Sunday, June 8, 2008

Contentment at Home

A new knit dishcloth for the kitchen. Such an easy and fast knit; I plan to make more!

To start with, I would like to say that this is not a post about women staying at home vs. working outside of the home. Just to get that right out of the way. :)

Over on Ravelry, we are a bit further ahead in our read-along with the Living More with Less book. The topic we were discussing over the past two weeks has been based on the chapter entitled, "Money" and it has had me thinking about "going" and "staying" and contentment at home.

A couple of homeschooling friends of mine and I were discussing the past year and the amount of running we do among our various activities. Those of you who read my blog should, by now, realize that the concern for lack of socialization within the homeschooling community is a moot point. Actually, deciding what activities in which we will not participate is a more challenging decision for many. I, however, advocate for fewer than what many choose and part of me has begun to wonder if this is a mere personality difference of mine or the lack of practice within our culture. I suspect a bit of both.

For example, when I was having the discussion with my friends, I mentioned a couple of times that perhaps they could just drop an activity or two. Both friends seemed to want to find more time or have more peace, but seemed challenged to actually say no to the activities in which they or their children were involved. When I pressed them some more on it, one said, "Well, I don' t like staying home too often. If I stay home too long, I get lonely or bored." I mentioned a few of the things I like to do - relish, in fact - when I have down time at home (such as my knitting, painting, embroidery, etc.), and one said, "Yes, well, you have that. I don't do those things." And that is true. She does not share my interests in those areas. But I wondered what she might have if she gave herself time to look?

Another point: My daughter has a friend whom she would like to see more often, but she only sees him once-a-week at church. She keeps asking to have him over to play. I know that she wants this because she has a great deal of fun with him, but that when we are in our more regular group of friends, he is inclined, as most children are at this age, to gravitate to his friends of the same sex. The situation with this family, whom we all like very much, is that they live approximately 40 miles east of us. It is not conducive to a simple play-date. The gas, alone, for a round-trip in our minivan would be $16.00. Our resolution is to have him over when his mom comes into town to run errands. I didn't used to think so concretely about these things, but I have really started calculating the cost of gas into our destinations. I wonder if others are beginning to do the same?

For me, being at home is a pleasure. I honestly cannot remember the last time I was bored. Loneliness is another thing, as I can attest, having moved 1,500 miles away from those dearest to me and having fewer women at home in the neighborhood around me. Such is the magic of the internet for me and I am grateful to have connected with so many people who share many of my own interests in this way. That said, when my friend mentioned that she did not do the same things I enjoyed, I wondered to myself, "Do you not like to read? Or play an instrument?" A whole list floods my mind: learning a new language, trying new recipes, tending to the gardens, taking quiet time to pray and read God's Word, playing a game of cards with the children, learning a new craft (from among oh, so many!), writing a letter (and decorating it beautifully), inviting someone over, making bread for your family and a neighbor, having tea, decorating for the season, taking a bike ride, writing in a journal, and the list can go on! And these are things listed merely for pleasure. There is menu-planning, laundry, cooking, cleaning, and the regular maintenance of home life among all of these pursuits.

In a favorite book of mine, the author, Karey Swan writes, "I've learned to keep lists and consolidate our trips, I find that I need to remain home for long stretches of time in order to get beyond the maintenance part of homemaking (stuff like cleaning, laundry, and ironing). If I don't stay home, I miss the creative part of homemaking, which for me is needlework, crafting a dried flower wreath, training a young heart, or giving hospitality to a tired friend. Without these, I'd go crazy and burnout would become a serious threat."

It is a goal of mine this summer, for frugality, but also peace, to limit our excursions. I hope to make outings just once-a-week. I can see that it may be a challenge, given what we are used to. Without giving up our van, though, I'd like to behave as though we only have one as gas prices continue to rise. It may be that twice-a-week will be likely, but I'd like to plan for just one day, not including Saturday which is often when we do things out and about with Daddy.

Do you find peace and contentment at home? Do you consolidate trips or try to limit your outings? Do you foresee a peaceful summer for yourself?
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