Last Saturday 21st March 2014 we celebrated World Home Economics Day 2014: "Empowering Individuals, Families and Communities - Through Home Economics." Before you get turned off by these seemingly old fashioned words, let me tell you how Home Economics has led my life from young child, to mum, to professional working woman. You'll be converted Home Economists by the end, I swear!
My grandmother Mam Solva (so called because it was the name of the Pembrokeshire inlet that she lived in) would have made the most formidable domestic science teacher. Having trained as a cook and domestic servant in London during her young adulthood, she returned home, married and devoted her life to her family. Her home was spotless, meals not only delicious, but fresh and nutritionally sound with large servings of seasonal fruit and vegetables from her own large garden. Food was an expensive commodity; no food was ever wasted. But that wasn't all. Mam Solva saved and was one of the first women in her village to buy her own home. A number of years later when all her children were able to look after themselves, she sold up making a handsome profit. She was an empowered individual; her family, their health and their transition into adulthood were responsibilities she met head on. Home Economics, her secret weapon.
Of course Mam Solva wasn't aware of her home economic skills. I, on the other hand, am very aware of the skills I use on a daily basis and am not only grateful for them, I adore them. Home Economics gave me management skills to cope and pack so much into my far from average family situation and ensure a diverse fulfilling career.
My love affair with Home Economics started with a girl called Dorothy. She was 17 years of age, completing her 'A' level exams and had been accepted to study Home Economics in college in England. In her spare time she made dresses for people, which her way of saving enough money to go to college. One year she made me and my sisters pretty Easter dresses to wear at the annual Easter Sunday 'Gymanfa Ganu' (Singing Festival). I was hooked; line and sinker. I was only 10 years of age but soon started to make tops and shorts using an old Singer pedal sewing machine. and any fabric I could get my hands on; including old linen tablecloths.
After amazing classes in school where I learned to patch aprons that I still use and stuff tomatoes, I found myself in September in 1972, studying Home Economics at University of Wales, Llandaff College of Education. And I loved it!
Mother and Career Woman
In 1975 I qualified as a Home Economist and was on my way to Maidstone in Kent to start my teaching career in which I expected to spend the next 40 years. How different things turned out.
I moved to Ireland and continued teaching there. I also dabbled in small enterprises: a fabric shop, dressmaking and baking. All the while coping with a sick baby and two lads all under the age of 4 years. Life was busy, challenging and the perfect place for my Home Economic skills.
Our first and unfortunately only Christmas together worked magically. A baby who arrived home on the 23rd December for the very first time after 7 months in hospital, being tube fed and needing 24 hour care, two excited children, a devoted dad and me. So that we could spend the time nursing and playing with the children on Christmas Day, my Home Economics skills kicked in. Christmas dinner with all its trimmings was made the day before, plated, frozen and reheated on Christmas day. The perfect solution which hold happy memories for us all. We never did get a Christmas together again, baby John died the following March.
Recently I have moved out of the classroom and into the world of technology, keen to bring Home Economics into the 21st century. While home economics is studied in the classroom around the world, it is only when it is practised at home that it becomes empowering. I ask all mums and dads to start thinking of teaching basic Home Economics to your boys and girls. In a world of retro, how cool is it to be able to hem your own trousers, personalize your tee shirt, how much quicker is it to sew the button on yourself rather than trek to the seamstresses, how much healthier is a homecooked meal, how much less stress is it to plan your meals in advance enabling two working parents to prepare fresh healthy meals, how much better would we be with our finances? Believe me, Home Economics it's the secret weapon in every home!