Monday, June 19, 2006

The Harmless Housewife

I don't understand what all the furor is over a woman staying home to take care of it, "keep" it, guide it, guard it and rule it. Is it not her very own domain? If it is not, whose is it?

The critics may do well to observe what it would be like when the home is neglected. The state agencies regularly remove children from houses where filth is prominent and conditions are unhealthy and unsafe for them.

People who have had their children removed from them by the state, have been ordered to take a series of parenting classes in order to get their children back. (I don't think the state should have such authority, nonetheless, in such cases it is a cue to us to step in and help women learn to keep house, possibly preventing state intervention).

Do you ever wonder how it is that something so basic as the house/home, can come to be so neglected? There are some excuseable reasons where the home will be temporarily out of function, such as illness or moving, or other upheavals, but I've only recently learned that many girls getting out of school and getting into their own place, do not understand the basics of cleanliness and order. It is a pity that they had to spend 12 or more years in institituions which gave them few real life skills.

The homeschool girls, and those who observed mothers that were full time homemakers , seem to "pick up" homemaking by daily association with it. They know what to do, almost automatically. They love their homes, are familiar with the kitchen, and always keen to find ways to make it function just right. Their sewing skills, often absorbed at home by watching their mothers sew, or learned online in the comfort of their own homes, are above and beyond anything I have ever achieved, and I've been sewing since I was a girl. This leads me to the proverbial conclusion that good habits are taught, as well as "caught."

I once met a woman who had by all accounts a hopeless background in homemaking. Her mother was not interested in it, and neglected her own home, causing her children to be removed and put into foster care. Years later, through studying good books on the home, and visiting around to different women whom she admired, she lives in such a way as to remove all doubt about her background.

Her house is clean, orderly and beautiful. She loves her home, and values her life. She hosts others in her house for simple things like afternoon tea. She uses her home for good. she isn't just "sacking out" as we used to say--meaning laying around and letting filth and clutter accumulate.

She is watchful for things like unpleasant smells, laundry that needs doing, floors that need cleaning, and dishes that need to be washed and put away. Her life is orderly unless she is not feeling well or has just returned from a trip. If her house is ever neglected, she has confidence that her goal is to get it back in order, even if she can't do it at the moment.

Although she has a small dwelling, she has managed to put precious things in it that have meaning to her and are beautiful to look at. I've often said that if you must be focused on the home, you can surround yourself in beauty.

Why do we like visiting certain shops that give us delight? Why do we smile when we walk into a shop full of beautiful things for the home? Because they are presented in a way that "sells" to us. We can do the same thing inside of our houses by the way we arrange things, by their color, by the scents, and the shapes. ( I particularly like ovals, because it gives a relief from squares and rectangles, in pictures, tables, dishes and mirrors. I find it softens the look of a wall and gives the home a friendly feeling.)

If a woman's "Place" is not in the home, then whose place is it? Is there a danger of having this wonderful arena for teaching, creativity and building family bonding, removed from us and being replaced by agencies outside of the family? My feeling is that the more you care for your home,
the more you win the war that is being waged against the home and the family. Your example alone is a great encouragement to many lost young women who don't understand the potential of the house and the family.

History books in the U.S. used to applaud 17th century Holland, because, although it was a tiny country, it was made to look spacious by the neatness and cleanliness, which was attended to in large part by the women who stayed home to manage the house. They swept the areas of the streets just in front of their own houses. Their motto was "cleanliness is next to godliness." Now, we know that is not in the Bible, but it was simply their national way of glorifying God and honoring the home.

The Pilgrims that came to America, first went to Holland and stayed a few years while their ship was being built. As a result, they adopted some of the customs of that country, including the famous saying, which they passed on to the generations that they would produce in America. This national hertitage of Holland is now only viewed in history books, as so many women today seek full time careers and barely have time to keep house. One man who visited Holland recently said, "I don't even know if they remember that phrase used to be a source of pride to them."

The culture of the home can be restored even if just one woman took up the challenge to be responsible for making it a healthy and safe environment for all those who enter. She should think "what would this house be like if I were entering for the first time?" and work towards making it pleasant. This might include cleaning, removing items that do not belong, and placing a vase of flowers in the foyer. Think of the way that a beautiful hotel "greets" you. It is competing with many other establishments for your business. Upon entering, the guests have to be impressed with the scents, sounds, sights and over-all "feeling" that envelopes them,

If such feelings can calm, refresh, or inspire us, then all the more essential to develop it in the home that you will spend so many days in. Make it the best. Make it better than any place you've ever seen. Make it work in such a way that you don't want to go "somewhere else" to get away from it all. Make it a place of order, beauty and relaxation. Home-keeping and home making is so vast that volumes could be written on the subject, as well as four year classes presented in Universities. The best training, of course, is growing up in a functioning home, but, failing that, there are many ways to learn. Just observe what you like in various homes and adopt them for your own.

The housewife is not only completely harmless to society, she is a great asset to its function. If it weren't for her, many businesses would close down. The homemaker is the one who determines what household items will be purchased. She has more power than she thinks, in the market place. It is her buying power that determines whether many products will thrive. What possible harm can come from a housewife's diligent attention to the home? Many women have discovered that it is such an important job, requiring apt attention, that they cannot afford to work outside the home because it divides their attention from the important matters at home.
Happy Homemaking.

Happy homemaking.


Ladyfromthewoods said...

It can be harmful when we as homemakers feel as though we are under attack by those with different views and feel the need to defend ourselves. I have learned to "agree to disagree" with my friends and family who do not place as much emphasis on homemaking as I do, but refuse to debate endlessly with them. Instead, I have learned (the hard way) that to endlessly defend my family's position on my duty as homekeeper and mother as a full-time job only distracts me from my work and takes precious moments away from it.

If others continue to berate me and homemaking as a career that is valuable, I just let them rage on. I choose to turn away and finish the dishes and bake some bread and surround my family with love and laughter. They will not tear us down if we do not let them distract us from our mission in life.

I pray often for those people who have so little of importance in thier own lives that they have few things better to do than to rip away at the good things that others have. It is a sad existance to be sure. I used to be one of them myself. How much happier I became when I quit trying to point out what I perceived as faults in others lives and focused instead on what was missing in my own.

Homekeeping is not only fulfilling to me but also gives inumberable benefits to my husband, my children, to our friends and family who visit, and anyone who comes in contact with us and walks away feeling blessed to be around such calm, happy, loving people. We are not complaining about the boss or the pay or the latest tragedy. We are happy and focusing on the good things in life. Ahhhh, it is a good life here and anyone who trys to convince me otherwise is just a drop of oil in an ocean of blessings.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ladyfromthewoods, Thank you so much for taking the time to leave this comment today. I cannot adequately express what a blessing and encouragement these words were to me. I have printed them out so that I can be reminded of them when I need to be reminded. Thank you again, and God bless you!

Dianne said...

I hope this comment comes in the right spirit as it is intended. While I firmly believe in all you propose about the blessings and benefits of being a full-time homemaker, it saddens me to think that some non-homemakers may feel alienated and attacked for their lifestyle. 1) Some have no clue how wonderful it might be to just fulfill their place as a woman in the home. They have had no examples in their life, for one reason or another. 2) Some (like myself) genuinely desire to just be in the home but do not have the agreement and blessing of their husbands. Some husbands do not understand this concept.

I love to see the benefits extolled, without making the non-homemaker feel bad. I also appreciate hearing things I can do to be a better homemaker, even though I still work full-time. Personally, I do all I can to be the best homemaker I can be while I prayerfully wait for God to work in our lives to open the doors for this to happen and that means a change of heart for my husband. I am nonetheless a homemaker and proud of what I do.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing that. Having just moved out of my family home, I have been thinking a good bit about what makes home, and how much I, as a single woman, can and should make a home for myself and others. Reading this blog encourages me to care about the details of life, cleaning, courtesy, and femininity. Thank you.


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