For now I'll just say this much: Dang. This woman has put to words a dynamic in my life as a stay-at-home mother that I have gone in and out of awareness of, though never to this level of articulation. The quality of Time that goes with this job -- the experience of it -- and my guilt about the expansiveness in it, which leads to "corrective" measures that greatly reduce the pleasure I take in it -- is a huge part of my experience of this time of my life. I'm so grateful for this description of it, which helps me to see and know it for what it is -- rarefied in our society, and, simultaneously, exalted as ideal and reviled as unredemptively unproductive -- and to recognize in myself the ways I take those messages in as messages about MYSELF and find discomfort in the fit (both sides of it), never quite feeling like I fit anywhere, as a result.
Hopefully, I'll come back to say more about that -- in the meantime, here is the passage (for spurring your own reflections...)
From The Sabbath World, by Judith Shulevitz (pg 23-24)
Home is the place where we dream of escaping the time-and-motion calculus [of the workplace]. Family time is best measured by the activity, not by the clock. You serve your stew when it's ready, not when it has cooked for an hour. You put away your sponges and cleaning fluids when your bathroom is clean, not after five minutes. You nurse a baby until she's full, whether that takes ten minutes or forty. This form of time measurement is known as task orientation, and it is the kind of time that is kept in less industrialized societies. Task orientation is also characterized by a tendency not to make overly fine distinctions between "work" (doing chores) and "life" (chatting, eating, relaxing).People used to working a set number of hours often find the task-oriented approach to time scandalously wasteful, an attitude that can contribute to misunderstandings not only between industrialized and non-industrialized cultures but also between spouses, especially when one works out of the home and the other stays in it. "Despite school times and television times, the rhythms of women's work in the home are not wholly attuned to the measurement of the clock," E.P. Thompson wrote. "The mother of young children has an imperfect sense of time and attends to other human tides. She has not altogether moved out of the conventions of 'pre-industrial' time."But time in the home is still money. Feminist economics has taught us that the domestic sphere floated above the sordid dominion of the dollar only because it relied on the free labor and the forgone opportunities of women. Ever since women grew weary of the unwritten rule deeming their time worth what they were paid for it, it has gotten harder to find anyone.... to invest the time to meet our most intimate physical and emotional needs.We all know what it feels like to give short shrift to ourselves, our families, and our children, not to mention the stranger in our midst. It feels disgusting. Our bodies, our houses, and our relationships spiral toward disorder and decay. Our nails lengthen because we forget to cut them. Our eyesight blurs because we can't be bothered to visit the eye doctor. Slime accumulates on pantry shelves. The tone in our spouses' voices hardens. Children mutiny at times seemingly calculated to be inconvenient. Too busy to attend to our own needs, we lack sympathy for the needs of people who seem less busy than we are. That, too, has consequences. Before long, the underemployed become the unemployable, then the menacing mob.