Homemaking

6 02 2008

My job has a lot of historical roots. Women have been fixing food, taking care of babies, teaching their young sons & daughters, and making homes since Creation. In a lot of cultures, women not only take care of the home, they actually build the home. They design & build their dwelling with their own hands & the help of their children.
My sister would like that- she’s a real home improvement nut. She enjoys installing things and using power tools. She’s the person to call if you have a big painting job, too. She doesn’t quit until the job is done or she can’t move her arms any more (whichever comes first!)
I was walking around my home today moving plants, wiping dust, hanging pictures, emptying trash cans… The work I do is very necessary. If I don’t clean for at least two hours every day, it takes less than 48 hours for the house to become unlivable. You can’t get into the bathroom for all the wet towels on the floor, can’t use the sink for all the dirty dishes, can’t walk across the living room for all the toys and books on the floor… that sort of thing.

Neal and I were both raised by at-home mothers. We have chosen to raise our children that way, too. Sometimes I wonder how it changes the children to be raised in a day care. How does it change the home? I’ve heard a lot of people say that it makes the children stronger, more independent. Sometimes I wonder if my children would be happier if they spent more time with other children. Sometimes I wonder if my job is really worth how difficult it is.

The last sixty years has been the first time in history that women really had a choice. Before this, it took the full-time work of one or more people to keep the clothes sewn, washed, ironed & put away; the food killed, plucked, butchered & cooked; the vegetables grown, washed, peeled & prepared…. You get the picture.

Women today want everything men have and do. But sometimes I wonder if this is a good thing. In our bible studies we’re quick to appropriate all the verses about brothers or men as ours. We try to be all that men are, and then women and mothers, too. It’s true that in biblical times, women were not considered to be on the same level with men. This took away some things from what modern women consider to be their good and proper rights, but it also relieved them of some responsibilities. They didn’t have to be and do everything. I think it was understood that they were quite busy enough! There probably wasn’t this feeling that they had to be out witnessing and ministering the gospel. They had a sphere of influence, of course, but no one expected them to raise six kids AND do this, that, and the other thing… volunteer, do bake sales, lead bible studies, etc.

Women back then had a clear understanding of what was important for them. And their jobs were (and are) amazingly complex: chef, architect, weaver, seamstress, nurse, gardener, decorator, craftsperson, teacher… Somewhere in there there was usually something to satisfy most any woman. Some were better with herbs than frying pans, some excelled in the garden, some were good midwives, but there was scope for all their gifts.

Here in the US, I think the culture has lost a lot of it’s understanding of why a homemaker is valuable beyond the physical necessities of food and cleanliness. I think a lot of homes, when they lost their homemaker, lost their anchor. And when they lost their father, they lost their compass. Now they’re just sailing for an unknown destination as fast as they can, exhausted and strung out because there is no peace or rest in the home.

I don’t want this to be taken as a criticism of women who work from choice or necessity. A lot of them do a splendid job of raising their children and balancing their lives. But does that success negate the value of a homemaker? I’ve spoken to many of the homeschooling mothers on what they feel their role in the home is. “I’m the pivot everyone swings around,” one woman says. “I’m like the mood thermostat,” another one said, “If I’m in a bad mood, nothing works. I really have to keep my heart before the Lord, because everyone takes their temperature from me.”

So many Americans are being raised in single parent homes, I think they’ve lost the vision for what this role can be in a home. “Boring!” they think. “Useless! I can work and take care of the house & kids. Why do I need to stay home and play maid?”
I want to quote a couple things from the HSLDA monthly magazine article, “Beyond Borders: International Home Schooling Grows” by Cherise Ryan. “…in France, the idea that a woman can be both a mother and a teacher- and be adequate, let alone good, at both- is astounding… in France, many parents have lost the vision for significantly impacting their children’s lives and minds.” They’ve lost the vision of the value of raising their children themselves, and have bought into the message that paid teachers, day care workers, and other specialists can do a better job than they can with their own kids.

Here’s another one: “In current post-communist countries, homeschoolers are confronting decades of systematic destruction of and individual work ethic, the concept of family, and the value of family life. ‘Communists took families and broke them up on purpose,’ says Sandra Lovelace. ‘They sent mothers one way and fathers another. It was a specific plan to destroy the families. So people living in these countries have no idea about families.'”

What is a family? What work is required to make and keep a family? To make a family a beautiful thing? And exactly how much is that work worth? Is it valuable enough to devote your life to? Could it be considered a calling from God? Equal to that of missionary or minister?

What is my life worth? I have made a choice to give all my time and my effort to my children, to my husband, and to my home. In my own mind, I often think of my job as a consecrated thing: I have taken a vow and am cloistered from the world in my own home. Not quite as bricked in as the anchorites, but close! And I will be straight with you: I am a gifted, intelligent educated woman, and this job takes it all. It takes all that I have and more. It takes every minute and could use some minutes I don’t have! It takes all my work, wisdom, common sense, research, intelligence, creativity, and self discipline to do this. I don’t dare to claim that I’m doing it well, but I’m trying.
I respect women who are trying to do my job and handle work outside the home. But I really don’t see how they can possibly do everything that I do and their other job, too. It can’t be possible. I have to think that there is some value added to our lives by my being here full-time. I have to think that my children and husband benefit from my choice.

I’m in a minority in modern America, but in truth, I’m joining the vast majority of women down through the years. As I go through my day’s work, I am working in harmony with millions of other women all over the world as they carry water, bathe babies, cook rice, weed gardens, train their children, and pray. It may not look like vital work to a lot of people, but there’s something in there that touches our roots as human beings. There’s something in there that we really can’t afford to lose.

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