Work and Home – Part One

The ads on television show a harried mother shutting the patio door on the raucous kids – boys bouncing off the furniture, throwing stuff at each other. She stretches herself on the lovely wicker lounge, cushions behind her head. Soemthing inside me wants to yell, “What are you doing? Are you going to let those children tear your house down?” But she needs a refuge. I’m assuming the glass door is soundproof. And she’s taking valium or worse.

People don’t work at home anymore. They work in malls or offices or factories. The house is a home, a haven of rest, not a place to work. So we are led to believe by advertising. Everything in our home environment is about easing our work and giving us comfort. The house is an entertainment and leisure center. Who wants to do work there?

We have a plethora of work-saving devices – laundry machines, dish-cleaning machines, floor-cleaning machines. You will work fifty hours to pay for each one of these, because they are expensive. But work shouldn’t intrude into your home!

This is so foreign to how people lived until the latter half of the twentieth century, and with our short and selective historic memories, we barely know it was ever different. People worked at home and from home. They worked in the home even if their employment took them out of it. We’ve been brainwashed so that we will buy expensive, so-called labour-saving devices, from floor sweepers to dishwashers. These devices don’t save us labour, because they cost us so much of our time to earn the money to pay for them – we exchanged a few minutes with an inexpensive device for hours swapped for money to buy an expensive device. It’s a matter of a twenty-dollar broom and ten minutes of sweeping versus ten hours of employment to buy a cheap $200 vacuum cleaner, and the same ten minutes across the floor.

I’ve written elsewhere of my battle with automatic washers and dryers. Honestly, unless you have trouble with your back, it is not at all hard to wash by hand. Your clothes will be cleaner and will last longer. You will have the same galvanized tubs for years if they are allowed to dry out and don’t get banged around much. I use an antique wringer! Considering the time it takes in waiting for the laundry, pretreating spots, shopping for cleaning products, hauling baskets of clothes up and down two flights of stairs (which is hard on the back) – and the cost of your labour to buy one of those machines, which will run about $500 for a moderately good washer here in Canada, and upwards of a $1000 for a top quality one – well, I think the old-fashioned way wins hands down. If I could, I would set up our front porch for laundry washing and drying, but I expect the church wardens might question the necessity of doing that!

I know I am going to hear “But I work fifty hours a week outside the home – I can’t do all this!” I’m sorry to hear that people get themselves into this mess. I’ve been there myself. All I can suggest is that you work yourself out of that situation purposefully. Pay off the debt, don’t incur new debt, save for the future. Cut back on your work hours outside the home and give some time to work at home, caring for your family and yourself. I always found work in an office or shop to be frazzling – all the travel, all the time given to appearance, all the worry about how the job was going, how the bosses were reacting, whether the business was going to make or lose money. We may have to do that to some extent, but I’d rather do it for my own business effort, or be sufficiently disengaged financially and emotionally that if the business were to fold, I would not be in a panic.

God did not put us in families so that we could serve Mammon instead of Him.

I think this is an important topic, and we’ll come back to it later.

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15 thoughts on “Work and Home – Part One

  1. I am put in mind of Micah 4:4, where each will dwell under his own vine and fig tree. This would require a lot of puttering in the garden and home to acquire and maintain, AT HOME–sounds like the ideal life.

    • I’ll write more on this later, but since we work at home, it has been a real problem lately that the real estate agent wants to show the house during our “working hours.” We’ve finally had to say we can’t just vacate for an hour or so whenever they bring someone through!

  2. Reminds me of the story of the man vacationing in a sleepy village in Mexico. He noticed a man fishing a few hours every day and then he headed home. One day the vacationer asked the man about it. The fisherman answered that he fished every day enough to feed and care for his family and spent the rest of his day at home with the wife and kids. The vacationer told him he should work many hours a day fishing, earning a lot of money and then when he was old he could spend more time at home and fish when he wanted. The fisherman thought that was pretty strange as he was already doing that and what about all he would miss while the kids were growing. The vacationers answer was that he could watch the grandkids grow up. The fisherman took the vacationer to his home to meet the family and when he saw how happy and content everyone was, he finally understood that the fisherman was right.
    Why do we find it necessary to work ourselves to death sacrificing our health and family for more and more stuff and money?

    • I used to be “super-priest” and work 80 hour weeks! There was always another demand on my time – visits, meetings, seminars, classes…I would have done better work if I’d skipped a lot of the organized hoopla and invited people to come sit on my lawn to drink tea and talk. I needed to do more listening and less speaking, for one thing. Remember, God listens more than He speaks.

  3. It is funny, “time saving” devices I once thought essential I no longer use. We hang all of our laundry to dry, we haven’t used our dryer in months, I never use our dishwasher, it is quicker to handwash items as I go. My electric handmixer died 6 months ago, amazingly I have managed to mix everything by hand and things turned out just fine 🙂 I will not be replacing it – when I broke the carafe on our coffee maker we used the stove top camping perculator -Perhaps it takes having things to realize that you don’t need them???? We rarely buy new clothing – we shop at thrift stores and find perfectly good clothing for very reasonable prices – we LOVE bag sales and 50% off days. I am pleased to find good items at thrift stores and garage sales – but am saddened by how much stuff people get rid of that is perfectly good, stuff that they worked hard to earn the money to purchase new, and then they give it away or sell it cheap in a garage sale.
    I know people who always talk about simplifying their life and paying down debt but are easily distracted by the newest gadgets or a good sale, and end up broke week in and week out and never really get to to where they think they want to be because they don’t focus on the end goal.
    One very good thing that happened with the recession is that a lot of people realized that money isn’t everything and many learned that being frugal is not a bad thing it can be a lot of fun and you can really tap into your creative side.

    • I did replace my handmixer – old hands with arthritis! I find that I am washing more dishes by hand to clean up the kitchenand make it look nice rather than stacking them to go in the yet-unemptied dishwasher.

      You have to laugh at people who buy stacks of books and subscribe to magazines and websites about simplifying their life and getting rid of possessions – it’s kind of like collecting bins from the Container Store but never finding the time to put things in them. Of course, to simplify your life all you need to do is do less, have less, buy less.

  4. I’d like to find a balance between working outside and inside the home. I would not be happy being a stay-at-home mom/wife but I am not very happy working 8+ hours a day as I do now either. As a non-parent I cannot make demands to my boss to work less than full time but if I have children under the age of 7 I can here in Sweden.

    If I ever have children I aim to use that law and work 75% or less if my boss allows that (I can demand 75% (or is it 80%?) and he is not allowed to say no). I think that the ideal procentage is about 50-60% however and in the end I might look for a job which has that procentage from the beginning in the end so that I cannot be forced to work more. But I want to work a bit outside the home unless I would become extremely rich, then I would not work but that is not going to happen. One reason I want to work is my future pension, but also if my relationship were to crash (god forbid) I want to be able to support myself. Here you rarely get any support as a wife if you divorce, just for the children if any and that is not enough to have as a single income. I do not work to buy a lot of expensive stuff, I just save the extra money to have a down payment on a house in the future. I already live my financial life as if I were working 60% so I know I do not need to work 100% to survive.

    Perhaps I rely a bit too much on myself and too little on god in this respect but I’m working on that.

    • I had a job at home for a while when my children were small,but it was erratic, so it didn’t pay enough. I know what you mean about spousal support; it is the same way in the United States. A lot of women find that their husband walks out and takes all the money with him. This is probably getting more equitable since more women have education, but for families under stress who don’t save for the hard times, it can be devastating. It sounds like you have a good plan for the future. God doesn’t tell us not to be prudent! The problem starts when we do so much that we are proud of ourselves and not thankful to God.

  5. Yes, I do believe that god wants us to take of our lives and make plans and so on. What I mean by perhaps not trusting god enough is that I am afraid that I sometimes think of all eventualities and I am almost too safe. I think that my challenge is to just let go sometimes and trust that god will not give me bigger burdens than what I can carry.

    Debt I am extremely afraid of, I do not have credit cards, I do not buy stuff unless I can actually afford it, now. I did take student loans because otherwise I would not have been able to study at the university. When my mother died she left me enough to money to pay them off though so right now I am not in debt in any way and that is so good. I believe in borrowing money for three reasons: studies, houses and extreme emergencies.

    In a couple of years I hope to own a house, not a status house, just a good house which does not have a leaky roof, bad foundation or extremely expensive solutions for heating. I do not need to have a house that is newly renovated or in a status area, just one were I could feel happy and at home.

    • I used to boast that I always had a contigency plan, if not three! So God has made sure that I have been in situations where there were no back-upplans, and I had to trust Him and others.

      I agree with you on debt. We do not have credit cards, having learned the hard way how expensive they are.

  6. I can answer the point on spousal support which in the States is usually termed Alimony. Alimony is based on the earning capacity of both parties, the length of the marriage and the reason for the break up. The purpose is to keep both parites equal while giving the receiving spouse time to get their life back in order. It is a nice theory but one that rarely if ever works.

    I follow the belief that the Lord will provide what is necessary. I do work from home, my office is in the third bedroom of my home (we doubled up the boys) and I meet my clients where they are. It works in that I do not have to maintain the overhead of a different location to work from. The downside is that it is very easy to get distracted by messes left by my husband and the children, the need to do laundry or any other task that may fall in front of my eyes.

    I like the fact that absent long court days I am home when the kids get home from school. I also like the idea that if one of my children are sick I can be there with them. My son helps from time to time with office work and my husband does my billing. I guess you could say we are a cottage industry law firm.

    The fact that I do not have the overhead means a savings that I pass on to my clients so that people with less means still get my services. I feel that this makes it a win/win for everyone. Perhaps if people were not so wrapped up in the trappings of the world, they would see the benefits that are right in front of them.

    • Despite the law business’s television profile, most lawyers I know are a lot like you. They aren’t in the legal world to make lots of money or to gain prestige, but to help people while supporting their own families. Other Christian professionals are following your lead in this lately – working from a home office, being with their families, going out to clients rather than maintaining an office and staff. It is a good model for the world – that we aren’t playing those games that have been artificially promoted.

  7. I am wrestling with this very same issue, Friend. I’m seeking clearness myself, and have posted the following blog entry at QuakerQuaker.org. I hope that I can post it hear for clearness from thee.

    The blog post.

    I am an adjunct university instructor for a number of institutions; Mount St. Mary’s University, University of Phoenix online, University of Phoenix Harrisburg campus, and Frederick Community College. I had also, some time ago, applied to Kaplan University and have been accepted there. I am currently going through the training process with Kaplan. Online schools make faculty undergo rigorous training before they let you into the classroom (traditional schools kind of just turn you loose). I say this because after being trained with the University of Phoenix I knew what to expect with Kaplan training.

    Here’s the thing. Kaplan feels very corporate to me. I’ve had to do many corporate style training modules even before the faculty training. Maybe I’m hypersensitive to the model since I am a refugee from corporate America (biotechnology). But I’ve noticed some things that I feel I should probably pay attention to. The first time I was enrolled in the training I had to withdraw because I couldn’t find the time to do the 3 week course. I’m currently enrolled this second time around and completely blanked on the mandatory seminar (I didn’t put it on my calendar and therefore it ceased to exist). I’ll have to be enrolled a 3rd time (and last time) into the entire course to complete this mandatory seminar. All the other work I’ve done will transfer over no problem.

    Clearly there is some part of me that is balking at this new job. I feel like I should listen and resign….in the middle of training! At this stage my plate is full. Comfortably I would teach fewer online classes in the Spring and Fall semesters because my traditional classes are full, and teach more online classes in the summer when my traditional schools don’t tend to offer adjunct contracts. I’m teaching 5 classes right now, for example. I don’t know what will happen in July and August, but I expect I’ll be offered more classes by Phoenix. Kaplan would help to take up the slack. At most I imagine teaching no more than 2 or 3 Kaplan classes a year.

    Do I re-enroll this 3rd and last time in the Kaplan training? Do I resign?

    • Is it Kaplan thee needs to leave, or is there something else tying up thy life? The potential work situation sounds fine, although I remember Kaplan as the “read the book, listen to the tape” people about 20 years ago. (Their radio ad said they didn’t treat their students like that.)

      Is thee taking on too much? Is there a neglected priority closer to thy heart? Is there a conflict between online tutoring and live tutoring? Does thee prefer the personal contact and perhaps thee is spending too much time now in cyber-space? We all long for real voices and faces.

      Just my thoughts, take them for what thee will.

  8. Thee brought tears to my eyes. Tears of truth. Indeed, I am very good at taking on too much. I may well be sabotaging my dissertation writing by being too busy. I very much enjoy being at home. Every day I see tasks at home I want to take on.

    Clearly there is part of me that already knows this truth, and it is my ego that must accept. I think I’m afraid of being a flake and letting people down. “Thanks for hiring me, and now that I am 3/4 of the way through the on-boarding process I will have to resign…”.

    This is the second time in my life that I’ve done this. When I was laid off from biotech last June I taught University for the Fall and accepted a Public Health job with the state – first part time until the semester ended, and then the plan was to go full time thereafter. At the time the idea of not teaching at the Mount in the following semester made me want to cry. When I started working for the state I knew I’d made a mistake in the first week. Being back in an office building was depressing. I wanted to leap out a window. The built in down time drove me crazy because I could only think about all the things I could be doing if I wasn’t at the office at 3 pm with my thumb in my butt!

    I was much more excited to be hired and trained by my first Online school. This time it feels like work. I just have to have the courage to quit.

    I am grateful for thee’s counseling.

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