Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dude. I'm Cooking in the Home!

The other day the kids were watching "The Jungle Book" while we were driving in the van. It was the end of the movie, the part where Mowgli sees the village girl and she's singing this song:
My own home, my own home
My own home, my own home

Father's hunting in the forest
Mother's cooking in the home
I must go to fetch the water
'Til the day that I'm grown
'Til I'm grown, 'til I'm grown
I must go to fetch the water
'Til the day that I'm grown

Then I will have a handsome husband
And a daughter of my own
And I'll send her to fetch the water
I'll be cooking in the home
Then I'll send her to fetch the water
I'll be cooking in the home

I remember hearing it and thinking, "What the? That's not very empowering for women." I didn't say anything out loud to the children, thank goodness, because two days later, I had an epiphany.

Brandon and I had been invited to a friend's home for dinner and we were making aloo gobi for a side dish. Brandon was still shopping for some main ingredients, and although he's the chef in our house (when it comes to exotic food), I realized we were running out of time. So, I started peeling the potatoes.

As I peeled, the little girl singing that song came back to me. (I'm guessing it was because the little girl was Indian and I was making an Indian dish.) I pondered the lyrics and I realized something: It has always been this way, you know. And it's not so bad.

Just because women peeled potatoes and plucked chickens and grew vegetables "back in the day" didn't mean they were oppressed. The men had their jobs, and the women had their jobs, and the kids had their jobs. What they all did was work together to survive. Women cooked to feed their families, and because of the time it took, it was pretty much a guarantee that's mostly what they did all day. They didn't have refrigerators or microwaves --no electricity, man! They had to send their daughters to "fetch the water" and their husbands "hunted in the forest" and they "cooked it all in the home" in order for the family to survive. It was teamwork. Neither task was greater than the other. They all worked together.

After I had the potatoes boiling and the cauliflower chopped up, Brandon arrived home. I was grateful he was there to do the spices part (he's much better at that), but he was grateful I had gotten everything started. We finished up the meal as a team, went to our friends' house, and had a great evening together.

I've thought a lot about that experience. Mostly because the very next night we did NOT work as a team and ended up arguing the whole night. It was very eye-opening. What does it mean to be equal? As genders? As spouses? In the home? In a family?

I think it's hard for women in this time period. We have so many mixed messages of who/what we should be; we're told that if we submit to our husbands, we are weak. If we stay home with our children and do basic household chores and cooking, we are oppressed. As a self-proclaimed feminist, I understand what is being said, but I disagree with it. I don't think it's fair. At all. Women who choose to stay home and raise their children and cook and clean are actually doing something awesome. It may seem demeaning to spend so much time "sacrificing" for people who may not appreciate it, but it's really not. It's just another part of the teamwork equation, you know? Brandon works very, very hard to earn enough money to keep us in a home, to buy us food, to get us health care, to keep us clothed. I work really, really hard to keep the family fed, the house and yard in good order, to bear and raise the children, to teach the children how to work and have manners, to educate them. The children work super, super hard to help out where they can, to learn, to grow. It's a team. We all work together as a team. That's what a family does. Is.

The longer I live, the longer I'm a mom, the longer I'm a spouse, and the longer I strive to improve our family's level of happiness, I'm struck by the absolute truthfulness of these words:
Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed. (The Family: A Proclamation to the World.)
My life isn't easy by any stretch of the imagination, but you know what? Most of the trials and demons and struggles I deal with are in my brain: It's a result of mental breakdown, not reality. I have a pretty awesome life. As I pondered these things this last week, and with the help of my therapist, I realized I've been pretty depressing on my blog this year. Yes, I have Depression. Yes, Depression is really, really hard. But if I'm going to break out of my cycles and use the tools my therapist has given me to change the way I think, I'm going to need to be more positive in my life, especially here, my venting place.

So, let me put this out there, dear reader. Right now, in my life, these are my blessings (the big ones. Because I need to see BIG ones right now):
*I have a husband who is active in the Church, who loves me, who has never hit me, who has never abused me, who loves his children, who works hard, who makes me laugh.
*I have five crazy, rambunctious, loud, fun, hilarious children.
*I am having another baby!
*We own a home. Not a perfect home, but a modest, all-of-us-can-fit home, in a great neighborhood with a fantastic yard.
*We have GRASS!! Beautiful, wonderful grass! My kids can play on it! It smells so wonderful!
*I have knowledge of Jesus Christ. I have a testimony, a Temple marriage, callings in my ward.
*I have parents who love me and are involved; siblings who are the same.
*I have access to medication, education, art, theater, music, technology, far-off places.
*I have CHOICES. I have chosen to stay home to raise my children. I have chosen to remain faithful to my spouse. I have chosen to attend Church. I have chosen to fight my Depression. I have chosen to improve and do my best. Dude. I've chosen to cook in the home!

[Let me be clear, though. I do not judge anyone who has made choices different from mine. I understand how life deals us situations that limits our choices, or we choose what's best for our family in the moment. I had a working mother, and I don't, not even for a second, regret that. She was amazing. What I am saying, however, is that I'm grateful I live in a time where my choice to stay home is exactly that --a choice.]

So, dear reader, although I may be "cooking in the home" day in and day out, I realize now how incredibly and overwhelmingly blessed I have been. In a way, it's not really fair how much.

Here's hoping I remember it every day!

Do you "cook in the home?" Was it a choice? What are your big blessings? Little blessings?


Curtis and Amy said...

I stumbled upon your blog quite by accident, but enjoy reading it so much! I agree 110% with your post today. I think we sometimes suffer from having so much. It can be a powerful choice each day to look for and be grateful for blessings. Thanks for the good thoughts. I "cook in my home" by choice, have 5 beautiful children, was able to see the new HP movie and a pedicure this week. Those are all good things for me.

Have a great day!

Amanda D said...

Cheryl, I wish I lived by you so I could hug you right now. I love this post! You have really hit the nail on the head. This is very beautifully written.

I choose to "cook in the home" and I'm so glad that I have the chance. :)

PS I haven't thought that your blog has been depressing.

Mother of the Wild Boys said...

I had 6 wonderful years at home full-time with my boys. I had planned to "cook in the home" as my life-long profession...but "other circumstances have necessitated individual adaptation".

So, although I now spend the majority of my day at school, doing my homework, or caring for my disabled father, I am still blessed to have time at home with my boys & hubby.

It was not my plan to go to college so that I can eventually be the primary wage earner, but blessings have flowed to me & my family as I strive to do my best each day. I trust that Heavenly Father has a plan for me, and that I will be a better person by accepting that plan...a better person than I would've been if I had been left to plan for myself.

My Big & Little blessings that come to mind:
*I have the knowledge that one day everything will be made right through the Atonement of my Savior.
*I have been blessed to understand & apply the scriptures...they bring me great comfort.
* I have a husband who toils away at a job he hates, to put me through college & put food on our table.
*I have 3 Wild Boys, whose struggles teach me & whose love strengthens me.
*I have a birthdaughter I can't wait to get to know. She is healthy and loved and safe.
* I have temple covenants which protect and guide me.
* I have parents, grandparents, in-laws, etc who support & encourage me.
* I have the most awesome blog friends!
* I just ate a whole Kit Kat...I didn't even share one bite.

-Thanks for this post Cheryl. I admire your awesome perspective on this. Sorry for the long comment...I might just have to make that into my own post. ;) Love you.

FoxyJ said...

Even though I am working now, cooking and doing other things in my home and with my kids are still a priority. It's harder, but I still love to cook and sew and do all those other things that I can for my family. I think that being away from my kids part of the time actually makes me more grateful for the time I do have with them, and more motivated to use it well. I've started including them more in doing chores around the house and I love the sense of teamwork it gives us (when they cooperate and don't fight, of course).

My Little said...

Thank You! You described how I have been feeling lately. You know, fighting that overwhelmed stressed feeling. Today, I decided after I was sick of being unhappy, that I would make Banana Bread. I don't bake, I can, but I don't. It takes to much time, makes more dishes to wash and no one appreciates it. Well, I did it, and I was happy. So happy I wanted to continue. I felt like I was making a difference in my home. I think you hit it on the head. We all have our responsibilities and we each contribute to our happiness. It tuns out the everyone was happy about the bread and they even enjoyed the dinner I made as well. It was my choice to cook in the home and what a good choice it was.

Emily said...

Love it! Thanks! I've got to link to this one!

Summer said...

What great insight Cheryl. I'm glad you shared this.

RGG said...

What a great post,thank you.
My blessings is that I have a new stove that I got last Christmas. I did not have a stove for almost 3 years, and before that, the stove I had did not really work well. My husband and I started renovating our home, and you know how that goes, up and down. About a year into the renovation, we had a "discussion" as to who was responsible for the cleaning of the stove. Not just wipe up after meals, but the cleaning oven etc. Looking back it was a pointless arguement, that resulted in my husband disconnecting the old stove and hauling it away, and we were not able to buy a new stove until last year.The first year we microwaved everything, not good. The second year,I bought a crock pot and a toaster oven. My husband and I finally revisted the "issue of the stove". The issue was not so much who would clean the stove, as it was how we needed to work as a team concerning the care and feeding of each other. We both work, and have no children.So we are both endeavoring to serve one another with meekness and love. It should not be a chore,or even a delegated responsiblity when it comes to taking care of our families.