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What's Happening to Home (A Book Review)

By Dawn Goldberg

I'm an avid reader. My tastes usually run to fiction, especially fantasy, but every now and then I break out of the mold and read something good for me!

Since I'm in a mental place where I really want to create my ideal life, I've been focusing on books that help me create boundaries between my home life and business as well as helping me become very clear about what I want. (I joke with my husband that this is the Year of the Epiphany or Year of the Dawn. He wants to know when it's NOT the Year of the Dawn. Humph.)

My Year of the Epiphany began early in January with the realization that I had been miserable - emotionally and physically - for days, culminating in my feeling paralyzed and not being able to write anything (oh, the horror of that!).

My resources were completely depleted, and I had nothing more to give. My clients had come to ask more and more of me (because I'm good at what I do and I deliver), and more and more was being sapped out of me. I wanted to give 100% at home as well, so of course I was striving to live up to my own expectation of being an ideal mom.

I had nothing left to give.

I've changed drastically personally in the last four years; now my business has to catch up. What I want today is different from what I wanted four years ago. How I want to live my life is different, and I'm starting to do what I want. My business had gotten left behind, and now it needs to be at the same place I am.

So, on to non-fiction I go, and What's Happening to Home - Balancing Work, Life, and Refuge in the Information Age by Maggie Jackson is at the center of my radar.

Now, let me start by saying that even if you don't "work" outside the home or have a business that you run from home, the insights in this book are important to us all, primarily as caregivers and members of a family, and even more so as a civilization.

Here are some excerpts from the book that struck me as quite powerful:

- I had set out to gain more flexibility, only to find myself scrambling to fit more work into my private life. No wonder I had this nagging feeling that things had gotten out of hand as I stood in my children's bedroom, urging them none-too-gently to get to sleep. During these rushed moments at the end of the day, I felt that the old rules of work were gone, but I was having trouble making up the new ones. Even more, my domestic life had changed dramatically, and I wondered what I'd gained and what I'd lost in the process. I had a hunch that if I kept going on this way, I wouldn't have much of a home life. (page 12)

- Home isn't just the absence of work or an afterthought of life. Home shouldn't be snatched on the fly, between more "important" items on our agendas. (page 14)

- Each time we cook, clean, or mend, we're creating opportunities for talking, for being together with those who share our home. We're creating the glue that binds us to the humans we love. (page 71)

- By bringing science to daily living, home economists sought to fix the woes of industrialization, house by house. Home economics, they felt, could serve as a springboard for connecting the home to a larger world, even for liberating women from their domestic shackles. (page 73)

- Many women have hurried to run away from domestic life because, for so long, they were saddled with domestic work to the exclusion of most else in life. (page 78)

- "The reason we see a lot of burnout today has to do with availability," [Lisbeth Gustafsson] says. "I don't think the human body, the human brain, are made to be connected twenty-four hours, seven days a week. Not in the long run." (page 134)

- We are gladly loosening rigid dictates of the Industrial Age, and seeking to be at home in an increasingly boundary-less world. But to be at home is not enough. We need a home. (page 154)

Even if we're not manically trying to balance a career with our home lives, those parents who try to manage the home life (and activities, and dinner, and keeping the house clean) can get lost in the "job" of being a parent and keeper of the home. How much of what Maggie Jackson discusses applies to the stay-at-home parent as well?

How often do we try to remain connected and available to our families? As children get older and demands change, how does that affect us and home?

Even if your work isn't changing at lightning speed like mine, maybe your home is. If we step outside of ourselves, we see that there are changes: child starts full-day kindergarten; daughter is on the swim team that practices three days a week with swim meets every Saturday, plus membership on the academic decathlon team; son is in band, plays basketball, and works the varsity basketball games. These changes must affect the home life - can we eat dinner together every night? How about one night a week? Do we have time for family game night? When does the whole family spend time together?

I've found that we have to be willing to make change and deal with what that means.

When I first wrote notes for this article I thought it might revolve around how we women have thrust away the chains of domestic chores in favor of a career, volunteering, home schooling, or anything that makes us feel less a maid and more a person. There certainly is a question of how we reconcile it all - not being held to the domestic shackles, but as a result, the domestic environment dissolves altogether.

However, I decided that this article was really more about change - how changes in our lives affect our home, and how changes in our home affect our lives.

As parents, and as members of a community, we need a home - simply being "at home" is not enough.

About The Author
Dawn Goldberg is a Certified Virtual Assistant, COO of Assist University, mother, community leader, and former teacher. Her vision is to create a resource that helps parents find ways to enjoy valuable, constructive time with their children every day. Contact her at or visit

Copyright 2006 Dawn Goldberg. You are welcome to use this article online in electronic newsletters and e-zines as long as it remains complete and unaltered (including the "about the author" information).

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