Sleep Deprived Mommy turned Radical Homemaker

Recently the New York Times ran an article about the rising number of women taking medication to help them sleep at night..and not just any group of women, mommies.

The crux of the article had quotes from women, who primarily worked outside the home. They spoke about not being able to shut their brains off at bedtime or waking up at 3am with a list full of worries/tasks and just giving up at that point and getting up for a few hours of alone time to do things like, organize the linen closet.

As I read the article, feelings of familiarity rose within me.  I've been that mom.  Unable to turn the switch off of all the things I needed to do that week err month, at the very point in the day when I so badly needed to rest.

Exhaustion, is partly what has lead me to this point in my life.  A decision to take a step back from a hard fought for career in social work, to stay home and rediscover family, slowness and better health for all the members of my immediate family.

This past spring, I read a captivating book called Radical Homemakers, where author Shannon Hayes makes the argument that domestic life need not be the version of the 50's dis-grunted housewife, but instead be about reclaiming the home and skills that are required for living a lifestyle apart from consumerism and creating a life sustaining economy.

It was not long after I read the book and spent a lot of time considering the subject that my husband became very ill.  This past summer I nearly lost him, twice, as he was losing his battle with Ulcerative Colitis. He was hospitalized for over 6 weeks and had surgery in the end to remove his diseased colon.

To say this summer was stressful, doesn't quite cut it. Unfortunately, my husband and I needed a near death crisis to shake us out of our sleep deprived, caffeine fueled, crazed dual income lifestyle, that had our kids flapping in the wind behind us trying to keep pace.

We had not been able to consider making changes to cut items like satellite TV or cell phones, new clothing, eating out (a lot), or driving new vehicles prior to this crisis. We felt that we had earned these luxuries and even more so, that they were a 'right' to have now that we were established in our mid-thirties. Besides, I had worked hard to put myself through college, sacrificing the experiences of living at school and socializing  so I could instead, pay for college and living at home with the parental units. Those sacrifices needed to be justified; I had to put that hard earned degree to work.

Fast forward 15 years, I sat there driving back and forth to a hospital in Portland, over an hour away, with beautiful children in the back seat and I looked at them.  I saw them in the rear view mirror and looked at sad faces, worried and stressed faces.  I would then see my painfully thin, pale, husband lying in a hospital bed, surrounded by machines, IV drips and a steady stream of hospital staff.  We repeated this scene for weeks on end.

I took a leave of absence from my employment to tend to my husband and help him recover post surgery.  I have not been back.

Shannon Hayes's book challenged me to rethink what we actually need to be a happy, thriving family.  What I came to understand is that what we needed the most, is what I had the least to offer.  Time.  I was plugging  50-60 hours a week at work, managing crisis's in other families lives and I barely had time to do more than pull pre-packaged food from the freezer to nourish my own family.

We cut the cable, sold a car and will cancel our cell phones next month when our contract is finished.

And, I'm cooking. This is terrifying for me because I do not have domestic skills.  I am an example of a person who has lost domestic common sense.  But, I am learning.  I am reclaiming my home and my family. Oddly enough, I believe that old college degree is helping with this life transition. I know how to research, investigate and analyze our consumer habits in order to keep our tight little family budget in tact.

It's been eleven weeks since my husband emergency surgery.  He's back to work, has put on some weight but, of course, is still exhausted when he gets home. We've been told his road to recovery will take a year.  That's OK.  We have time.

Have I turned into a full fledged Radical Homemaker? No.  But, I'm on my way.  With a steady stream of inspiring urban homesteading and gardening blogs from around the world to glean information and how to's from, I'm well on my way. And, I'm sleeping through the night.

It's a good start.

P.S.  If you haven't entered my November give-away, go check it out..there's still time to participate :)


  1. You have my unending admiration!!! I applaud your willingness to make the difficult choices and stick with them. Definitely want to read that book you wrote about. Thanks for the recommendation.

  2. Thanks Jenny! The book was excellent. Challenged me to really consider what a sustainable lifestyle really was for our family.

  3. Kudos to you for rethinking your life and then actually doing something about it!

    Change is hard.

  4. My husband and I decided to retire as early as we could afford for the same sorts of reasons. As soon as we had enough saved up to get us through to drawing a pension we handed in our notices. Best decision ever but I still have lots of nights when I can't get to sleep - still lots of plans to think about.

  5. Thank you for your strength and inspiration :-)

  6. Jenni, I'm full of admiration. I hope you are feeling the benefits every day.

  7. I have a lot of sympathy for you Jenni: I have Fibromyalgia, the symptoms of which include chronic profound fatigue at the same time as inability to sleep properly. I often lie awake for hours worrying about things! This year my wife was diagnosed with Diabetes, so we have more health problems to worry about. I have found that gardening and (more recently, blogging) gives me a lot of pleasureable distraction - good things to worry about!! If I can help you in any way, with gardening/cookery advice etc, I'm happy to contribute to your new life-style.
    P.S. I bet your husband is really grateful for your devoted tlc...

  8. I read about radical homemakers in a magazine and thought, OMG, there is a name for me! I actually majored in Home Economics back in the early 70's, at the height of the Women's Lib movement, but was embarrassed to tell people. Now I'm proud of my skills, and of the extra time I had to share with my family by only working part-time. If you haven't yet discovered the Australian blog called Down To Earth, you must go visit it today. Rhonda is just what you need!

  9. Oh Miss Becky! I have found Rhonda and several other wonderful homesteading Aussie bloggers! They are a treasure!

  10. Jeni - Wow, thanks for sharing your story. It's encouraging to hear from someone who is actually making such a big change for their family's sake. I think the struggle to decide between having a what people call a "real job" and staying home to care for your family (which is as much work as any job) is very common struggle these days. Here is a link to one quote that encouraged my wife.

  11. Good for you - I'm full of admiration. I hope that your husband continues to improve and gets past this stage of exhaustion. The cooking skills will come, never fear. Recipe books are a great invention...

    We just have 4 years of university to pay for and then we're looking at making some big changes. Meantime I'll follow your new life with a tinge of envy!


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