A man strolled down the sidewalk of a suburban neighborhood. The street echoed with the occasional bark of a dog and the twitter of a bird in a tree. He remembered his childhood. Mornings on his street as a child practically sang with the sounds of sheets snapping in the breeze, vacuums buzzing through the houses, and the scent of bread, cakes, and cookies had punctuated the air.
As he neared the second house from the corner, he noticed a difference. Instead of the sparse manicured lawns and perfect landscaping, this home boasted a large tree with a baby swing hanging from the branches, a large flower garden, and a recently repaired fence, one board as yet unpainted. The windows were open allowing fresh air to flow through the house, and allow the scent of oatmeal cookies to waft through those windows to tantalize our gentleman.
Our gentleman was curious so he entered the home. Now don’t be alarmed, he isn’t going to hurt anyone, no one can see him, and this is just our way to be a fly on the wall in this home. I just had to reassure you. 😉
Inside, the woman of the house is removing sheets of cookies from a well used oven. While clean, this appliance shows evidence of consisent use. The corners are nicked, the handle has been glued with an epoxy that shows at the corners, and one of the knobs was laid too near a hot burner at some point.
As she scoops the cookies off of the baking sheet, she flips them upside down on layers of newspaper on the counter. (trapping moisture inside and keeping the cookies soft. They obviously are not a crispy cookie family! She slips a fresh sheet of cookies in the oven, and then carefully stacks her cooled cookies into storage containers. It is obviously an oft’ repeated routine.
A glance at the clock implies she has other things to consider. She looks into her batter bowl and then scoops more cookies onto the sheet. She has time to finish. Our gentleman wonders what is pressing upon her time. She’s home, apparently alone, and the house is clean. Why is time such an issue?
Our woman, let’s call her Martha for comic relief, immediately rinses her dishes and sorts them into the dishwasher. She clears away most of the newspaper and wipes down the counter. Her hands are busy as she waits for the timer to remind her to remove the cookies. They emerge from the oven perfect. She pulls three paper towels from the roll and puts a cookie on each towel. From a drawer she pulls a sippie cup, and from the cupboard she removes two mugs. Our gentleman realizes that there are children expected.
Just as she wipes the final crumbs from the counter and washes her hands, the faint sound of an alarm clock drifts in from the hallway. A little boy, around six or seven years old, races down the hallway. A cocked eyebrow from mom stops him dead in his tracks. He does an abrupt about face, and scuttles back to his doorway. Walking now, albeit quickly, the lad hustles as quickly as possible to the bar separating the kitchen from the living area and climbs up on the barstool.
The afternoon passes in a blur. The second eldest child is a girl of four and then there is a baby boy of sixteen months. Between settling scuffles, supervising toy clean ups, and getting dinner on the table, she barey has time to sit to hear her son practice his reading for ten minutes. It is a very busy time.
Our gentleman watches over the space of weeks. This homemaker is a loving wife. She isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. She gets frustrated by a tired husband and irritated that she must fix the broken faucet or wait until the weekend to have him do it. However, their relationship is generally mutually satisfying and encouraging. As a mother, she’s firm and loving at the same time. The children don’t get away with petty disobediences any more than they do overt defiance but all is handled with a calm matter-of-factness. The children don’t see her as she slips into her room to scream silently over yet another infraction. She doesn’t always enjoy this aspect of motherhood but already with her eldest, she is reaping the rewards of loving consistency.
The home is a well oiled machine. Occasionaly parts get squeaky, like when she extended an afternoon at the park with the children and fogot to do her weekly money transfer. Her husband found it impossible to withdraw his weekly allowance on the way home from work that Friday night. However, as a general rule, things work well.
Out of curiosity, our gentleman went into several other homes in the area for comparison and finally found another full time homemaker. The difference is startling. This woman spends her hours putting out fires and playing in between the fires. She reads a book, the subject and type of book is immaterial, until a child is hanging precariously from a bunk bed. She races to stop the child, administers some form of punishment, and then returns to her book. The sound of her husband’s car in the driveway reminds her that dinner is expected soon. She tosses the book aside and rushes to throw together something in order to avoid another emergency pizza meal.
Their checkbook hasn’t been balanced in months, their savings account is nearing the red, and several bills wait to be paid in a stack on the counter. They have house projects to do that they can’t due to lack of funding. Their income is sufficient but their usage is excessive. We won’t talk about the occasional bouts of credit card debt.
The gentleman returned to Martha’s home and wandered through the rooms. Martha’s children seem healthier and less antsy but happier. Martha takes time to ensure that she exercises, gets plenty of refreshing sleep, and eats a reasonable diet. She has time to pursue pleasant pasttimes but then with a job that is 24/7, you would hope that she would have some time off!
Our gentleman made a list of the things he saw this woman do. It was almost incalculable.
- Basic house cleaning
- Child care
- Child training
- Child education
- Interior decoration
- Furniture repair/reupholstery
- Home maintenance
- Auto maintenance/scheduling
- Nutrition and meal planning
- Food storage and preservation
- Shopping (groceries, clothing, furniture, and personal care/household items primarily)
- Scheduling (dental, visual, and medical, and other similar appointments)
- Book keeping
- Bill paying
- Financial Growth
- Gardening/landscaping/lawn care
- Goal planning
- Preparation for the future
The list grew until he couldn’t fathom the enormity of the tasks. It wasn’t until he realized that she didn’t do all of those things every day, or even every week, that he was able to understand how she could be such an energy filled and fulfilled person. His job as a former CPA seemed almost too easy and for the first time, he truly appreciated all his wife did.
“What is the difference,” he wondered as he compared the two homes, women, husbands, and families, “between this home and the other? Both women eventually do most of the same things yet Martha seems less haggard and harried than her neighor from several streets over. Why is this?”
Martha could tell him if she could see him. It’s really a very simple answer to give but not so simple to live. It’s not a carefully planned schedule. Contrary to appearances, very little of Martha’s life is scheduled. She has a few iron clad scheduled duties and a few routines in motion but most of her life is fairly well lived as it comes. She tried scheduling several times but found that either the schedule controlled their lives in a way that left little room for taking advantage of excellent opportunities, or she found herself enjoying opportunities and losing sight of the schedule all together. In doing that, she also lost sight of a few important activities. She knew she had to find a happy medium, and for her, the healthy balance of basic routines punctuated with occasional unmovable duties, worked.
However, her routines and lack of schedule aren’t the answer. Not really. They’re a by-product of the answer. The answer is simply that her home, family, children, and personal growth are her career. She approaches her life as one who considers her days to be filled with a job that must be done, not one that must be appeased in order to free time to do the “fun stuff”. Where her neighbor works in between bouts of free time resenting the fact that she must work at all, Martha takes her job as wife, mother, homemaker, and Christian very seriously.
Her career is a varied one, I grant you. She doesn’t make financial investment decisions daily, or even monthly. However, on her calendar she does have a notation of when to re-evaluate their decisions and make any changes. This is one of those non-flexible appointments with herself.
She doesn’t spend every day researching the best recipes at the lowest cost, but when she does her budget and sees that food has increased, before she increases the budget to meet the rising cost of food, she does look over their menu and sees if they’ve switched from eating to nourish the body and enjoy God’s blessing of food to possibly eating to enjoy and ignoring the necessity of nourishment. During those times, she might search for new recipes to see if there is a way to reduce expenses in the food department but this is a brief period in life and one reason why a strict schedule would never work in her home.
She does spend every day in general maintenance. It is this necessity of life that causes people to under value the calling and career of homemaker. When you watch what a homemaker does, on the surface it seems to be a lot of dusting, sweeping, mopping, toilet scrubbing, dishes, and laundry. Throw in a good bit of cooking and shopping, and you have a very accurate picture of the bulk of many homemaker’s days. This leaves the erroneous idea that you have an accurate picture of the bulk of a homemaker’s LIFE. This is simply untrue.
What most rarely see is the research into vehicles, medical plans, and househod appliances. Why is this valued in a Fortune 500 company but degraded in a home? Do we really think so little of a the great savings to family coffers when a wife spends time ensuring that they get the most from her husband’s hard earned dollars?
We don’t value she spends combing garage sales and thrift stores in order to save the family money. We don’t see that she finds things she knows she can’t use but resells them online at a healthy profit adding to the family’s financial worth. It doesn’t sound like a “real job” therefore it has no societal worth. How very sad.
She may have a means of earning money from the home or not. Some wives find this an easy thing to do while others prefer to find ways to save money rather than ways of procuring it. Both are an added bonus to any family’s budget.
What am I really trying to say by all of this? Why did I write this elaborate but simplistic tale of homemaking? Haven’t we heard it all at some time or another? We don’t need to be convinced of the validity of our choice? We don’t need to be told that there is so much more we could do if we only had the skills, resources, or knowledge to do it. It is no surprise to us to hear that colleges are once again offering degrees in Home Economics that encompass everything from finances, to basic medical care, to nutrition and more hands-on things like pattern drafting and food preservation. Society is finally recognizing what happened when women left the home in droves for the workforce. Skills necessary to the well running of a home were shoved to the side where they grew dusty and covered with cob webs.
Is the keeping of your home your career, or what you do to assuage the guilt between bouts of “doing your thing”?
Signing off. I need arnica cream for my toes. I’ve trampled them so thoroughly here that I can barely walk.