All Us Critters Got a Place in the Choir

Listen up, y’all. That big ole’ flagrant housewifey propoganda has been a bit of a thorn in my side. I labored over writing it, feeling a continually growing discomfort that it was exclusionary. I tried to re-work it several times, attempting to include everyone, but it just didn’t work. Dilution made it weak when I wanted it to be strong. So I settled on just saying it out straight how I myself needed to hear it and hoped that in the context of the rest of this blog, and the usually very inclusive nature of my writing, it would work out.

When the overwhelming response started rolling in I was flattered into complacency. Perhaps I had alienated some of my readers who do not for whatever reason fit the punk housewife mold I so strenuously extolled, but I had certainly attracted more. It all comes out in the wash right?

Blogs are a wonderful and slightly dangerous medium. I write one post at a time, you read one post at a time. But each post is only one tiny slice of me and whatever it is I believe. Longtime readers have gotten a much more whole picture, but I wonder if even they can keep it in perspective when they read a particular strongly worded post.

Fortunately Trish at Little Eco Footprints left a (very respectfully phrased) reminder in the comments about working mamas who “outsource” some of the domestic duties. She wrote a post about it in fact, on her own blog. I really appreciate that she commented though, because I suspect she spoke for many other working mamas who wonder where their place is in this so called revolution.

Then I got a long email from a very dear friend asking more or less the same question. She is considering going back to school, and thereafter back to work, and considering the possibilities of paying someone to do the jobs she’s been doing for years now. I know her email was mostly talking to herself, she and I often act as sounding boards for one another, but there was a small implied question of what I thought. Based on my very ballsy post, would I still respect her if she payed someone to hang her laundry. Could she still respect herself?

And I thought, holy fuck, what have I done?

I want first of all to say that those who work outside of the home and “outsource” some of the domestic jobs do of course have a place in the choir! Believe me, there’s room for anybody who cares to join in.

Independence, almost a moral commandment in this country, was the goal of the 1970’s back-to-the-landers. But I like to think our generation has learned the essentiality of inter-dependence. I have certainly been learning it. The central point of inter-dependence is that everyone has their special inborn talent, their calling, and if everyone does their special job then– taken as a whole– we can cover all the bases in the most effective manner. One person or even one family trying to do it all is absurdly inefficient. Especially in these modern times when we are learning all these skills from scratch! As if that were not enough to expect from ourselves we are also, audaciously, trying to do all that and continue to live as a part of the society around us. And most of us are doing it without any young girlslaves or elderly granbabysitters. Jesus H.

I honestly do not feel that I have some higher moral ground to preach from. I want to create a space to validate what I do, what many of us do because, yes, I believe it’s good. And I want you to stand up on your soap box too and feel proud of what you do, whatever that is.

I linked to it in both the original post and the after-post, but here it is again– if you have not read Why We Do What We Do, go read it next, please. Although the two posts were written many months apart, they are more or less inseparable volumes.

I wanted to say all of that, but there’s something else. Something more. I have been trying to formulate a post on this ephemeral topic for months and I just can’t pick it out. It’s a thing I have felt ever since I started parading my own ideals and achievements around here in the ethernet. A particular discomfort.

Writing is very hard. There is only one clear way to do it, one formula– set the scene, present the obstacle, overcome the obstacle, summarize the moral. There is no space in writing for the incredible, insurmountable complexity of life. No matter how hard I tried, I could not write in seven directions at once. Well that’s not quite accurate, I can write that way, but it is not good writing. No one would want to read it, me least of all. The way to decent, coherent writing is to set out with a single concept and illustrate your linear path to the conclusion.

As I have, dare I say, become a writer, this has been a continual sticking point for me. The deeper I delve into it, the more I have discovered that the original sin lies in our thinking. We are so heavily moralistic, so thoroughly black vs. white, good vs. evil, that my brain almost cannot escape. I feel like I am stretching up on tiptoes just to wonder if there is another way to see the world. What would that even mean? What if me doing things my way and believing it was good in no way implied that your way was wrong?

That my friends would be revolutionary.

Because in addition to including the working mothers who cook down farmer’s market fruit into jam on the weekends, I also want to include those mamas who don’t want to do any of it. The mamas who are passionately working for social justice and buying prepackaged food. The mamas who are stuck in a job they hate for a corporation they despise just so they can pay the bills. The mamas who don’t have to work outside the home, but nevertheless can’t summon the energy or desire to do all this crazy shit after they’ve finally gotten the baby down for a nap.

As Bill Staines says, “All God’s critter’s got a place in the choir. Some sing low, some sing higher. Some sing out loud on the telephone wire. And some just clap their hands, or paws, or anything they got now.”

The bigger the choir, the louder the song.


15 thoughts on “All Us Critters Got a Place in the Choir

  1. You spoke of the bar you have created for yourself. You explained why you do it. Others must choose their own lives. Those who may have felt outside your frame of reference need only understand their own. That’s really not your job.

    Which is my way of saying there is nothing wrong with being emphatic about what you believe in. I mean, yes, there are lots of ways to go about activism but the shit IS hitting the fan and there is no reason to dilute the message of your life given to battling the contrition and indifference inherent to much of popular culture. Standing for something suggests standing against other things. That’s just the way it goes.

    Being all inclusive might feel, well, inclusive, but also can serve to water down the message. I respect your sensitivities but caution the need to excuse or dilute the message.

    Just as not everyone wants to be lawyers, activists, farmers, doctors, not everyone wants to be a householder. I think the real point is that we should be on equal footing with anyone who has chosen a career. That is the point we are making, at least in part.

    I think we are working to define this life, holding up this life, signifying this life not only in opposition to the stereotypes of the listless, bored, coddled, middle-class, baby-breeding, do-nothing, bon-bon eating, clothes shopping, housewife of the past (though I doubt it was ever just that) but in support for the incredible good work we can offer to bring about change in the world. I doubt we take on this life as a fashion statement.

    I say claim your space, speak your truth, raise your fist and let others do the same, as and how they are so inclined. But for god’s sake , don’t apologize (if that’s what you were doing).

    A Householder
    P.S. – grown kids can give you a run for the money just the same as young ones, maybe even more. I know from what I speak!!

  2. The more I read you, the more I like you. I’m a mama who outsources housekeeping and maintenance gardening. I never thought it made me less of a revolutionary mama, it just freed me up to take care of the kid better, have more free time in the kitchen and veg garden, can and preserve more food, etc.

    It really, now that I think about it, frees my husband and I up to be with each other and the kid, the time spent cleaning or trimming a hedge is now spent with us. So much better. :)

  3. What Harriet said:)

    I just want equality as a Householder. Fumbling during introductions and feeling awkward happens just as often at the playground as it does at a dinner party with “professionals.”

    Once I was at the playground, and another Mom asked if I was home full time. I said yes, and she sighed with relief asking if we could meet again…there are many nanny families near my house:)

  4. Yes I agree with Harriet. If that is your truth speak it. Don’t apologize to anyone. I looked up to you as an idol when i first found your blog, I was thinking: oh my god she does it all, with two kids! But you have since fallen from grace sorry and you are not perfect (neither am I). You let your kids watch cartoons to get something done(me too).

    However, i think the undiscovered economy will soon come to the fore with so many out of work people. If only one can find a job, how will they live? the answer is right here on the nets people, with CJ and others leading the way. CJ is very eloquent in what she says and she puts into words almost everything I feel, but am too lazy or busy to write about. But girl, don’t apologize.

  5. I think you have hit upon a very real truth here CJ. The fact is that often, in order to justify our own stance, there must necessarily be an evil opposite. We become snobs, inverted ones too, to help us define our otherness, our righteousness from others. We define so smugly what we are by being the opposite of those who choose differently from us. Which makes society fragmented, everyone thinking they’re best, needing to demonise others to make themselves feel good. It’s an easy trap to fall into. And a damaging game to play in some ways, because we can end up demonising others based on a really simplistic xy or z tick-box from our own prejudice list. we cannot know the full depths of where people have come from, unless we know their whole life in detail. We are indeed too quick to all judge one another, and end up in little cliques for the sake of our own righteousness. And some people so need to be right at all costs that they will happily live in this tiny clique of like-minded souls, smugly patting themselves and each other on the back at how right on they are. Which is a shame, cos the world is full of nice and interesting people who chose differently from us,come from dramatically different backgrounds, with so much to teach and learn. We all do this clique thing, so I’m not attacking outside of myself or on this here thread particularly but confronting my own snobbery and self righteousness!!!! It’s bullshit to think I am right, everyone else is wrong. But that’s how most of the world thinks, that’s how most of the world justifies its convictions. The enemy is not without, it is within each and every one of us! Trying to love and understand ourselves and our fellow is a better quest than being right. The power of tolerance and understanding will heal the world if anything does!

  6. I read your blog in the knowledge that I have made very different choices to you. I work part time as a lawyer, my 2 children (who are roughly the same age as yours) are in commercial day care for 2 days a week and with my parents for 1 day a week. I sometime make my own bread, jam, peanut butter, toys but sometimes I am just too busy or generally overwhelmed and I buy it. It’s not ideal, but it’s our life and most of the time we are pretty damn happy, with occasional bursts of euphoria and days that you need a glass of wine to get over. I don’t read your blog because I need to have my choices validated – that’s not up to anyone else. I read because I find passionate people like you interesting and inspiring. Don’t we all just want to do the things that are important to us just that little bit better? I hope so, anyway.

  7. hmm, re-reading yesterdays post i see how you might think it was an apology. that’s what happens when your mind is so wrapped up in something that you try to write even when you really don’t have the time to, and you keep getting interrupted by the 4yo outlining her plans for a princess tea party picnic, and then you hit ”publish in a rush because you hear the babe waking from his nap.
    no, this was not meant remotely as an apology. i loved that housewifey propoganda, felt proud to have set it all out how i felt it. i love that i have found so many more of you out there in the world who support my cause, and i love that we can get together here and enjoy the company. i love that i seem to have some actually important place in a movement that i believe in.
    no, it’s not that i felt anything i said originally was wrong, not at all! but more that it wasn’t complete. that is what i believe for me, but i have space in my heart for so much more.
    i’m thinking now, reading the different comments, that some people like me are very affected by the moralizing we feel from the world, and therefore pissed off about it, and some just aren’t affected in the first place and so don’t know what we’re going on about. i grew up with incredibly judgmental parents, and learned to judge myself so harshly. us lefty/radicals can get pretty uppity, you can’t argue that, and it’s very hard for me when i read strongly worded manifestos for things i myself don’t manage to do, to keep track of that fact that i am okay, even when i fall short or choose differently. i’m sure i come off as ever so confident on this blog, and i am in one sense. but also, i’m not.
    the friend who wrote the email also happens to be the best person i know of to talk something out with. she has this incredible ability to offer unusually apt empathy and understanding, but also, always, very stout challenge as well. when i complain about my man, she is with me 100%, but goes on to offer up what might be his side of the story. she doesn’t spare me the fact that i might be in the wrong sometimes and i adore her for that.
    to me, perhaps because of my somewhat fragile ego, that is the most motivating kind of inspiration. first– validation, then– challenge. and i guess it’s what i had hoped to do with this blog. sometimes i do feel like i have accidentally become a motivational speaker ;) and i know sometimes i go overboard in my attempts to make sure everybody’s little egos are accounted for. this post was probably completely unnecessary since i had already followed up the original with that sideshow post.
    in fact i was mildly horrified when some of you interpreted this post as an apology, and i almost yanked it right back out of cyberspace. but– that’s just the nature of the internet. it’s so immediate, you can speak what you don’t quite mean so damn fast. or the tone is lost and the meaning derailed. but it’s a record of all that, all those imperfections. and i do love an imperfect thing.

  8. We all love that you are human, that you have ideals, that you are trying in your own way to make the world better, that you sometimes fuck up (just like us) and damn do you speak well. You can say whatever the hell you like on your own blog and any of us are free to read or not read, like or dislike. you will never please everyone at once, nor should you try. We are indeed all of us imperfect, grappling around in the space somewhere inbetween the sometimes cold hard reality of our lives and our lofty, noble ideals. Nothing wrong with that dear mama!

  9. Ahhhh plus one for someone who hasn’t felt the negative from staying home. Mostly people where I am are just jealous that we can afford to have me stay home (choices, choices) and no one has questioned the decision at all. Might help that I’m an older Mama and have already been there done that with a ‘career’. I was thrilled to leave it that’s for sure ;)
    I always was the odd duck in my work place anyways though, keeping chickens, gardening etc. I don’t think anyone was surprised that I gave up the joys of cross country business trips to stay home with my bundle of joy.
    My heart and support goes out to all the women who do get the snide comments and sideways glances.

    1. Older Mama and have already been there done that with a ‘career’. I was thrilled to leave it that’s for sure ;)
      I always was the odd duck in my work place anyways though, keeping chickens, gardening etc. I don’t think anyone was surprised that I gave up the joys of cross country business trips to stay home with my bundle of joy.
      My heart and support goes out to all the women who do get the snide comments and sideways glances.

  10. Some people might say that including all ‘the mamas who don’t want to do any of it’ is like trying not to hurt the racists’ feelings when you are championing the civil rights movement.

    Of course us weirdos need some cheer-leading to keep on keepin’ on in the face of the big bad world. But how can any revolution make progress and grow bigger if it insulates itself and doesn’t extend a hand out to everyone, even its persecutors?

    I think every householder revolution needs its Ghandi.

    And damn thanks for not yanking the post. I for one, got a lot out of it. Including a little validation that I am not alone in needing to work out my twisting, obsessing thoughts, and that it takes some time and concentration to do so. I always thought your blog posts just popped out of your brain perfectly concise and eloquent. whew, yet again, I am not alone.

  11. This, yes: ” What if me doing things my way and believing it was good in no way implied that your way was wrong?”

    But what about this, too? “If I didn’t believe that what I believed was the right thing to believe…well, I wouldn’t believe it, would I?”

    1. i guess im questioning that second statement, really. i mean i ask myself that question all the time, and even more, why would i put so goddamned much effort into doing what i believe if i didn’t believe it was right? but i’m wondering if there’s a hole in that question. like, does that all add up? i believe some things, does that mean that i believe what i believe is the right thing to believe? or could it possibly be just what i believe?
      anyway, i believe a hell of a lot of things. and they don’t all fit into one post, no matter how kick ass.

  12. Hi CJ. I was pleased to read your comment above – confirming that this post wasn’t an apology. I was a tad worried after reading this post that I may have made you feel like you had to justify yourself. Of course you will be most comfortable writing about what you know and feel, and likewise I am most comfortable writing about what i know and feel. My initial comment and blog post wasn’t pointing out that you missed something – I was merely joining in the conversation with my two bobs worth. But I know you already knew that ;-)

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