“I have to have my ME time!” I’ve heard that phrase (or something similar) declared by parents for a long time. I never use it myself, because for me that phrase strikes of our culture’s love affair with the “almighty self”. It gives the illusion that selfishness is okay just because we need something. It seems that there is an epidemic in our culture to concentrate solely on self, to raise ourselves to the highest level of importance. MY needs above everything. And our kids pay the price. I’m a mom. Believe me when I say that I get overwhelmed, stressed and frustrated. Children can bring that out of us in ways that nothing else can!
But our culture has decided that children are an inconvenience. We wait to have children until we are “ready” and have experienced everything life has to offer. When we do decide to finally have them…IF we decide to have them, we send them off to be raised and taught by others. We work hard in the working world. We save and invest in order to have a fun retirement. When we finally get sick or too old, we use our hard earned money to pay people to take care of us before we die. In the meantime, the kids that we also paid someone else to take care of are now caught up in the same self game and working for the same empty rewards. And they probably never call mom or dad. That may be an exaggeration in many cases, but it seems to be the epitome of what our culture believes that a successful life looks like.
Homesteading has become such a popular buzz word today. It means different things to different people. It certainly doesn’t require that someone live off grid like my family. Everyone has a different take on what homesteading means to them and even that may change as circumstances change. But I believe there is one thing all homesteaders have in common. We desire to learn to be self-sufficient. That’s a completely different kind of self! Taking care of ourselves and our families by learning to grow gardens, raise animals, and preserve our own food is not for the selfish at heart. We all have the desire to let go of a consumerism mentality where everything is immediate gratification. We see the importance of building and growing things that can be lasting and permanent, providing our needs now and in the future. Children fit that equation perfectly. They are the reason we work so hard to provide in the present. And they are the reward we will receive as they use what we have built to provide for themselves and us in the future.
I’ve learned many things from going back in time and living an off grid homesteading life. People used to be a lot hardier than we are today! There were strong! They knew how to work and raised their children to know how to work. Children were a blessing, but more than that they were the only retirement plan. Homesteaders had large families because they needed all the helping hands they could get. The picture below was taken in 1940. It shows my grandmother (7th from left) with her parents and siblings. She was born in 1913 and grew up on a farm in Nebraska. It’s hard for me to imagine my great-grandmother’s life as a mother to so many children. I imagine that she would have been extremely grateful when her oldest children were finally old enough to help with the work of the farm. From infancy they would have watched the work of their parents and learned what was needed and expected of them. My great grandparents would have never been able to imagine a time when people would spend hard earned money on a trip to the Caribbean just to lay half-naked in the sun, while leaving their kids behind to be cared for by babysitters. You may call me old-fashioned and I certainly am, but I believe that my children are mine and mine alone to teach and raise. And just like my great-grandmother, I need them to carry on the work when I am too old to do everything that I do now.
As I sit here in the the complete quiet and enjoy my morning coffee in blessed peace, I know that my children will wake at any minute and the hustle and bustle of the day will begin. Can I will them to please sleep a few minutes longer!? But then I look down at the table and see the stack of my son’s homeschool books and remember the privilege I have of raising them. I give of myself to my children every day. I get to teach them, mold them, feed them, and yes… even discipline them. They are mine. I pour myself into them now and pray my hard work will be rewarded in the future. They are my retirement plan.