Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Growing up, I wasn't necessarily the daintiest of girls. I enjoyed making mud pies, trying to save earth worms from the summer storms pounding the concrete patio, and most of all, I loved walking through the fields welcoming new baby calves at Grandma and Granddad's house. I would rather play in the dirt and be rough and rowdy with dad than play princess and have tea parties. My sister was the dainty one—she loved tea parties. But she could hold her own too. I was the one who would rip her Barbie heads off and run over them with my hot wheels cars.
We were raised that way. We were raised to be strong, independent women. We were raised to think for ourselves and never depend on a man for anything.
Somewhere along the way, I found love, and the daintiness came...and the "don't depend on a man" flew out the front door.
When my husband and I married in 2006, I wanted to be the girl who depended on her husband for everything. I thought that's what most men wanted, and how most women felt "safe". I wanted to be taken care of. I wanted to take care of him. I wanted to be the cute little housewife who wore aprons and had her hair done up neatly when he came home.
But then reality set in, and I realized life wasn't anything like that. Not to mention, I had to work. I've never been that "cute little house wife". I blame it all on being 18 years old when we got married. I still believed in fairy tales and robust romances. I thought I knew everything there was to know about life—boy, was I wrong.
Looking back at the beginning of our marriage, I have to laugh. My goodness, who on earth was that girl? There are still bits and pieces of her inside, but only the good parts. I love to get dressed up some days. I curl my hair when we go grocery shopping or go out somewhere. But that's about it. I don't wear make-up....ever. And I could care less about comparing my body to other women's. That all goes out the window when you have a man that makes you feel like the most beautiful woman in the world every single day of your life.
As the years grew on, there is one thing, from the very beginning, that my husband always reiterated to me. He would say (and still says):
"I'm teaching you how to do this, so that if one day I can't do it, or I'm not on earth to do it anymore, you won't have to depend on another man to do it for you."
Some people would say he said that because he's lazy and doesn't want to do it himself. But if you know my husband personally, you know he is far from lazy. He is up at the crack of dawn and off to work. And even long after he gets home, he's still working outside. He works in the dirt, the Virginia clay. He builds and constructs. He landscapes and chauffeurs clients to air ports. He is the epitome of a concierge handyman for those in need of his services in our region. He is a trusted source, and he loves every minute of his job.
My husband works his butt off, so please don't insult him, or myself, by even allowing that thought to cross your mind. Lazy—are you kidding me? He works more than most men in this world. He works rain or shine. He works even when he is in so much pain that he can't stand himself. But he knows there's work to be done...he knows he has to provide for our family...and he loves what he does. I've said it before, but I'll say it again. I homestead by myself. Granted, it's not a big homestead. No, we don't have a field full of cattle or pigs or larger livestock. But even on a small homestead, there is work to be done. And often times, its hard work.
If I'm sick, I still have to homestead by myself. If I'm in pain, I still homestead by myself. Now, he did take care of things when I had wrist surgery. And if I weren't here to do it, he certainly would. But that's beside the point.
He does help me at times. He will haul large hutches if necessary, and he built our large 8x8 chicken coop (his idea, not mine!). But everything else? Nope, it's all on me.
So many women will read that and say, "Wow, what a jerk".
But what you don't realize is that homesteading wasn't ever his dream. And guess what, I'm ok with that. Why? Because I am a strong, independent woman. And more than anything, I take pride in knowing that I can do it myself. That I don't have to depend on a man to help me, to validate me, or to cheer me on. I started this journey to create a better lifestyle for my family—healthier living, natural remedies, food from our own back yard. Whether he helped me or not.
We compromise. Big time. It's all part of marriage. He doesn't want backyard barn animals, but I do. And he would do anything to make me happy. I don't like some of his hobbies and the money he spends on things he loves, but guess what, I have an $800 chicken coop sitting outside, and another $300+ in rabbit hutches....and let’s not count the price of the animals, feed, and more. I think I can let him spend some money on the things he loves, too!
Stop feeling guilty or un-loved when people say "well why doesn't your husband help around the house."
And for goodness sake, stop trying to talk them into it if they don't want to do it. What's stopping you from doing what you can? Just because it's your dream, doesn't mean it's his. How would you feel if someone forced their labor intensive dreams on you?
A Strong, Independent Woman
We live in a world where everything has to be "team work". No, I'm sorry, but it doesn't. And when you realize that you are equally as capable of doing most (if not all!) of the things your man can do around the homestead, that beast will rise up within you and you'll own it like you mean it. Every time someone questions why I do this thing by myself, I have to chuckle. I love what I do. It is the one and only time of day that I actually get to myself. It is a stress relief. It is my alone time with God. It is my time to reflect on the day that is, and the day that is to come. It is my time to sit down with beings that can do absolutely nothing for me, and yet still love them so much.
And then I respond to them with, "because I'm a strong woman, and I don't need a man’s help."
I'm not a feminist.
I'm not a "women's rights" kind of person.
I wouldn't go to the ends of the earth to fight for them, either.
Because I'm just me. This is me. I love my family. This is about my family. This isn't just about me. Most days my strong personality is far too much for other women. And I get it. I truly do. But I refuse to apologize.
The next time you see a strong, independent woman with a load on her back all by herself...thank her.
Thank her for being a role model for the next generation of women who are growing up in a world where they are taught that women are so fragile and less than men.
Thank her for being different in a world that is constantly trying to convince her that she is a "feminist", when all she is really trying to do is get the job done.
Thank her for shattering the labels that women can't do hard work.
Thank her for not making excuses for her husband, because he works just as hard as she does, but in different ways.
Thank her for being her...because there need to be a lot more like her in the world.
And most of all, thank a woman farmer the next time you see her. Because chances are, even under that dusty face and dirty hands, there's still a woman who loves to love....who loves to give...and who just wants you to understand that she's doing this because she loves it, not because she has to do it.
Amy Fewell is a work-at-home mom, homesteader, blogger and writer. She and her family live on a mini-homestead in Virginia where they raise heritage breed chickens, standard Rex rabbits, ducks and more! For more information about their homestead, visit them online at The Fewell Homestead. Read all of Amy's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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