Sunday, November 20, 2005


Dear Mrs. Sherman,

I've been behind in my reading at LAF and just now came across the link to your March 5 blog post, "Making the Best of Things." I was surprised that so many young women are claiming past financial deprivation as an excuse for poor homemaking and hospitality skills. I would think that a poorer home would be an excellent training ground for learning to be a creative and economical housewife...if, as was your case, their parents did provide them with example and training in having good character.

I wonder, however, if it was the character training, rather than the financial means, that was actually lacking in these young ladies' past. My dear mother was an abused and then abandoned wife who worked hard to provide clothing and shelter and food and health care for my brothers and me. Mom grew up with great deprivation in the Depression years. But she's an extraordinarily diligent person -- the kind who can hardly stand to be still when there's work that needs doing -- and has an uncanny ability to squeeze money out of rocks. Unfortunately, she simply wasn't able to pass on this disciplined character to us. I think diligence just came so naturally to her that she was a bit bewildered by anyone to whom it did not come naturally, and did not understand the need we had for intentional training in this area.

And so I find myself, at 37, still struggling to attain the bare minimum standards of housekeeping. I know that this is my sin and my responsibility, but I seem to be stuck in a perpetually fruitless game of tug-of-war with my bootstraps. As I've grown older, my view of a woman's calling to her home has grown higher and higher, and with it my sense of shame has grown deeper and deeper. I feel like an amputee trying to hop along without a prosthesis or even a crutch. Sometimes I make it a block or so down the sidewalk, but I inevitably fall into domestic chaos.

As you wrote, being a good homekeeper isn't a matter of wealth or privilege, but of character. So how would you counsel someone like me who, in God's providence, did not have the benefit of developing a strong character through the usual means of parental training? Some days, like today, when the dishes are stacked up to precarious heights in the kitchen (and sometimes in other rooms of the house), and the laundry pile is threatening to take over the bedroom, and the floors are becoming an obstacle course of clutter, I am tempted to despair. It's hard to remember that our perfect heavenly Husband has not abandoned me -- that He will complete the good work He's begun. It's hard to submit to the slowness of His sanctifying work -- to be content and grateful for the immense grace He has show me, even though it's not always in the areas of my life where I'd like it to be.

Thank you for your taking the time to read.


My comments: One of the motivating factors in making a homemaker want to do her best, is that her place is her own. We naturally love and care for things that belong to us. Even if we rent a place, the dwelling and the atmosphere belong to us. It is there we can use our talents, our skills, or imaginations and our intelligence to make it appealing, comfortable and functional. What if it were put to a contest, and whoever was able to make their home the most appealing according to a set of standards, would win a prize, and, what if the loser would lose her home or have to give it to the winner? It is possible, you know, that if we are not good stewards of our homes or our businesses, we may lose them to others. Homemaking is a matter of personal pride and personal responsibility. We may think that no one knows what is going on in our homes, but the influence of it flows outward into the community.

Our temperaments are often a result of the way the house looks. Some people even say that the time when there is most likely to be a quarrel at home is when things are in the most disarray. Someone who visits us or lives in our home, may form an opinion about it. We may be observed by someone who is lost in a world of homemaking and doesn't know what kind of standard to live up to. If everyone were like us, what would the homes in our neighborhood be like? Our moods can rub off on other people, so if having a messy house puts you and the family in a bad mood, the best way to alleviate it is to practice some good habits.

Maybe one of the reasons our mother's good habits did not rub off on us, is that we were away from her during the most impressionable years of our lives, sitting instead in institutions with other teachers. I taught my own children at home, and even with all the reading and writing and mathematics, they were still able to absorb the inner workings of the home, even it that wasn't taught from a book. Some of our parents grew wonderful gardens and prepared food from it, but because we were not there to observe the process or work along side them, we didn't learn to do it.

You can put yourself on a schedule and follow it precisely, by the clock, until the things you need to do become so automatic to you that you don't have to look at your list anymore. In the face of non-emergency interruptions, you can say, "Sorry, that's the time I fix meals. I couldn't possibly make it." You can be strict about your schedule until you feel you've gained enough control over your home to become more flexible to allow for interruptions.

The homemaker I mentioned in other posts, was unique in the fact that her hands were never still and her eyes were always looking around her house for things to put aright. She wasn't doing it because she enjoyed hard labor, she was enjoying it. It was like playing house to her.

Picture by Rios, "Home to the Heart." My comment - artists seem to prefer the subject matter of the home, scenery, nature and family.


Anonymous said...

May I strongly recommend - this site is truly life changing for the bogged down home maker!

Anna said...

That's exactly what I was going to say!