliness.

Your writing about nutrition and homemaking also reminded me of a book I read call Radical Homemaking by Shannon Hayes. Hayes is a feminist, but the book is about reclaiming the domestic arts as a way to provide nutrition, care for the planet, and create a peaceful home-life. I just finished it and it reminded me of your blog in some ways. I don't think you'd agree with everything (she makes some weird comments about patriarchal religions and she is a feminist), but there's lots of good insights into how our current culture is destroying health and family.

Beka said...

Mrs. T,
Shalom. I thought you might like these old-fashioned books at Project Gutenberg (Gutenberg was Jewish :) ). These are two 19-20th Century Jewish cookbooks full of great recipes and good ideas. If you search for more, you can get books on needlework, homesteading, etc. all no longer available but lovely and antique for reading.


Rebekah said...

If you like Charlotte Mason's style of writing and language, you will like those books at Project G.

famayes said...

I think the loneliness is always worse when you have only small children, and when you are new to being home all day. When I first became a say at home wife, I did a lot of running around to the stores just to see other people, gradually I settled down to being content at home, busy with small children, gardening, reading, sewing, and not lonely anymore. Now that I have older children (all teenagers, all homeschooled) I have plenty of good company.

I think the internet helps a lot too now days, because you can keep up with a lot of people in short little conversations over the day.

Rachel said...

Don't limit yourself to only being friends with a certain type of people. If the only people you are willing to be close with are other young stay-at-home mothers, you probably would get quite isolated. If you expand your friendship interests to include perhaps older people, single women, single men, and people younger than you, you'll have a lot more options. Plus, people in different stages of life often have interests different from that of a young mother, so it can be sort of an intellectual relief to have something to talk about other than motherhood and marriage and homemaking.

Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds said...

I have found the same awkardness in talking even to other stay at home mothers. Almost all that I have spoken to plan to return to school or work once thier children are in school. I, on the other hand, am homeschooling but even if my children would attend traditional school I would still not work because I know how much energy I will need to take care of my family even then, especially then with all the problems that children face everyday in schools (bullying, homework, social agendas, sports, etc.).

Once people know that we are homeschooling their next questions are:

But you will send them to High school, right?

So what will you do when your children are grown and you are not schooling them anymore?
--Well, then I will enjoy having more time to take care of my husband exclusively and my time will be free to always welcome guests, be there for my children when they need me, welcome grandchildren, volunteer in the church and community, and become a mentor to another young mother who may be struggling with criticism about her decision to put her family first. And yes, If I would like to further my education I will do so, not so that I can spend all of my valuable time in a job to make money to buy things, but because I believe education itself is important and I love to learn!

Yes, these things can be very difficult to express to new people when we are not sure what they will think of us, but we have to be confident that what we are doing is what is right and best for our families and it is what our LORD would have us do. After all, those that would criticize and belittle us for our choice usually are very confident that they have it right. And we can just smile to ourselves knowing that we are living lives of fulfillment that these others may never understand.

Congratulations Anna on your bravery.

P.S. I have been browsing your blog for about a month now and I am so excited to have found it. I feel like I am home here in this community of "old-fashioned" thinkers. Thanks so much.

The Retro Homemaker said...

Thank you Anna! Blogs like yours offer great encouragement for me.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Rachel, you are right of course. There is great enrichment in all relationships with people, not only those who think/live just like us. But sometimes we have NO friends who understand some of the things we hold dear, and this can feel lonely.

Anonymous said...

Regarding loneliness...I have started seeing myself less as an "oddity" and more as a "leader". Think of the image of a flock of birds flying in formation. The leading bird sees no one when he looks ahead, to the right, or to the left. But it does not mean he's an oddball, it simply means he is in a unique position--actually he is in a quite privileged position--to clear a path for the others in the flock and to make the trip less taxing for them.

Being a leader is lonely and difficult at times. But one cannot be a leader and at the same time "fit in like everyone else". When I feel lonely and out of place, I try to focus on how I can encourage others and help them benefit in some way from the fact that I live a home-centered life. It could be sharing info on health or nutrition, making something for them by hand(dishcloths are quick and easy),sharing recipes or preparing a meal for them, etc.

It is sometimes a struggle to deal with the loneliness, and every now and then, I wish I *could* be like everyone else and cheerfully go along with what the rest of the world is doing. However, I could not leave my post at home without being miserable and knowing I was living a lie. I'd rather put up with the loneliness instead! LOL! I do hope and pray that others can come to the truth through my (admittedly very weak) example.