Thursday, November 08, 2012

choice or compromise?

Mair blogged recently about deliberately becoming a 'lady of leisure' for a while, intending to do some writing and other creative things which led to an email conversation between us commenting on how hard some people find it to get their heads around the idea of deliberately not having a job for a while.

This linked in for me with some thoughts that were raised partly by Aletia's blog post about where is feminism these days and partly from my own contemplations a couple of months or so ago (before redundancy was on the cards as far as I knew). I caught myself thinking during one particularly stressful day at work after reading a book about living more self sufficiently 'is it wrong to just want to be at home with more time to do all these things rather than be out working?'. The thought felt like a betrayal on some levels - although I'm not sure who of, presumably those who fought hard for women's rights to work, but perhaps on some level of myself and the assumption that my contribution to society would be via the workplace.

My journey is similar to Aletia's, albeit starting almost a decade earlier, growing up with the assumption we could (should?) do anything and everything. I recently read Jill Tweedie's Letters from a fainthearted feminist which whilst not exactly stunning literature was a reminder of the politics around in the 1980s, particularly around gender issues. It is no wonder that we grew up assuming we needed to be Superwoman (albeit probably in less revealing clothing, plus Dr Martens and fringey scarf) to challenge the inequalities and suppression that undoubtedly had limited the options of earlier generations. But in the same way that I've accepted that I no longer personally have to prove that girls are as good as boys at a-z, I've also accepted that it isn't about not doing 'girls' things but sometimes doing them through choice not conditioning or lack of alternatives and it being ok to pick and choose your battle grounds. But don't get me started on the issue of aisles full of Barbie pink...

So, rewinding slightly, whilst going back to 'living like nana did' and being more self-sufficient is more time consuming I'm pretty sure that there is no need to throw the baby out with the bath water and revert to the social norms of that era too. If I spend some time basically being a housewife for a while (for lack of a better expression) it is a life-style choice, and no doubt a temporary one at that, rather than a compromise. Surely living in manner that helps generate home produce, is generally kinder to the environment, and allows time for more involvement in both the local community as well as the usual multi-layered Quaker commitments is still making a contribution to society just as much as going out there and earning a living? But it is simply not socially nor politically acceptable to be a 'stay at home not-a-mum', the down side of liberation perhaps?!

But still it is easier for me to make such choices than many. I don't have any dependants, nor a partner whose life is also affected. I have the luxury of being able to choose how I spend my life and money, rather than having circumstances seemingly beyond my control dictate it.There are what some would see as compromises in my life - there probably aren't many people in my age group content to board in someone else's home, but if I had to pay rent/mortgage and bills etc in the usual way the pressure to have a regular sizeable income would be far higher. But I don't like living alone, boarding is a cost effective way of not only avoiding living alone but sharing a carbon footprint and currently means I can contribute to society by helping someone else remain living in their own home more easily.

I try to focus on them as choices rather than compromises - compromise seems to imply that having everything for myself is what I should be aiming for, when actually I've spent a good chunk of the last 10yrs or more actively trying to have less! I don't see that as depriving myself but releasing myself, from a lot of stress for a start off. Instead of worrying about paying to fix the chimney or paint the outside of the house I'm left with cleaning the windows and weeding the vegatable patch - sounds like a good deal to me.

So where does that leave me in my ponderings? This post has taken a couple of weeks to write and has been cut-n-pasted, re-written and deleted so many times you'd think it was an assignment! Each time I come back to it a different aspect seems more relevant, but I guess the thing is to post this now and blog more later as the issues bumble their way around my head a bit longer, or not as the case may be!

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