Monday, April 10, 2006

Good Attitudes About Home

This poem and thoughts are from a booklet by Mary Brooks Picken, which is titled, "Thimblefuls of Friendliness" and was written 1924.

"Stepping Stones"

"Isn't it strange that Princes and Kings
And clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
And just plain folks like you and me,
Are builders for Eternity?
To each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass and a book of rules,
And each must make ere life is flown,
A stumbling block, or a stepping stone."

I heard a young woman say the other day, "Oh, I give up. What's the use of my trying to be anybody or trying to have nice things? My ambitions only make me restless and miserable."

But we all know that ambitions once entertained are hard to lose. The farther you come from attaining them, the more miserable you will be. Hence the need of continual effort.

To the woman who says, "What's the use?" one might say: "What's the use of working, of washing the dishes, of getting up in the mornings, of liking air and sunshine and pretty things?

There isn't any real use, perhaps, in it all, but it is, oh so satisfying, to go into a kitchen to cook dinner where everything is happily clean and in place.

What a satisfying, luxurious feeling it is to crawl into a well-made, cozy, bed.

What a delight to don fresh, clean clothing.

What a self-respecting feeling one has when one puts on a well-made dress that is appropriate and becoming.

And these things take time and effort, but they pay double in sheer pleasure.

And we should use our energies to make happiness come for every effort, pleasure for every thought that we give to family, home, or clothing, and thus make of all our responsibilities stepping stones to success, via happiness.

For surely, when we are happy, we are successful, at least in that little domain where we are queen. No matter what our environment, no matter what our circumstances-a singing teakettle, a cozy fire, some one to care for, some to care, a conscience that does not disturb--all these help in our walk up the steps to divine content.

For some of us it may seen a long journey but trying makes it interesting. And we have the satisfaction all the way of having done our best with our "bag of tools", our "shapeless mass", and "book of rules."

When I was growing up, I knew many girls to get out of work by not wanting to do it. Sometimes I thought my mother pretty severe because she expected us to wash the dishes. It was part of the work for my sisters and me. She expected us to arrange the table, make the beds, peel the potatoes, help on wash day, and iron the plain things. It never occurred to us to say, "I don't want to do it." I admit many times I didn't really want to, but I should only have made myself ridiculous by saying so.

Self-pity was not scarce with me sometimes, especially when there was an all-absorbing book that I wanted very much to read or a guest who had interesting things to tell after dinner that I wanted very much to hear, or when the call came on a sleepy morning to get up quick and help with breakfast. But now I realize that having to do things, being expected to do them without any alternative was good for me.

Girls who grow up and take the mother place in the home understand little girls and little boys who don't want to do things. Yet they know from experience that success and a happiness within come from learning, as children, to do the things they don't want to do when they don't want to do them."

Note: I find some things in this book to be very much like "Beautiful Girlhood," which is available online, and is free domain. My daughter copied off some of the chapters to give to a woman to help her teach young girls.

Go here and read some excellent and timeless instruction that will fill the heart with love and contentment.


DonnaB said...

I try and teach my children to have a long term view. When they complain that their friends don't have to do chores and they don't think it's fair that they do. I ask them who do they think loves their children more. Sometimes, in their childish view they think no chores = more love. I then ask them to picture themselves and their choreless friends ten years from now when they will be seeking to establish their own homes. They will know what it takes to run a home because they know how to clean, how to do laundry, how to cook, how to manage finances, how to do yard work, etc. What will their choreless friends know...very little. Now who loves their children more? Parents who equip their children with real life know how!

Elly said...

Thank you. Perhaps what's missing is GRATITUDE TO GOD for the day at hand! Yes....too many moms are placating their daughters(children) and bringing them to ruin in ways that won't be seen for years.

Kelli said...

This article is very timely, I'm currently doing the Fascinating Womanhood online class and the quality of "Inner Happiness" is my special assignment for this week. I'll post this link to the group.

Kelli said...

What Donna says is so true. As well as missing the opportunity to learn domestic skills, these choreless friends may miss developing the disipline required undertake household tasks on a consistent and regular basis.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lydia,

I have enjoyed reading your articles for some time and am hoping you may be able to shed some light on a particular area of
trouble for me.

I am a wife to a great man and a mother
to three wonderful sons. My husband likes a clean and orderly
home and so do I. My three sons, ages 10, 8 and 4 don't care yet.
I have tried to help them to manage
their room and bath with cleaning schedules, which they find very bothersome. They also participate
in what we call kitchen duty. They help with setting of the table, cleaning after the meal, etc. My struggle is not with the
learning of responsibility or of
plain old work. The tasks that I am asking them to do are homekeeping skills which I believe are mostly the female's domain.
They have other tasks that they do with their father (mostly outside work or "fix-it jobs.") Do you think I am asking too much? Should I be doing these tasks in
modeling what a homemaker should do?

Lydia said...

Yes, they should help, and so so eagerly and willingly. If they were motherless, they'd have to do it anyway. I had five brothers and they all had their names on the dishwashing roster and had to take their turns, although we shared the jobs, with one washing and one drying. It makes them more thoughtful of the burdens of the homemaker. It prevents you having to have hired help, and preserves your health. If you were sick, they'd have to do it, and bring you a plate of food to your room. It only makes sense that they are part of the family endeavor. To leave them out of it would rob them of the important lessons of servanthood and humility. No one is above washing dishes or clothes or keeping house. My daughter has 3 sons and they all have to help. She would die of exhaustion if they didn't. They create most of the work for her and so they have to help. It teaches them not to make unnecessary work and to clean up after themselves. It won't make sissies of them, believe me.

Lydia said...

As they grow into manhood, you can invite young eligible women to come and help in the kitchen. You will see their interest in washing dishes increase, at that point.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post, Mrs. Sherman! I'm a young lassie who is currently going through a week of 'not wanting to do anything.' Chores, studies... anything that isn't curling up in bed with a good book are terribly unappealing. I've been trying my best to stamp down the dreary feelings and do the work anyway... but it can be hard, and your post is an inspiration!

Living in a family of nine, it's important that I do my share for things to run smoothly. My six siblings are all boys, and fortunately my mother requires them to do their fair amount of housecleaning. But being the only girl creates a wee bit more work just in itself, no matter how much things are evened out. If the babies are in tears and can't find their first mamma, they'll come running to their second one... often the boys are busy helping my father so my mother will need me for help. And often I just volunteer to help with the cooking or some other such thing just because I want to spend time in the kitchen with my mother!

I'm slowly learning, but steadily I hope, that the moments of extra work for me as a daughter and older sister are to be treasured, as, if I accept them gracefully and with a spirit of willingness, I'll be that much more prepared to keep my own home.

Anonymous said...

I just love you site. You are so inspiring. I have bought Beautiful Girlhood and share it with my little granddaughter. Many in our church use it. Thank you for your ideas on homemaking. I have been a stay-at-home mother and now that mine are grown I am still at home making a home for my husband and family to love returning to. Yes we mentor each other through the net since many close do not understand the value of home. I try guide my neighbors in understanding. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I just have to reply to your comments about boys doing housework. I have two sons, ages 13 and 10, and no daughters. I'm frequently asked by women (at church, mind you) "Don't you wish you had a daughter to help you with the housework?" Well, I always reply that I have two strong, healthy sons that are perfectly capable of washing dishes, doing laundry, scrubbing floors, etc. My sons create most of the mess around here, so they can certainly do most of the cleaning up. And you're right--it doesn't make them sissies--you'd be hard pressed to find two more manly boys than mine!