Do you bake your own cupcakes, then frost them with icing you whip up yourself? Have you ever sewn a piece of your own clothing, then worn it outside the house? Have you ever, in your life, filled your pockets with eggs stolen right out from your favorite chicken?
The return to old-fashioned skills is growing in strength each day. Some of us knit, garden, and home school. We don’t have to do these things; we want to. We’re glad to do this stuff even when bakeries, malls, publicly funded schools, and grocery stores exist almost everywhere.
(Full disclosure: I do bake my own cupcakes, I have sewn clothing but it’s always ugly, I hate knitting, and we love our public school system. And I love to garden but my word is it a lot of work.)
To some extent, the earlier generations may think we’ve lost our minds. They spent their early years slaving over the oven, the sewing machine, and the knitting needles and they are eager to tell us– buying stuff is a whole lot easier than making it yourself. I remember my grandmother making a few signature dishes, then cheerfully taking us to McDonald’s as often as she could. We had donuts from the bakery for breakfast, and cold sandwiches and chips for lunch. The 1930s were long gone, in her mind. No sense bringing back all that work.
The younger generations might not quite agree with Grandma, God rest her soul. We’re baking, sewing, crafting, and gardening and then we’re blogging about it all. Not only are we doing these things, we’re not doing a lot of other things– things like 70-hour work weeks, upwardly mobile lifestyles, and keeping up with the infamous Joneses.
I’ve found another delicious book at the library: Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, by Emily Matchar. The author, herself a lover of the handcrafted and homemade, set out to find out why so many women (and men) are stepping off the career path and onto the organic, natural, keep-your-own goat path. Why are flannel shirts and work boots replacing suits and briefcases?
Her answers so far have surprised me. She’s finding that many younger people are returning to old skills because they’re not impressed with the example their parents have given them. Many of these modern domestics were raised by parents who were extremely career-minded, and they don’t want to repeat these patterns for their own lives and children’s lives.
Also, the bad economy has pushed many younger people, even highly educated people, off the traditional career path. They’re making donuts and selling organic jam because budget cuts and layoffs have rendered their Masters in French Literature useless. Not only are their degrees useless, but a poor job market has economically forced many of these people to make their own things. An organic, gourmet cupcake can be made for far less than it can be purchased.
I get where Matchar is going with this train of thought, but I have to add another perspective. Many of us are choosing this lifestyle not because we’re reacting against something, but because we’re choosing something positive. We value specific things, and those values lead us in this direction. My friends who home school aren’t railing against the idea of public school, they’re thoughtfully choosing a very careful plan for their family. My friends who eat organically are investing in their long-term health; they aren’t just making a statement against chemicals in the food supply.
Many of us value these skills we’re learning and these choices we’re making. We enjoy chasing the goats out of the flowers instead of riding a train into work each day. We gladly give up a new SUV if it means we can stay home with our kids. Low pressure jobs may lead to low dollar bank accounts, but the trade-off is more than worth it for us.
What about you? Are you a make-it-yourself aficionado, or do you prefer to work more hours so you can pay someone to make it for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!