Homeward Bound: Chapter 5, 6, 7, and 8

Congratualations Rhonda HH! She won a copy of Homeward Bound

Now let’s chat about Chapter 5, 6, and 7 from Homeward Bound by Emily Matchar.

As I began reviewing Chapter 5 (DIY food cultures) for this post, I couldn’t help but wonder if part of the appeal of pocket page scrapbooking has to do with scrapbookers (and potential scrapbookers) spending more time on DIY food, parenting, and other pursuits, leaving less time that is free for scrapbooking. It’s perhaps a bit of a stretch. At the same time, there are prolific scrapbookers out there emphasizing all the DIY food they prepare. Perhaps, it is really just a chicken and the egg question. Which came first, “modern homemaking” or the tools that enable us to share more of our lives with the world?

Both Chapter 5 (DIY food culture: gardening, canning) and 6 (DIY parenting: home birth, attachment parenting, homeschooling) provide additional examples of “opting out” rather than changing the system. In other words, instead of working to improve food safety, those of means (whether financial capital or social capital or both) turn inward. They grow their own food or buy organic food at the farmer’s market and prepare everything from scratch. They remove their children from public schools rather than working to reform the public schools. Much of the criticisms of opting out have already been covered by Matchar in the book and also by me in my analysis. The basic argument comes down to this:

Changing the system benefits everyone, whereas opting out mainly benefits yourself and your family.

In Chapter 8, however, Matchar talks to women who argue that changing the system (i.e., corporate culture) is insufficient. Opting out is the solution to workplace problems such as inadequate maternity leave policies. It is unclear why her respondents believe that changing the workplace to be more family friendly, reliable, and stimulating isn’t doable.

Opting out presents a new set of challenges, too. For example, even a workplace with the minimum of maternity leave policies at least has a policy. Opting out as an online entrepreneur offers no maternity policy beyond whatever the entrepreneur makes it to be.

At this point, I’m really interested in learning how corporate culture is changing or evolving to account for the growing number of potential employees (and customers) who are opting out and pursuing DIY-lifestyles.

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  • jenniferswilson

    I believe the opting out is part of the generation Y entitlement. (And not having read the book yet, perhaps this was covered.) They have not had to truly work for anything and by the time they arrived, their parents were ready to enjoy all that they had worked so hard to achieve. So they didn’t have much of a model for being an activist.

    If you look at who is most active in grassroots movements today, it’s not gen X, Y or the millennials, it’s the baby boomers. They know the power of opting in because they lived it before. (And in a time where we’re teetering on crisis because of the climate and the baby boomers are aging rapidly, this is very worrisome.)

    Back to the point… opting out has become almost mainstream because it’s easier than opting in and working for change. The irony comes from the fact that a lot of DIY is actually hard work. But sadly, those who HAD to do it (the greatest generation) are dwindling in numbers.. so there is again a generational gap where those who choose to DIY never knew that those are things people wished they didn’t have to do.

  • Excellent points! I decided this summer that canning was something to try. As it is every summer, I prepare bags of chopped veggies and homemade salsa for the freezer. Canning seemed like the logical next step. It was the biggest pain. The timing for me was all wrong as most of the produce I needed just wasn’t ready during the times I had available to devote to canning. My mom had sold all of her canning supplies years ago and thought was crazy (she was right). Then she told me how she used to pick the green beans the morning of and then can all day in a non-air conditioned house. There is a reason some of these activities were given up by most. I do get how some might find canning enjoyable (perhaps if done with other people?), but it is so not for me.

    I think the other challenge for the millenials beyond entitlement is that they just don’t have time. The typical college student is working 30 hours a week and trying to go to school full time. Gone are the days where a person could work during the summer and earn enough money to pay for two semesters’ tuition. I think many millenials would be involved if they had the time to be involved.

  • jenniferswilson

    I had the same experience with canning when I tried to make marmalade. I lived in California at the time and wanted to take advantage of the amazing citrus available. What a pain and it didn’t even taste that good.

    You are right about the time issue. I don’t think it’s just work/school issue though. We use our time so much differently now because of technology, that even those who can afford the time don’t feel like they have it. (You know, you can’t miss the Survivor/TheVoice/GossipGirl finale because OMG the stars are live tweeting too!)

  • Absolutely! We spend way more time watching TV than in the past (time use surveys back that up).