“Stay-at-home moms can do all of that natural, hippy, traditional, ‘green’ stuff like home-cooked meals and line-drying their clothes. I have a full-time job, and I just don’t have time for it all.”
Ever heard that before? Ever thought it?
There I was, baking bread, hanging laundry on a clothes line, tending a garden (veggies and flowers both), wearing a cute sundress with my baby in a sling on my hip, all while a pie was baking in the oven and the children played with their homemade toys in our sprawling yard with just a few chickens.
And then I woke up.
Right out of college I started working full-time at an affiliate for Habitat for Humanity where I spent the majority of my time in Grant Writing and Marketing, working with corporations and community donors, mayors and politicians. I adored my job, the Director and my co-workers. Two years in, we found out we were pregnant with our daughter Madaleine, so I arranged to alternate working from home and from the office, sometimes lugging a diaper bag and sleepy infant with me, pounding out reports and paperwork for grants and planning fundraising events, praying that I could get in 15 more minutes of work before I had to nurse again. And then I’d leave, knowing that laundry and dinner plans needed to be tackled when I got home. I was exhausted.
I finally said goodbye to an office job when we discovered that we were pregnant with our second daughter, Olivia. At which point I traded days in an office for afternoons behind a camera, and I opened a photography studio,
sitting between piles of laundry working from my home and shooting weddings on the weekends, doing my best to balance kids and house work.
Now, fast forward 5 years and I am still sitting between piles of laundry, but they are larger now because the kids have grown and we’ve added #3 – a little boy – to the mix. I’m still running my photography studio, and now we also homeschool full-time as well as operate this blog. Granted, I’m still exhausted, but I’ve learned volumes from the various work-related seasons of my life. (update: since this post, I’ve added baby #4, we’re in the process of adopting #5, and I’ve retired my studio work and now use my camera on my own poor children!)
I’ve learned that it really is possible to work (be it in or out of the house) and still live a “traditional” lifestyle – they key is strategy!
Don’t get me wrong, there were seasons where the pace of our life allowed us to do more and expand our “hippy” lifestyle. However, there were other seasons where I was just happy that I was buying organic frozen pizzas and getting dinner on the table before bed time!
Moms, we have a terrible habit of comparing ourselves to other “natural” moms, especially when they have cute blogs and oodles of homemade recipes. We ask ourselves why we can’t be that organized or dedicated, and then when we can’t do it all – right now – we give up and start a viscious cycle of:
-Wanting to be a homemaker – not knowing where to start – getting discouraged that we aren’t already Martha Stewart – then deciding it’s not for us because we aren’t that focused or “together” and those other moms are way more awesome than we are – so we go back to life as normal.
-Then the next morning we read a cute blog about homesteading and decide that we want to make a conscious effort to be a “homemaker”…and so begins the cycle again.
Discouragement and comparison will cripple and embitter us.
So how do we break out of the cycle and actually make strides towards living a non-mainstream, natural, traditional lifestyle, all while balancing work, kids and life?
- First, determine what your eventual goal is. Do you want to end up with chickens in the yard, and a cow grazing on the field while you prepare a home-cooked meal? Or are you simply trying to cook at home more often so that you can save some money and stop relying on fast food for dinner? Once you know where you’re headed, the rest of the steps are much easier to follow, and your “success” in becoming more “hippy” won’t be so ambiguous!
- Stop reading blogs and just do it. Honestly. That sounds too naive, but usually the biggest hurdle to our success is the first step and the uncertainty of what to do…
- So make a plan. If you want to start cooking at home more often, start with a good crock pot and an arsenal of kid-friendly meals. Dreaming of laundry hanging on the line? So, um, hang that clothesline in your yard, your basement or bathroom and get started! Want to make your own yogurt? It’s easy! Learn to can your food? stock up on mason jars and start chopping! Always wondered about making your own cleaning supplies or laundry soap? It’s so much easier than you think.
- DO NOT DO IT ALL AT ONCE. You’ll end up burnt out and frustrated, especially if you work outside of the home. Tackle one new goal or item every 2 or 3 weeks. This transformation does NOT have to happen in a weekend! If you have a full-time job, then start tackling a new homemaking skill on the weekends! Don’t try to teach yourself to make homemade cheddar cheese on a Monday night at 10pm when you have to work the next morning. (Just trust me).
- Simplifying your life can get a little stressful so give yourself grace. Training yourself to cook at home more often, to make meals from scratch, to use cloth diapers, or to simply start living below your means – both in time and in finances – can be a lot like watching a child learn to walk for the first time. You don’t expect a one year old to run a marathon, so don’t assume you’ll change your families living and eating habits in a week!
Do you work outside of the home? We’d love to hear from you! What are your biggest hurdles in starting to live a non-mainstream lifestyle? What are tips that you have for juggling it all?
Photo amended by me but originally from this lovely photographer
originally published in September of 2012, so since this post, I’ve added baby #4 and we’re in the process of adopting #5!