Two years ago after getting married, my husband and I moved to Cincinnati. I loved my full-time state government job in agricultural communications, but I wanted a career that allowed me more flexibility to invest in my family, home, and community. So when a door opened for me to pursue working part time as a freelance agricultural and food writer, we decided it was a perfect opportunity, and I seized it.
I’ve always wanted to be a “homemaker,” creating a home and community that is hospitable, peaceful, and restorative. I love many aspects of my new lifestyle, but I also face new challenges. Working from home was lonely at first. I struggled to rest with intention. I missed the encouragement I used to get from colleagues in a traditional workplace. All of these worries made me question if I’d made the right move.
Then, I read Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. In her book, I found an unexpected source of encouragement for my career and life path. Here’s what the famed comedian, actress, and feminist had to say that helped me walk away inspired to embrace my role not only as a freelance writer but also as a homemaker.
01. Having a choice in career paths is a gift.
I struggle when my vocational and personal callings are different than my peers. For instance, many women today think homemaking is archaic, anti-feminist even. I sometimes find myself at odds, struggling with what makes me happy versus what others say is “right.”
“Good for her! Not for me,” Poehler writes. This phrase, she says, is “the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again.” Having the ability to choose a unique path is a privilege I shouldn’t take for granted. It’s a sign that I live in a community where women have options to pursue different interests.
Some of my friends are pursuing careers in accounting, engineering, or nursing. Others are staying home with their children. Learning to see our differences as a gift opened up a space where I can cheer on other women instead of viewing their lives as something to measure myself against.
02. Don’t care about what people think.
Of course, I worry about how people perceive my appearance and sense of fashion. Deeper than that, however, I worry about whether people are impressed by my work, skills, and ambitions.
When I moved to a new city and began freelancing, I struggled without having a traditional job to tout to my new friends. Although I found my roles enjoyable and productive, I worried that people would think me lazy, unskilled, or unambitious.
“You have to care about your work but not about the result,” Poehler writes. “You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look.”
My work in the home alongside my freelance writing fulfills me and brings me joy. I’m learning not to worry about what people think and embrace the work and life I love.
03. Seek out great teachers.
When I assumed my work as a homemaker, I figured it would be an easy adjustment. I knew how to cook and grocery budget. I had checklists to help me with cleaning tasks. But the work was harder than I anticipated; I struggled to keep up.
“Watching great people do what you love is a good way to start learning how to do it yourself,” Poehler says.
I observed people who excelled at homemaking, like my mom, mother-in-law, and aunt. I also read blogs about housekeeping such as The Inspired Room, FlyLady and the Money Saving Mom, learning the secrets of women who manage their homes with efficiency and grace.
I set goals like clearing out the dishwasher after breakfast, buying cleaning supplies I love and keeping them readily available, and cooking with seafood once a week. These invigorated me and helped me learn how to do the work of homemaking my own way.
04. Don’t feel sorry for your work.
I’ve reaped the benefits of feminism in its various forms over the years. Women are entering fields traditionally associated with men. Women’s voices are sought on issues apart from “feminine” topics.
Unfortunately, I feel that second wave feminism, as defined by some authors like Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, creates an atmosphere where women can be made to feel less than for finding fulfillment and satisfaction in their homes rather than a workplace outside the home.
“It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for,” Poehler says. “It takes years to find your voice and seize your real estate.” Amy reminds me that I don’t need to feel sorry for enjoying bringing in less income than my husband and doing things conventionally defined as “women’s work.” Instead, I can hold my head up in confidence knowing that this is my voice and my real estate.
05. Think holistically about your life and labor.
On days when I’m tempted to leave behind my homemaking to find a traditional job with benefits, vacation, and recognition, I think about the life I ideally want in ten years.
I want to be at home with my children, actively participating in their education. I want to keep a pulse on the work I love, whether that means writing magazine articles, managing a website, or consulting. I want a lifestyle where my family is not rushing from one activity to the next, stressed and frenzied. I want to be fully present in the life of my church, neighborhood, family, and friends.
“You have to be where you are to get where you need to go,” Poehler advises.
By being fully present where I am now—in doing my work well and building a business that can mature with me and establishing homemaking habits that will usher me into the season of motherhood—I’ll get to where I need to go as a work-at-home parent, homemaker, wife, and woman.
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