I think a lot about how some people are idealistic about going back to simple ways of living, doing the whole homestead thing, only to discover it’s a dang hard way of life. I particularly notice it often spells the end of the couple who decided to try homesteading out, and that makes me wonder how humans had families and lived off the land for hundreds, thousands of years, long before we had grocery stores and office jobs. People used to pull it off so why are we so lousy at it now?
I have to add a disclaimer that, like everything else, I don’t really know what I’m talking about. I’ve just seen several documentaries and read articles, some from the 60’s when there was a big homesteading movement among the hippies, and some more recent ones from the 2010’s, and am basing my opinions off of those. In them, the vast majority of the couples covered wound up splitting within two years of starting the homesteading dream. All the couples said that it was way harder and more work than they had envisioned, and they ended up disagreeing and arguing with their partners a lot. Sometimes they’d split and both quit homesteading, sometimes they’d split and one would leave while the other would stick with it. But probably 90% of the time, the couple split.
At times, I’ve definitely felt drawn to the idea of pulling out from society and eking out a simple life in the woods somewhere. I mean, humans are awful. Human society is even worse. It’s twisted and often doesn’t make any sense. There are so many times I’m disgusted with it and the part I play in it that I just want to withdraw completely from it.
Plus I think it would be really gratifying to be totally self-sufficient. I would feel immense pride in not relying on grocery stores for prepackaged food, and monstrous corporations for electricity.
But that “oh boy, it would be so nice” daydream of homesteading neglects to take into account the countless hours and frustrations of building, maintaining, gardening, hunting, working hard all day, every day, and making do with minimal amenities. And it pains me to admit it but not interacting with other people very often would actually really suck — even for a loathsome jackoff like myself, it’s important to chat with other people and feel some kind of connection.
And when it comes down to it, I think just having your partner (and maybe a kid or two) isn’t enough of a social life for most people. We need people we can vent to, people to commiserate with us about things that piss us off. Without friends, it would be too difficult to compartmentalize all the bad feelings and lingering frustrations toward your partner that would occur throughout a grueling 7-day work week — come evening, I’d still be pissed at them for over-watering the vegetables, and they’d still be pissed at me for being a control freak. There would be so many events like those on a daily basis that eventually the relationship would be made of more bad feelings than good, and it would break.
But it didn’t used to be like that. A couple would stick it out back in the black and white photo days. But how? I’m inclined to say there was a larger power imbalance then and the woman simply had to accept her husband’s whims or get the shit beat out of her. Divorce was also not a widely accepted thing then either. The kids were probably as terrified of their father as his wife would have been too. Each family was probably like a miniature dictatorship.
I think that’s how families stuck together through homesteading way back when — through fear and iron-fisted ruling. Once people moved away from that approach to it, once they had the freedom to say “I’m not happy with how this is going” and to leave the situation, they opted for it. So I guess that makes sense. It’s not that people are bigger wimps now than they used to be (well, people definitely are, but I think that’s a secondary issue), it’s more that people no longer feel trapped in whatever life they have ended up in. People realize now that they can leave a bad situation, that there’s no point in sticking it out if they’re miserable.
And I think that’s a good thing. It’s sad because I want to believe that the young idealistic couple will always persevere and triumph, but I’ll settle for the notion that they’re wiser and better at choosing happiness over staying together and being miserable for it.