Radical Homemakers (2) Value beyond Money

If our freedom is tied to the ability to buy what we need, then we are not independent at all.
Radical Homemakers
My time is a precious commodity. I have never been willing to take on a career which ruled my life, though the necessity to earn some part of a living is always there. Instead I prefer, as much as possible, to invest my time in my life, and to save, rather than spend money first. Rather than earn a big salary, only to pay other people to do the tasks that I can’t because I’m working…I am sure that however good a childminder I might find, they would never treat my children with as much genuine care and devotion and pride as I will. The same is true of my family’s food. If I cook it from scratch I know what goes into it, which on the whole is seasoned with love and attention, not unnecessary chemicals and mechanised processing. I feel poorer, physically, spiritually and emotionally when I resort to purchasing everything that I require for daily life. Creating most of what we need fulfills a very basic urge in myself which is difficult to explain. THIS is the core of radical homemaking, it is the desire to inhabit and support a life serving, rather than extractive economy, one that knows that values such as love, integrity, creativity, joy are priceless ingredients of a fulfilling life.

However, value in this culture is usually measured with money. Our culture tells us that only that which has a price is of value. Therefore if I chose to stay at home and look after my child, then this is not valued. But if I pay someone else for childcare, it is a valued “job”. Ditto growing vegetables. If I grow my own vegetables I do not contribute to the Gross Domestic Product of the country, nor do I contribute VAT tax (sales tax). Ditto fixing my own car, making my own cleaning rags out of old sheets, recycling plastic food tubs into flower pots. When I do it myself I tend to use less resources, need less money, create less wastage. But according to “society” and our “economy” it doesn’t “count”. Whilst we need to earn some money, to have some financial income to support our families, this should not dominate our lives to the extent it currently does. There is more to life than paid work and the hamster wheel of salaried life. Our culture has a heavy investment in us all playing our part earning money and spending it. We are paying the price for keeping our economies “healthy”:  through our health problems from work related stress and exhaustion, our road miles, our work clothes, our childcare bills, our lack of time for ourselves and our families, our excessive consumption of calories and unnecessary products.  Most in our culture are wage-slaves. As Hayes rightly points out: “the economy should be serving the people: families in their homes and not the other way around.”

In Radical Homemakers, Hayes presents us with the the counter culturalists who are rejecting our culture’s model of consumerism, workaholism and alienation and towards a “life-serving economy”, starting from the crucible of their own hearth and family, and local community: “These individuals have discovered that money was  significantly less important than we are led to believe.” 

The economy is not an abstract thing, nor should it be our master, and we its slaves, as politicians would have us believe. In redefining our family’s relationship to the economy, we also tend to adapt our relationship to the natural world we inhabit. When we slow down, do things ourselves, grow our own food, deal with our own waste, our own health and that of the animals we care for and eat, then we begin to inhabit the true meaning of economy and ecology, which comes from the Greek oikos – household, which makes us, oikonomos the household managers in charge of the oikonomia – and not the economy in charge of us.Hayes describes radical homemakers as: “building a great bridge from our existing extractive economy – where corporate wealth was regarded as the foundation of economic health, where mining our earth’s resources and exploiting our international neighbours was accepted as simply the cost of doing business – to a life-serving economy, where the goal is, in the words of David Korten, to generate a living for all, rather than a killing for a few, where our resources are sustained, and families can lead meaningful, joyful lives.”

Have you found ways to opt out of the economy? How do you balance your own values and monetary value when it comes to your own work and time?

Like this? Then have you read…

Book Review
Part One- Beyond Housewives and Feminism
Part Two – Value beyond Money
Part Three – Dispelling the Myth of Self Sufficiency
Part Four – Niggling Issues

Instead of Money
Skills for Resilient Families
Balancing Work and Parenting

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  1. Seán and Helen
    Seán and Helen01-19-2011

    Our children are only this age once and it truely flies by. Some years ago, after a major health scare with one of our children, we decided to give up the high flying lifestyle and spend our lives primarily with our children. People said we were mad! How could hubby give up the Senior role he had, how can you ‘live the life.’
    Well, we found the real purpose of life. No we dont have the flash car, the dream holidays, the expensive clothes but we have a great family life, children who we have the time to spend with and who enjoy our company. Our income is far, far less, but so is our outgoings and now the simpler things make ours lives enjoyable. We truly feel we made the right decision, the same decision as when we decided to leave the ‘rat race’ some years earlier from the UK. People had said then we were mad!

  2. Tiffany

    It is funny how often children make some of us see these things.. that real value has nothing to do with money.

  3. Renee @ Loca-faces
    Renee @ Loca-faces01-20-2011

    Our primary “opt out” of the conventional economy is how we acquire our food – almost all locally, which truthfully costs more dollars than the store, but feels better in so many ways. I guess, having said that, we balance that with not eating out much and considering purchases before we make them.

    In terms of time balance, this was rough for me, because I fit Shannon’s picture of the working mom pulled on both ends. I primarily ran the household, as well, and it was crazy. Almost exactly a year ago, decided enough was enough, and switched to half-time employment in September. I have a PhD in mathematics and was in a very Senior job, so a lot of people really couldn’t get it. Our world couldn’t be more different than a year or so ago, but it’s definitely worth it.

  4. Brendan Phelan
    Brendan Phelan01-21-2011

    Thanks for the reference. Looks like a great read. Its on order as we speak.

    I think in a society where the economy seems to be slowly growing, but where we are expected to loose 50,000 skilled people to emigration this year, the idea that “the economy should be serving the people: families in their homes and not the other way around” is very true.

    We need as a society to sit back and think about the core question ‘Who is our provider?’ Because of most people’s total dependence on the mass industrialised system, they seem to forget that that system is merely acting as a buffer between individuals and Mother Earth.

    Removing that buffer (providing for ourselves outside of that system) is a key step in understanding the true value of things.


  5. Grit

    i agree. mostly. i get dh to earn the money. is that wrong? 😉

  6. Dreamingaloudnet

    Love it grit! i do similar! I earn some with my editing and writing, but most of my time and therefore value contribution is in the home making/ child caring/ making stuff and saving money place.

    Thank you all for taking the time to share.

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