Meaningful Work

Sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving, winter set in.  The weather has been clear and cold, with a beautiful cascade of light and shadows as the sun makes it’s brief daily appearance.  We cozy up around the wood stove in the evening and go to bed early.

Graysen and I are trying to find a rhythm of eating, sleeping, playing and working.  With workshops done and the garden put away, I am doing more on the computer; planning, writing, and networking.  It is valuable time and I feel motivated to keep up the momentum of the business.  Being a mom is wonderful, important work, but I also want to contribute to my community and the family income.

In the book, You are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Balwin Dancy, I read that children need to see their parents do meaningful, rhythmic work such as kneading bread, sweeping the floor, and washing dishes.  Young children imitate these sorts of activities as a way of processing life.  When we use a bread machine, vacuum cleaner, and dishwasher, the children do not perceive this as work.  And when we are sitting motionless at a computer, they think we are dead.  To be alive is to move, and that is why children are unable to sit still.

I reconsider my schedule and how I can incorporate more movement into my day with Graysen.  I try to save my computer time for when he is napping and sweep the floor when he is awake. (Although I have to put him in the backpack to keep him from chasing the dust bunnies.)  We don’t have a dishwasher, so he definitely witnesses me washing many dishes.  I pass up the popular no-knead bread recipes in favor of the traditional kind.  I let him help me take the laundry from the washer and put it in the dryer.  I cook and bake a lot.

It is interesting to me that these habits are mostly things I’m doing anyway as a part of our urban homestead lifestyle.  They are the activities that have occupied mothers for thousands of years.  Only in the past 50 years have women been “liberated” enough by time-saving devices that they can now go to an office and sit all day in front of a computer.  Somehow I feel more connected to my ancient grandmothers through these simple tasks.

My mother always did wash on Mondays, like her mother, and so I do that as well.  And since I use cloth diapers, I also do wash on Wednesdays and Fridays as well.  Luckily, I do use a washing machine so it is not an all-day affair.  I used to hand-wash our clothes when we lived in Guatemala, but they got dirtier so we hired a local woman to do them for us.  She did it five times faster and got them five times cleaner.

I’m not advocating a total regression into back-breaking tasks.  But I understand that it is important for Graysen to see meaningful work being done around him.  And it is important for me to find meaning in the simple tasks of life as well as my mission to save the world through gardening.

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