Being a homemaker in the modern world

Recently I have had a lot of people ask me if I am going back to work now that Henry is about to enter full-time school.  It has been suggested to me by numerous people that "you will probably really enjoy going back to work".  I began to think it was something that I *should* be doing.

And Grant and I discussed it.  At length.  Very seriously.  

I even printed off the forms to renew my nurses' registration and filled them out.  I chased up certificates I lost in the flood that displaced us 8 years ago to put in my resume. 

But for whatever reason, I couldn't quite bring myself to send them in.  Even though I told people I would be returning to nursing, I procrastinated endlessly.

It turns out my heart just wasn't in it.


A bowl of local, freshly picked veggies.  Look at that colour!


And then after much encouragement from Grant, we sat down and really looked at the cost associated with me returning to work.  I would have a 1-1.5hr return commute, I would need to put my three children in after-school care which would be about $60/day and then 1/3rd of whatever I earn would go in tax as the farm is listed as my primary income.  You may ask how the farm will earn any money in the first year but we are able to get a sustainable logging license for it, as the area has been logged for generations.  Then there are Grants woodroaches which are also classed as part of the farm income.  Throw in the occasional shared take away for dinner at work and there is very little money left of any income I would earn one day/week.  There is possibly weekend work, but that will depend on Grants hours.  He may need to work weekends, and it's not possible that both of us do.  

So it seems that for now, I will continue my role as a full-time homemaker.  Which has filled me with relief and a renewed sense of purpose.  

But I would be lying if I didn't admit it is hard to move against the grain at times.  I'm aware that the role I have is not always valued by mainstream society.  There are those that think homemaking is simple and dull.  Of course, that is not everyone but it is an opinion I come up against on a frequent enough basis that I notice.  

But...The truth is, I love being at home. 

My days are interesting and fulfilling.  I’m constantly learning and reading all kinds of books from political, feminism, theological, permaculture, simple living, and great fiction.  I ferment foods, I make sourdough and yogurt as well as all the usual cooking and baking.  

I sew really lovely Waldorf dolls with needle felting to add details.  Which have at times, become children’s own treasured versions of ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’.  I have been told stories about the dolls I created becoming an important therapy tool for children who have gone through a traumatic experience.  I sew personalized and thoughtful gifts for people and make clothing when a pattern takes my eye.  Not to mention mending our belongings to ensure we get good value out of them.  


One of the most meaningful doll sets I sewed.  A custom set for a wonderful Aboriginal woman to use as a tool for her children.  To help empower them to know they are proud Aboriginal's, and that Aboriginals skin colour cam some in both light and dark.  

I know how to stretch a dollar.  This month I am following the Uber Frugal Month Challenge, and I'm in the process of setting up spreadsheets to record and track every penny we spend to hopefully use as budgeting reference for others wanting to live off the grid in Australia.  

I’m passionate about helping our family find beauty in the simple ordinary things around them, which exist due to our immense privilege.  To help them fall in love with nature, to grow up to be strong and healthy.    

Homemade sourdough.

I work on my writing and blogging, though at times I admit it has been kind of haphazard.  But this year I am determined to take my blogging to a new level.  For the first time, I am carving out time daily to really work hard at writing consistently.  I am in the process of mapping out a few common themes I want to have running through my blog, to give me direction as I move forward.

We read, watch documentaries, listen to podcasts, audiobooks and music. 

I love the work I do.  It’s quiet, but valuable in its own right.  And it’s as interesting as I choose to make it.  

But much of society doesn’t value it.  I have had people’s eyes glaze over and assume my simple mindedness when I have told them I am a homemaker.  I have had men turn their backs on me and resume talking to the person next to me because my role is considered ‘dull’.  

My life is may not shiny nor impressive to societies standards.  But to me, it’s interesting and deeply fulfilling.  

My encouragement is for you to courageously follow the beat of your own drum.  Sometimes it is daunting to follow a different path.  Sometimes we can look at others and all the wonderful things they are doing with their lives and we can feel what we are doing is not enough.  That we are not achieving enough.  

It is easy to feel like we should be working in a professional career, to have a nice house, with nice furniture.  It's easy to see our value in only what we do, and what we do absolutely has the potential to be valuable.  But our entire value does not lie in our title, nor our career.  For a long time, I was 'Emma, the Nurse.'  When I left my job I came to realize nursing was not who I was, it was simply something I did.  Who you are does not only exist because of the work you do.  Your work ethic, kindness, integrity, knowledge, empathy, and your personal attributes are a part of what make you unique.  Work is simply a place where we utilize these skills.  There is absolutely more than one place or setting in which we can apply these skills.  

But homemakers, and those yearning to know slowness and simplicity in their lives - what we do matters, it is valuable and it remains to be an entirely valid life choice even in this modern fast-paced world.   

I don't know if I will return to work of some kind at some stage, I may well want too.  I will certainly be leaving that door open and be keeping an open mind to whatever the future may hold.    

But right now?  I am continuing on at home, following the beat of my own drum.  May you feel encouraged to find and follow your own beat, whatever that may be.

Much love,
Emma
xx








39 comments

  1. Gosh Emma, i feel like you just popped into my head to write this post! I now have that massive urge to sit down with you and a hot cuppa and discuss it some more (with a few "oh, yes! I know!" moments).

    I stopped teaching to have my 3 children but never really thought hard about whether i would go back at any stage. Now that all 3 are in school and we are running a farm ourselves, there's an implied expectation that I'll want to go back to work... implied by whom i dont know! Friends, family, me?!

    I just want to stay home and continue to potter around, which i feel is the only way i can maintain the slow, gentle pace that my kids need. When i do a couple of days of relief teaching, i find i become snappy and agitated and this in turn affects the whole mood of the house.

    I find it really hard to explain this to other people as i know i am EXCEPTIONALLY privileged to be in this position. I am very aware that it just isn't an option for many people.

    I also find it hard to explain to people why i feel that my 'job' of homemaking is so valuable.

    Thanks so much for another interesting post. I look forward to following all of your farming adventures!

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    1. I love this reply. People would say to me I was lucky to stay home and be a lady of leisure. For one thing, there was no leisure about it. Secondly, there was no luck either. It was hard work and sacrifice. Not taking the big holidays, having the latest car, not having the McMansion home. But having my boys knowing who was going to be at home for them in the afternoon, teaching them how to cook and clean and maintain a home, being calmer and happier and more present. I’d rather these things than impressing people. Von

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    2. It is certainly something many homemakers find them selves faced with.

      I too completely acknowledge my immense privilege in being able to stay home. But in that, it is not easy for us. There are many things others do that we do not because we are a single income family.

      If you are able to stay at home financially, and it is what you want to do? Then I encourage you to do it. A dollar saved carries more value then a dollar earnt, as none is going in taxes.

      We too are more relaxed and happier when I am at home. Probably because I am happy and doing what I want too with my life. Like you I am also aware some people really love their work, and I'm more then happy to celebrate their working successes with them! Different courses for different horses and all that.

      xx

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  2. Beautiful veggie photo..the colors! And your dolls! Congrats for continuing to be a stay-at-home mom! I've never worked. Nothing is more fulfilling (and busy) than running a household properly, and always being there for your children...quantities of quality time! It is even busier when they are in school...the days are short and when they come home to the calm of home and you are ready to help them in the evening, all will be well! I too, always felt it was a privilege to stay home. But I was also willing to live poor if it need be (never did though, God provided well). I always said my college education would make me a better mom. It was easy for me to stay home because I grew up with my mom doing it and I always believed in education for the sake of education and not necessarily for a job. I even continued being home when my last child was in college. All my mom -friends went back to work...I see nothing wrong with that but I guess I am hard to change! Andrea

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    1. Yes, I whole heartedly agree with you Andrea.

      It sounds like you worked very hard at home, and of you and your husband were both happy with the arrangement and had enough there is no need to change just because of societies expectations. Just as it would have been fine for you to secure a job if it had have been something that interested you, its just as fine to not.

      You sound like things were very happy, which is really most families dream!

      xx

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  3. What a great blog post. I was able to stay home for four years after having my first. We struggled with two mortgages on one income, I put Jack in care one or two days a week as well for socialisation so this was another expense and god knows we struggled financially to do this. We even had a second child in this time and David worked away Monday to Friday. I was the only consistent figure for my boys at that time so working wasn’t really an option.
    I then started working after David’s work changed. Trying to find work to fit around the boys was hard (David’s work can change from local to away work at a moments notice) and I ended up starting my own little cleaning business.
    I’ve had people look at me like I have three heads when I say I clean for work. I feel like a second rate citizen because I am not educated (I am actually, I have just finished a diploma of counselling but choose not to use it because I’d rather work around my family) but if my kids get sick, if they have a school assembly or such, or are on holidays I am able to move clients around to be there for my kids. I don’t care about anything else but that.
    Reading “down to earth” once, Rhonda said a dollar saved is worth more than a dollar earned due to taxes. You being home with your boys is worth so much more than the stress and added expenses of you going to work. Plus you will never ever look back on this time and think gee I wish I spent less time with my kids.
    I know my husband appreciates coming home from work and dinner is being prepared, the kids are settled and he doesn’t have to step in and do chores. I’m not trying to be the typical 50s housewife, but our life runs smoother with these jobs being done. I admire women who can juggle it all, and I applaud each one of them, but you need to do what suits you and your family. And going against the grain is not wrong. You do you and let the people who judge you deal with themselves.
    Von xx

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    1. I think its wonderful you found a way to work around the needs of your family! Thats a dream for so many right there!

      I don't understand anyone looking down their nose for the work anyone else does.

      Being a cleaner is good, honest, hard work and there is NEVER anything to look down upon in any of that. Who doesn't love coming home to a beautifully cleaned house? Im sure the people you work for are so very grateful, and your counselling skills would come in handy in all kinds of settings.

      xx

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    2. Just a comment for Von's post above. I was a Professional for 24 years, and due to circumstances, walked away from my career. I had two years off to rebuild my life and health. I too clean now and don't mind it. It is satisfying and therapeutic. Not too many expectations, and people do actually thank and appreciate you. I have one job which is poorly paid at $19.50 an hour, and another on weekends at $31 and $36 hour.I can work around kids, and actually enjoy my lifestyle.

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  4. Emma, good on you for choosing the path you love. It doesn't matter what others think what you should do. You are doing what's right for your family.

    I often see moms who work outside home looking down at stay at home moms, and stay at home moms looking down at moms who work outside home. Not everyone, but some do. Each group thinks what they do it better and more important than everything else.

    We all decide what is right for our families. Some can choose to stay home, some simply have to. Some can choose to work, others have no option but to work. Every mom loves their children and tries their best. I think the world will be a better place when people stop judging others. :)

    Good luck with your journey. I look forward to reading your future posts on homemaking. :)

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    1. I completely agree!

      I think if we all encouraged and supported each other in our chosen fields of work, that would be lovely. Hopefully one day!

      I certainly don't think the way I am living is better then anyone else. Not even in the slightest. I just hope to always use this space to encourage people to follow their own path, however different it may be.

      xx

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  5. I swear sometimes you jump right in my brain and speak my thoughts Emma!!

    It was never a decision for us whether I should stay at home with the kids or continue to work. I was ALWAYS going to be a SAHM.
    But so many people assume that I should be back in full time work now that all 4 are at school. No thankyou!

    I do work, 5hours a week. But to be honest, my heart is never in it. I feel like its a separate part of my life, like i put on a mask, play a role, then return to my 'normal' afterwards.
    Honestly, we don't need the money and could (and did) live quite well without it. But if we ever want to buy acreage then the income looks good on paper for the bank. They still can't quite figure out how we live so well on so little.
    But we work hard, we save, we think hard about where to spend our money...and we realised early on that most things really aren't necessary or important to us. And because of that we don't need a second full time income to support our lifestyle.

    Go with your heart Emma, it'll never steer you wrong

    Cassandra xx

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    1. It certainly seems to be a topic that resonates with a lot of people. Which is lucky as it was going to be one of the themes I explored this year!

      You pinpointed it right there, its about living a life that responds to our core values, those are different for everyone.

      Living on one income certainly means there are many things we don't do that we see others doing freely. But that is a choice we are able and happy to make.

      xx

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  6. Perceptions of "place" can be weird. Often because the mainstream is a byproduct of industrial economies. We're all expected to do the same thing. Yet keeping ones family clean and well fed, comes in many different applications. Sometimes there are two outside-workers in the home, sometimes one - then there are those who earn their income from home.

    Our responsibility is figuring out, where we can be most productive. My husband couldn't stay at home, like I do. He'd go mad. Yet I would go mad in the work environments, I took part in when younger. It was a challenge without kids. More so, with them. So my husband and I, aim to be productive in the environments that don't do our heads in, lol. I like to say, I'm a work-at-home, mum.

    Congratulations on your new decision, and that it's a mutual one with your husband. Enjoy the productivity, ahead.

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    1. This is, as usual so beautifully put Chris.

      For my family, in this season I am more valuable at home for all of us.

      And you are sure right. Perceptions of place are indeed weird!

      xx

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  7. This is a great post Emma, and a subject dear to my heart.

    I have spent most of my life as a stay at home mum. I did work full time (daycare at my home) for about five years and I loved the job but hated having to not do things with and for my family. In the end I gave it away. Now I have a couple of private homes I clean, only 6 hours a fortnight and that suits me better although, some days I get restless and threaten to throw them in. I have no kids at home now, and that makes a big difference. The house cleaning jobs were offered to me by my daughter who was pregnant at the time and needed to give up work. That was three years ago and here I am still doing them. Its not hard work and I get a bit of spending money for my crafts, book purchases etc.

    In my heart I have always wanted to be home. My mother was and is a stay at home mum and I wanted to be just like her. Lovely people like Rhonda Jean have encouraged and convinced me no end that staying at home is okay and achievable through making all your own things, budgeting and living frugally. And that is what I have done. This year we will finish paying our mortgage off, it is such a good feeling. Hubby has a great paying job and I know how to run the household on a budget and now we are reaping the rewards :)

    Do what is best for you and your family Emma. What makes you the happiest. Life is not always about the big dollar. Life is for living and living it how you want to. Who cares what others think. Your boys will remember that you were always there for them, taking a genuine interest in what they do. You cant do that if you are working.

    Just sharing my thoughts :)

    Love Tania xxx

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    1. Congratulations on nearly paying off your mortgage! What an epic achievement!

      You are right about life not being about the big dollar, but did you know Australia has the biggest house size in the world on average? It seems as a nation we currently are chasing bigger and bigger things, which no doubt equals deeper and deeper debit which is concerning.

      xx

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  8. Hi Emma, loved today's blog 10 years ago I worked with my husband in our own business and then I became disabled I fell into a deep depression for along time and felt worthless but slowly I have learnt to value my homemaker role and now cherish the life I have I was made to feel I wasn't contributing by others opinions and now I don't care what they think and I love looking after my family I will never be able to work outside the home again but I manage to keep the home going and that's enough for me and I think my family is much better for it.

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    1. Good on you for having the strength to follow the beat of your own drum, it can be hurtful to feel dismissed can't it?

      I'm glad you have managed to follow your heart, but it would be so lovely if we could all be a little more supportive of each others needs and decisions wouldn't it?

      xx

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  9. Emma if your days are interesting and fulfilling and you are taking care of your home and your family is looked after and contented - then don't for a minute take on board other peoples attitudes or misunderstandings. I have just called to mind the closing words of Mary Oliver's poem 'The Summer Day,' - Each person is entitled to formulate their own answer to the question posed at the end of that poem.

    We are all different, and make different choices. Wouldn't it be great if we could just support each others choices instead of bringing people down for using their own judgement to lead their own lives? I guess for me the bottom line is that our lives are made up of time not money, so how we spend our time is the important thing not earning lots of money to buy stuff and 'experiences'.

    If I were to receive a large windfall I might consider giving up paid work altogether. But maybe not because work can be an opportunity for me to grow and contribute in different ways that wouldn't be possible if I was at home full time. Working outside the home keeps building my capacity and keeps me moving outside my comfort zone. And I am the type of person that needs that otherwise my comfort zone would become the dictator that decides what I could or couldn't do. However I certainly would not choose to go back to work full-time.

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    1. YES! What a great little poem, which asks a powerful question.

      You sound very happy in your work and that's so good. The fact that you find it fulfilling and interesting is what we all hope for out of life really isn't it? I love there are different avenues in which we are able to achieve this.

      We need women to work, to be in leadership, to teach, to shape and to contribute. It is so important women are visible, present and working on all platforms at all levels.

      I hope that one day we, as a nation will be more encouraging and accepting of all choices. Both can be valid, one does not need to be lower then the other.

      xx

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  10. Hi Emma, love your post, and the decision you have made. My heart is also that of a homemaker. Two years ago I was a part time Professional, but due to adverse circumstances in the workplace, I turned my back on a career and Profession. It took me two years to feel well enough and ready to find work. Work has fallen in my lap. I started with 1 job, and am now juggling 4! I clean a child care centre 3times a week, have started as a kitchen hand in hospitality and clean a B&B in the mornings. I love the lifestyle, as I have the middle of the day free when kids come home. God is good and knows the desires of your heart. I love your decision - it's right for you!

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    1. It sounds like you had a difficult time, I'm so sorry to hear that. But it's great you have found work and a lifestyle that you love! It sounds varied and interesting, and a wonderful balance for you and your family.

      xx

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  11. great post Emma, i felt a little sad reading that others expect you to go back to work, just because your youngest finally starts school full time? seriously i think it's a bad idea especially with day care being so expensive, i mean , according to my daughter who works in the industry, it takes one full wage almost to keep a child in care for one week! that is a lot of money! to me, it makes more sense to stay home, i think you have made a wonderful choice.
    good luck on your journey
    thanx for sharing

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    1. The cost of daycare is certainly prohibitive to those who are on a mid level income. Especially if you need to put more then one child in daycare to work.

      xx

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  12. Those Aboriginal dolls are absolutely works of art. They're beyond gorgeous, what skill you have!

    I've always been at home. It's not entirely a choice for me, it's been a combination of circumstance, having small children at home, husband's work schedule, my lack of training/education (and the cost of it), health issues (which not only impact my ability to move, but would affect my ability as an employee, and thus my ability to pay back any loans taken out for education!), the immense cost of daycare... I'm conflicted over it. I'd like to be able to contribute financially in a job outside the home, but after years upon years of trying to figure out a way to make it happen, I've yet to come up with a way that makes it possible. So I do the best I can here at home. It just doesn't always feel like quite enough, even though I do enjoy being at home immensely. My daughter goes to school next year (she's absolutely NOT a good candidate for homeschooling!), and so that'll give me time to work on other projects, and I'm definitely looking forward to that. :)

    I recently read Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity by Emily Matchar, and it was amazing. If you can find a copy, I'm sure you'd love it as well. :)

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    1. You sound very happy at home, and I encourage you, if you can afford it, and you genuinely enjoy it to no to be hesitant to continue following that path.

      To me it sounds like your desire to work outside the home is one out of guilt, rather then desire. Your health is important - I know what it is like to suffer a chronic health condition that lays you flat. It sounds like your work you do at home works in well with your health, and this most certainly is an important consideration not only for you but for your entire family.

      Knowing how to home budget, save and stretch money is a valuable contribution too remember!

      May you have clarity as you ponder what path to take, and the courage to do what resonates deep in your heart.

      xx

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  13. Great blog post. Follow your path, and what is best for your family. Place a dollar value on all that you do at home, you will be amazed at how much you financially contribute to your home! Yes, sacrifices are made, living on one income but they are well worth it. My frugality went into overdrive, precisely so I could continue to stay home with my two girls, and I can look back and say it was well worth it. Yes, it is a role that is not always appreciated in todays society... lets just roll our eyes, and carry on. Grace to you Emma!
    Patricia/USA

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    1. That's a really interesting way to look at it, I tend to think about the money I can save, but I don't tend to think about the overall tally of how much that is worth.

      I have never been a big spender, but with this move I am becoming more frugal, (out of necessity) but actually I'm finding I enjoy the challenge, the little treats we have are all the more enjoyable because of it!

      xx

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  14. I totally agree it is a good decision to be a homemaker....I think there's two trains of thought with women returning to the work force...[1] they love to work and staying at home is not for them ie they love their career and [2] they have to go back to work to pay their huge mortgages and new cars. What happened from one generation to the next that once your kid is in prep you should be back in the workforce. Children need parents to be there when they get home, they need them to turn up to school reading, sports events and teacher interviews. I wish people didn't think that about Mothers who choose to stay at home. Like you say by the time you put kids in care, the occasional take away dinner from exhaustion and then there is petrol wear and tear on the car or the need for a 2nd car. Do what is right for your family is the best decision.

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    1. 8 January 2019 at 09:36
      Yes, your absolutely right that there is more then one reason people return to work. There is also the reality that many families need both parents to work just to make ends meet, and single parents. Life is complex and there are so many forms of family out there. I'm well aware of my immense privilege to be able to stay at home. I'm sure if we could be supportive of each others needs and also life choices everyone would be far happier! Imagine if everyone could do their thing without the weight of guilt hanging over them?

      xx

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  15. Emma I am 55 and 2 years ago, had to give up work, substitute teaching, to care for my very ill husband. Each time I think he is well enough for me to consider a day or two of work, he has another episode. He and I have come to the conclusion that I now need to be at home. By Govt standards he is not ill enough for me to get the carers allowance. I have no income. As hubby has a shares portfolio he is on a part aged pension. We live on this. We live well below the poverty line but we live very well. Both of us are skilled in various areas of homemaking and we both know how to stretch a dollar to it's utmost. I get asked when I am going back to work and I now say I wont be. I make a few dollars here and there with sewing items. I really do want to work and I am having a hard time valuing the work that I do here at home. I will get there one day.

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    1. Caring for our loved ones is of immeasurable value Jane. Can you imagine the cost of getting a home nurse in to help your husband when he became unwell? It would be huge.

      And I do love the truth that a dollar saved is more valuable then a dollar earn't, as we don't pay tax in a dollar saved, we can in fact earn interest!

      Do you sell your sewing goods online? Id be happy to include a link if you have an ETSY shop or a facebook page?

      xx

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  16. I loooove this post! I'm very much aware of how little time I possibly have left at home, little miss is 3 this year, so next year is kindy and the following year is school. I get quite upset when I think about going back to work. So many things to consider! I don't want to work weekends, it needs to be school hours, I won't use childcare (personal reasons), I (like you) live somewhat rural and there aren't a huge amount of choices close to home. As our school is small, parents and teachers  drive students to and from excursions, and I have trust issues regarding who my children can go in the car with. Also, I have no formal training in any industry, so what would I do? I don't wish to go back to doing what I was doing pre-kids, although I may have luck finding a job in that industry. Assuming I could get a job that ticks all the boxes, am I going to have time to do all the things I currently do at home, that my husband probably wouldn't do- besides he works full time too and with odd hours.
    My sister has worked full time off and on over the last eight years since starting her family and I can see how tough it can be. I have full respect for the mums and dads who can make it all work, adulting can be tough at times!

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    1. Oh and I wouldn't want to work during school holidays either! My MIL lives nearby and can watch my children occasionally, but she works and cares for her husband plus has her own life, I don't want to add to her workload.

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    2. Ahh Kelly, do you NEED to go back to work? I know how much you love being at home with the kids and being a homemaker. If you can work out a way to stay home its a perfectly good choice too.

      It can be such a tricky dilemma.

      What about home daycare? I think it is a child care TAFE course, but it would allow you to be home and earn a little income. I'm sure there is a shortage of options for daycare where you are? There certainly is in here and you are just up the road. I'm reckon you would be great at it if it is something your interested in!

      xx

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  17. I agree with many of the comments above. It is a new "meaning of life" these days, whereby to be a homemaker can be frowned upon, but when I was born to be a working wife was virtually unheard of. It meant there was something wrong with the family unit, or you, and others pitied your partner for suffering it. Seasons change and your "crazy" has been catching on for a while now. Do what makes you happy and enjoy the challenges that come your way doing it.
    XO

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  18. I know this is an older post. I have just found your blog and have been binge reading from the beginning.
    There is a wonderful book called “Radical Homemakers” by Shannon Hayes. It is American but totally (well 90%) applicable to Australia too.

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