A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook to a New York Times article about the recent trend of regular households keeping backyard chickens.
I found the article fascinating enough to read the whole thing aloud to my husband. I was particularly intrigued by the idea that backyard farming hearkens back to the industriousness that brought women into the workforce so many years ago. The writer also suggests that this is not necessarily old-fashioned, but actually a progressive, modern way to live that could become more common.
Apparently it is more common in some areas than others, such as the writer's home of Berkeley, Calif. And a friend of mine in Lawrence, Kan., where I spent a few lovely years of my life, says backyard farming is the newest way to "keep up with the Joneses." A couple months ago I read an article out of Provo, Utah, where the issue of "urban chickens" was brought to the city council, who eventually decided that Provo residents were permitted to keep up to 6 chickens.
In my own neighborhood, there are at least two families keeping chickens. One is the farm that used to own all the land our houses are built on, so they have probably had chickens for years. But just yesterday, when this topic was already on my mind, I looked out my back window and discovered a yard full of chickens in my neighbor's backyard.
I'm not compelled to go out and buy chicken wire, but it definitely makes me think about running a household in general. These families have assessed their own values and situations and they have decided to keep chickens, which is still fairly unusual, at least in my neck of the woods.
But do we allow ourselves to have our own "chicken coops" in our families, in other forms? Do you run your household the same way as all your friends and neighbors, or do you assess your own individual values and give yourself permission to do things your way?
Here's my example. My little secret that's not so secret. My 3-year-old son goes to bed late and sleeps in late. This allows my husband lots of time after work to spend time with his son, and we enjoy that time as a family. I know some people think we are crazy, and when bedtime starts to creep later and later sometimes we think we are crazy. But at our house, a perfect night would be for Charlie to be asleep by 9:30 or 10:00. That leaves enough time for these night owl parents to play a board game or catch up on "The Office" on Hulu. We know some people would disagree with the way we do it, but it's what works for our family. We enjoy that we can take Charlie out to dinner with us and not have to worry about a 7:30 bedtime. And because he's our only child, we can do that because we don't have a school schedule to adhere to (yet).
Perhaps some experts would look down on that, but I wouldn't know because I don't consult them. There is definitely room for improvement in our household, but we don't seek to fit anyone else's notion of the right way to do things. I believe strongly in following your instincts as a parent, and the experts all disagree anyway. I generally don't bother consulting the experts unless my own instincts come up empty on a certain subject*.
Chicken coops and late bedtimes don't seem to have anything to do with each other. But the rise of the chicken coop has made an impression on me. Like I said, I'm not about to raise chickens myself, but it's nice to see families doing things their way, even though it might be a little counterculture.
*In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I have read one parenting book cover to cover. The Natural Child: Parenting from the Heart . It was a little extreme at times (for instance, she suggests that cribs should be banned), but I generally agreed with the author, and it has given me more confidence in the way I do things.