One of the common misconceptions about homesteading is that you need to be either working from home or a stay at home parent/spouse in order to be a homesteader. There are a few issues with that idea. First, what is a homesteader? Second, what if you have a full time job outside of the home? And finally, what does it mean to “do it all”?
Do it all?
No one does all of the things all at once, to perfection. In fact, most of what homesteading is is a constant learning, refining and growing towards a more self-sufficient, self-reliant, lifestyle that frees you from too much dependence on everyone else for food, shelter, water and clothing.
Definitely many people work on many different things at once, often becoming a jack of all trades in the process. If you are interested in cooking from scratch, start with just not eating out once a week or baking bread or something reasonable. Doing it all implies there is an end game when in fact its more the journey and process that takes time.
A note on time management
This might seem like a shameless plug but hear me out. I designed a time management workbook that I have used in the past to get a jump start on where I spend my time, daily, even hourly! It really helped me to get into the groove I have now. I use it less, since I have established a lifestyle I can live with and still strive toward lofty homesteading goals, but if I ever need a reset I always return.
Time management is a key component to anyone’s life regardless of whether you a stay at home mom with a blog, a full time farmer or a widget maker in Alaska. Time management can you get what you need or want done with the time that you have through priority management and time blocking. Check it out!
How do I do it
I work full time at a job that is 45 minutes away from my home. I leave around 6am and return close to 5pm. I also have two young sons, 5 and 3. More than once, people with *seemingly* less of these obligations than me, will approach me and ask “how do you have time for all that X, Y, Z?” I say seemingly because everyone has obligations, it just depends on priorities. For me, having children is and was a priority. Hence, obligation: care for children. Usually they perceive me as having more on my plate when really all I have is a different plate. But I digress.
Often, I stumble through an answer like “I just sometimes cook when I get home but ya know not always, blah blah blah.” No. I really had to think about this. For a long time. It has come up frequently enough as to be a real point of interest. Where do I find the time to bake from scratch, grow my food, care for animals while taking care of kids and working?
Simple is usually correct
Time management is definitely a component. More specifically it is prioritizing. If your priority is to come home and nap, then you do you. Sleep is important. No judgment. In reality I feel a sense of accomplishment, a real hands-on provide for my family, good food free of all of the things when I cook or garden. In addition, I get a certain level of therapy, the hard physical labor compared to the complex sociopolitical aspects of work.
But really, it is even simpler than that. I have two young boys. I want to teach them to cook, clean, do laundry, grow plants and be productive people outside of math, French, sports, English, history, science, etc. Here is how and why I really do this.
A day in the life
My sons and I return home at 5pm most days. At this time, the dogs need to go outside, the chickens need a check in (and egg collection) and the garden needs a once over. So, on most days, we ALL go outside for at least 15 minutes. I employ them to collect the eggs, even water the garden, if needed. But they also get a free chance to simply play outside, which is woefully lacking in school
Usually in this time I need to start dinner. For example, if I am making pizza, I will start up the mixer and have the dough rising while I finish up outside or play with them! We all come inside, wash hands, put away eggs and then if there is more prep for dinner (such as spreading pizza sauce) we do this together. They don’t work the oven but the older one is learning to stir on the stove top with Mom supervision and the little one helps with vegetable scraps and compost.
Then usually a chore of some kind. Either dishes or laundry. I will ask one to help put away dishes. Then a little more free time, maybe even a TV show, then we eat dinner. If they’ve been extra helpful and involved, I let them eat with a show but if we need more time together, extra family time, we eat without it. It varies.
Then mom play with time or building legos or puzzles or a board game. On every other night, its bath time. During bath time, I check on them frequently, but also use this time to start sourdough starter or prep marinade for the chicken.
Pajamas, teeth, hide-from-mom, books, songs, prayer, bed. During this time, I am so hands on, nothing else like cooking from scratch gets done. But that’s the only time. In fact, because my absolute presence is required, as in I cannot go take a nap while they run the house, I often occupy myself with cooking, cleaning, gardening while in their presence.
This accomplishes two main goals at once. First, teach them to care for themselves. Cook, clean, laundry, garden. Second, it gives them an opportunity to see what mom enjoys. Naturally, they will follow my lead.
Kids are a natural homestead incentive. I need to be near them and often involved in their care. But during this time, we can all learn to make brownies from scratch together. At this point they can feed the chickens, collect the eggs, carry and deposit the compost, measure, stir and mix without much oversight.
I am not going to lie. When I am sick or the weather is terrible or I’ve just had an awful, even heartbreaking day at work. They watch Pixar for an hour and a half and eat hot dogs and carrots. It happens.
I wouldn’t say it’s burning out per se. Because I always pick myself up, dust me and them off and try to make that banana bread tomorrow. But those days of overwhelm do happen. Sometimes I legit need (or even very much want) to veg on the couch with my iPhone and let them crayola the walls. They’re safe, healthy, and cared for. I, like most moms, do my best.
But now I know, I will return to that canning goal or sewing project soon enough and will feel happy and relieved when it is completed. Luckily, I have two littles to learn right a long with me. It’s a journey, not a race.
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