A high school friend of mine, Ashley, wrote a really interesting post about trying to figure out her employment situation after her three children were all in full-time school, and she referenced Homeward Bound by Emily Matchar.
Well, I cannot read about a book on this topic without immediately requesting it from the library.
And, of course, I cannot read a book like Homeward Bound without forcing everyone I come in contact with to listen to me ramble on at length about it.
My poor friend, Celeste, who foolishly offered to carpool with me to a church event and had to listen to me talk about it for twenty minutes there and then another twenty minutes home. She will likely not make that mistake again.
Also, I feel like I have to say that just because I ENJOY a book, doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with all of it. Sometimes the books I like reading the most are ones where the point of view is wildly different and even directly contradictory to my own. Some of this book made me say, “Yes! Definitely!” while other parts made me think, “hmm, I vehemently disagree with you.”
Five paragraphs later. . . .
homeward bound by emily matchar
Homeward Bound explores the movement of people (mainly women) back to more labor-centric hobbies and lifestyles, whether that means cooking everything from scratch, starting an Etsy business, homeschooling, gardening on a serious level, or living off the grid.
Matchar discusses what kinds of things push people toward this – a poor economy, unfulfilling jobs, distrust of government systems, bored women staying at home with small children, the general trendiness of all things domestic – and shares tons of anecdotes about people on the whole spectrum, whether they are completely self-sufficient or whether they periodically can some tomatoes they bought at the farmer’s market.
A couple of things that stood out to me (you’re looking at this list and thinking, “I don’t believe she knows what “a couple” actually means”):
- What’s the cost to society as a whole if you opt-out of the system (for instance, homeschooling your children, which deprives the local school of your influence and involvement, or opting out of a career as a woman, which can make it more difficult for other women to advance in professional fields, or refusing vaccinations for your own children because of the risk, depending on everyone ELSE’s vaccinated children to keep your child from dying of whooping cough)? Bart and I talked about this at length – it’s such a fascinating and relevant dilemma.
- It’s interesting to see how extremes on both sides of the spectrum start looking very similar in many ways. Both groups might be growing all their own food, opting out of the “system” in various ways, and rejecting traditional paths, but doing it for completely opposite reasons. (I tried to explain this to Bart and I did a horrible job, so. . .read the book and see what I’m talking about because I’ve probably completely botched it here too).
- There is a huge difference between growing a huge garden, sewing all your own clothing, and making soap when you GET to choose that and doing it because you have no other options.
- It’s fascinating to see how MUCH effort people are willing to put forward when they are strongly committed to their lifestyles. I kind of needed a nap after reading about some of these people (and I wanted to say, “Did you know there are stores that sell peanut butter? And you can just give them money for it?”)
- Etsy is making a boat load of money on people selling things through their platform.
- Many corporate careers today are just not very flexible or fulfilling, so the appeal of a slower, more engaging way of making a living is understandable.
- I do think it’s much easier to be a stay-at-home mom when you have a social outlet that keeps you from feeling so isolated (but then, I’m comparing it to nothing because I’ve NEVER been a stay-at-home mom without a blog and a Twitter account).
- Fine. I want chickens in my backyard too, someday (but I’ll make Ella deal with them because she loves animals and birds of any sort freak me right out).
I’d definitely put this book more into the “thought-provoking and discussion-worthy” category, rather than the “best-book-I-ever-read” category.
I found the chapters to kind of blend together. I’d read one and then two chapters later think, “Wait, how is this different from the chapter I read yesterday?” It kind of all muddles together and there is a lot of overlap and repetition. I definitely think it could have been edited down quite a bit.
I felt like there were many MANY generalizations (yes, I recognize you can’t write a book without making some, but. . . there seemed to be a lot here).
And, I didn’t find Emily Matchar particularly unbiased. It seemed fairly clear to me that she was more a fan of “real” careers than choosing to stay-at-home, whether that was to raise your children or to grow kale in your backyard to sell at the farmer’s market.
If I still lived in Texas and was part of my beloved bookclub, Homeward Bound would very likely be my choice for 2014, mainly because I would LOVE to hear what those 11 other women who are smart, well-educated, and have a variety of different family and professional situations thought about the whole thing. I can only imagine it would have been a very interesting discussion.
Instead, I’ll have to just ponder it on my own while my children eat some locally-sourced Lucky Charms for breakfast (vacation food, I’ll have you know. I don’t usually feed them marshmallow cereal for breakfast).