Modern Mama

I beamed as I lined up my items on the counter: Borax, Arm & Hammer, Ivory soap and salt. The packaging on the Borax shows a drawing of a 1950's sink, the kind that have been gutted out of homes into extinction. Above a silhouette of a horse drawn caravan, the package assured me it has been making surfaces shine since 1891. The salt equally impressed me. I wasn't concerned with fancy sea salt or flavor-infused culinary tools, I had gotten my hands on the good ole .79 cent variety. Jewel brand!

I was excited because I was about to make my own laundry detergent.
My friends and I have also been baking bread, breast feeding, mopping our floors with vinegar and just yesterday? We admired these cute little retro aprons - quickly agreeing it would be much better to sew them ourselves.
We are not alone, by the way. Websites like Pioneer Woman get thousands of hits a day and the book Radical Homemakers is flying off the shelf. In the modern world of city living, women with degrees, in their 30's who have all the fruits of Women's Lib available to them are choosing to stay home, have babies and make soap. Why?
I myself am perfectly able to afford laundry detergent. In an effort to be socially responsible and even liberated, women like myself are going green, which is going it alone. Buh-bye, mass-produced, chemical-laden, over-priced crap. But going green is really only half the story. There is an urge, I believe, to regain the freedom once enjoyed by hundreds of generations of humans who didn't depend on corporations to get their laundry clean. (Or get nutrition in the mouths of their babies.)
Women's Lib did a lot for society. I am grateful for those egg-throwers and bra-burners because I have the right to vote and my daughter could wind up on the Supreme Court if she so chose. (Or have an abortion.) But the right to work left the right to stay home in the dust. Instead of going on to become doctors and lawyers, many women found themselves tied to cubicles and desk jobs, treading water in lives that now depended on the time-saving, costly conveniences that had become a part of American life.
My friend Chelsea lamented the other day that one of their cars was in an accident. Instead of replacing the old car, they are going to try to be a one-car family. It seemed like a mind-boggling challenge. I reminded her that two car households only became the norm when two-incomes became the norm. 
While our generation of women may be seeking a more self-sustaining life, we are dependent on each other for the knowledge to do so. Our mothers raised us on microwave dinners as they scurried off to appointments and left us in the hands of daycare. They are hardly a resource for the best use of Borax. 
We are learning, though. Thanks to the Internet and suffering economy, more and more people are learning to free themselves with home made bread. (I can make whole grain, organic for $1 a loaf).
Of course there have been some enhancements since those original days of womanhood. Women like to blog about their domesticity and photography has served to bring it to light as well. I don't think my great-grandma would have ever thought to capture her cornmeal with a $900 camera.

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  • We are a one-car family with two working people. It's a huge challenge at times, but 90% of the time it works just fine. Yes, a second car would be great, and yes, we could afford it if we wanted to. But right now we've got one paid-off car that takes care of all our needs and saves us tons of money. :)

  • In reply to mpurkis:

    Right on!

  • Lovely post!
    I was a career gal before baby. i microwaved and hit the drive thru for all meals. But something happened that November day when i birthed my daughter. I no longer cared about corporate america.I no longer cared about that fancy SUV i could load up with purchases from victorias secret. I had the urge to be with my child all the time, the urge to make life the best for my child. And the way i found was to go back to the basics. Cooking for my child because I then could determine the nurtition she receives. Making my own laundry soap first to rid our clothes of unnecessary chemicals, second to save money that will in turn enable me to stay home. Its funny how motherhood can take a high heel corporate modern woman and quickly transform her into a apron wearing barefoot happy woman!

  • In reply to PinkHairedMomma:

    Ha - I remember the days when I had nice nails. GONE.

  • In reply to PinkHairedMomma:

    Jenna, this is your best, most inspiring post to date. I'm sure there's a lot of us out there who feel we don't have the time to make our own anything from scratch - thanks for proving that it's not only easy, it's less expensive, and it gives a great sense of accomplishment in doing it yourself. I've been trying to remove some chemicals from the house and my new favorite hobby is collecting tips on how to clean more naturally. (my grandma's answer to cleaning just about anything was vinegar! buy it by the gallon!)

    Yay for the new pioneer women!

  • In reply to PinkHairedMomma:

    Ahhhh, GREAT blog post! You just put into words what I've been stewing on for the past few months! And thanks for the shout-outs. :)

  • This is hands down one of my favorite blogs! You have inspired me to try my hand at bread making. I'm just not sure where to start...do you use/recommend a bread maker? Do you have good tips on where to begin?

  • In reply to lcdierkes:

    Cool! Thanks!!

    Here are my perfected bagels: http://highglossandsauce.blogspot.com/2010/03/perfect-bagels-skip-this-if-you-are.html

    Here is my favorite schtick about how to make bread: http://www.essortment.com/all/bakingbreadrec_omj.htm

    And I do not recommend a bread machine. I just got one and already I know I'm far superior to that machine! Haha. Well I am. Anyway, it's 10 minutes of your day and the rest is waiting and baking, so you may as well save counter space and do it by hand.

    I'm really down on machines lately. I dunno. Thanks again!

  • In reply to VelvetMinxx:

    Thanks so much! Your bagels look amazing! I think I will have to build up some bread making confidence before I attempt those! :)
    I will definitely try this recipe. I love how simple it looks! Oh, and my husband definitely thanks you for the no bread machine comment! :) hahaha! If we get another culinary electronic we might have to knock down a wall!

  • In reply to lcdierkes:

    Try it! Just think of it this way - all you're wasting is $1 worth of flour. That's a full hour of entertainment for a buck and you might even be able to eat it! GOOD LUCK and post back here with your war story.

  • In reply to lcdierkes:

    This is a hot-button issue for me. I feel trapped in my career, not in my home! Feminism was supposed to be about choices, but it hasn't given us more choices, it's made us dependent on two incomes! When the norm was one income, it was very feasible for a family to make it on one income because prices for just about everything took that into consideration. Now, though... not so much. If you don't have a spouse with a job that pays a relatively high salary, kiss your dreams of staying home goodbye.

    I'm just as trapped as a 50's housewife. My cage isn't the home, it's the career. I don't have the option of staying home unless I want to move into a trailer park or give up health insurance. I would dearly love to be able to stay home and do everything that comes with staying home. I wanted to breastfeed exclusively, but Grant got breastmilk and supplemental formula because my job only allowed me one time to pump per day. I had to sacrifice my child's nutrition for my job. Something is wrong with that picture.

    I heard that NPR piece on the French author, and I think she's looney. Breastfeeding only chains a woman to the home when people castigate her for nursing in public and employers refuse to provide pumping breaks.

  • In reply to Lindsey:

    I completely agree and really feel for you, Lindsey. Having a wife who stays home for the good of everybody has become a luxury when it used to be the norm.

    Stacey was just offering up an unusual take on feminism - no harm intended :) I think that French feminist is actually anti-woman to suggest that we're oppressed by our own children. We became mothers because we wanted the job, which requires work and that work should be respected.

  • In reply to VelvetMinxx:

    Exactly. I'm not oppressed by my child any more than I'm oppressed by breathing. Women shouldn't be told that they're somehow betraying other women by choosing to do things that are good for their children even if they require sacrifice on the mother's part. That's not oppression- it's love. I think that French feminist must be incredibly selfish to suggest that the needs that should come first are the mother's and not the child's.

  • In reply to VelvetMinxx:

    I finally sucked it up and registered so I could comment again! You're so crunchy, haha! I still haven't tried making detergent even though I do so much else from scratch.

  • In reply to lcdierkes:

    Leave a comment...

  • In reply to lcdierkes:

    We are also a one car family. It works wonderfully. It also helps that we live in Chicago and can hop on a train or bus when need be. In fact a year ago when my husband's lease was up on his very nice SUV we decided to eliminate a car payment and purchase a very reliable but not as hip used car. To this day we comment to each other how great it is not to have that pesky car payment. Now that we have our son we don't feel the need to have a cool car but rather money in the bank.

    On a different subject, yesterday I heard a very interesting story on NPR while I was cooking dinner. It was about the French Mama's and the thoughts of a 66 year old French feminist. She say's while in the past woman were suppressed by men they are now suppressed by their infants and parenting experts. She talks about the push for breastfeeding, cloth diapers and co-sleeping have chained woman to the home. My question is, would woman do all those things if they truly didn't want to? I think woman are making choices that are right for them. Weather it's going back to work 6 weeks after giving birth or choosing to stay home and live on one income versus two. I'd like to think that because of those fabulous feminists who fought for us so long ago fought for us to have choices. Anyway, I could go on...hope I didn't bore anyone! Here is the link, http://www.theworld.org/2010/03/30/french-super-moms/

  • In reply to smackaman:

    Wow, that is very interesting. I agree with you though. I cherry pick things that interest me. Co-sleeping wasn't for me past three weeks old!

  • In reply to smackaman:

    It's kind of interesting to think that we're doing things more like our grandmothers than our mothers...

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