For Shannon Hayes, a writer for Yes Magazine, this question also involved the impact her decision would have on the planet. She doesn’t believe in conforming to gender roles, but the sustainable benefits of having her AND her husband stay home with the kids outweighed any negatives. After doing some research she also discovered that it was only after the industrial revolution took over America that taking care of the household was deemed “women’s work”
A search for the origin of the word housewife traces it back to the thirteenth century, as the feudal period was coming to an end in Europe and the first signs of a middle class were popping up. Historian Ruth Schwartz Cowan explains that housewives were wedded to husbands, whose name came from hus, an old spelling of house, and bonded. Husbands were bonded to houses, rather than to lords. Housewives and husbands were free people, who owned their own homes and lived off their land. While there was a division of labor among the sexes in these early households, there was also an equal distribution of domestic work. Once the Industrial Revolution happened, however, things changed. Men left the household to work for wages, which were then used to purchase goods and services that they were no longer home to provide.
Hayes had the notion that she was not alone in her new profession which she deemed “Radical Homemakers” and went across America to study other families like hers.
By virtue of these skills, the Radical Homemakers I interviewed were building a great bridge from our existing extractive economy—where corporate wealth has been regarded as the foundation of economic health, where mining our Earth’s resources and exploiting our international neighbors have been acceptable costs of doing business—to a life serving economy, where the goal is, in the words of David Korten, to generate a living for all, rather than a killing for a few; where our resources are sustained, our waters are kept clean, our air pure, and families and can lead meaningful lives.
Read the rest of Hayes testimonial to Radical Homemakers here