Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Woman as Guide of the Home

The Bible speaks specifically of a woman as the guide, or guard of the home. Many people misunderstand this to mean that the women have to do all the work at home, but this is not true. If it were so, she would be worn out before she even got started in the care of the home.

In being the guide of the home, she is like the Chief Information Officer. She may not put everything away, but she knows where it should go, and will assign the task to someone in the family. She may not wash the dishes all the time, but she knows how it is to be done, and will guide others into helping her.

She may not take out the trash, but she will inform others of the need of doing it. She may not answer the phone all the time, but her family knows she wants a record kept of them. She may not do all the cooking, but she has a general plan for the meals. She may know where every thing is, even if it has yet to be put away.

As CIO she always knows where people's shoes, phones, wallets and keys are, even if she does not take care of them or put them away, herself. She is the keeper and guide of the home, not the industrial worker, keeping a time card. She is there to find ways to make the home run smoothly and function at its best for the development of the family, not just as a janitor.

Members of the family should never get the idea that just because the woman is at home she should do all the work. That is not what she is there for. The work has to be done, it is true, and there are some things that only she can do. For example, I have a few rooms that I cannot employ anyone else to do because the items require my personal evaluation before putting them away or discarding them.

The homemaker's job is to guide the home and see that the things are accomplished so that the members of the family can function. It is not her job to pick up after everyone or wait hand and foot on everyone. Generally her energies should be reserved for those who are more helpless, such as babies and toddlers and those who are not well or physically able. The family is not there to be catered to constantly by the homemaker, but rather to aid her in fulfilling her noble purpose of guiding the home.

In helping her fulfill her role in guiding the home, it is important that the other members of the family, including husbands and sons, not create more burdens upon her. At work, they would would not be allowed to leave piles of personal posessions around in other people's work space, and so at home, their consciences should be stricken if they create more work for the keeper of the home. If they are not bed-ridden or severely handicapped, they can do something to aid her in her goal of guiding the home. They should be aware of her likes and dislikes. They should care about how she feels about the home.

Remember, that being a keeper of the home does not mean that she spoil everyone to the point that they become helpless, and create more distress for her and more messes around the house. Some homemakers can be stretched to the point that instead of enjoying their beautiful homes, they would rather be somewhere else, just because the members of the family are so inconsiderate that they expect her to do things that they physcially can do for themselves. They should not create unnecessary work for her.

Sometimes husbands and grown children get the idea that because they are out working somewhere else, bringing in a paycheck, that it constitutes a right to slack off and be pigs at home. In claiming to be completely relaxed, they drip food all over the house, leave their plates and cups wherever they last sat, and strew the newspaper all over the floor. They leave these messes just waiting for the homemaker to "do her job" and pick them all up. This is a completely ignorant misunderstanding of the work "guide" and "Keeper" of the home.

If a man wants to be the king-of-his-castle, he needs to help the keeper of the castle in her job, and not turn it into a slum. If a man wants to be proud of the home and the family and look at it as his own accomplishement as well as his wife's, he needs to be considerate. This does not mean he has to take his turn doing dishes. It does not mean he will be in charge of the laundry, the vacumming, the bed-making, or cleaning the toilet. It does not mean that the husband has to make his side of the bed when he gets up, or that he has to clean out his closet. What is means is that, in view of the fact that the women in the family will be doing the laundry, he doesn't make it more difficult for them by leaving his own laundry all over the place for them to hunt down and pick up. Bad habits such as leaving things out, will not be tolerated in the work place, so why should irresponsiblity reign so much at home? Asking everyone to be courteous of the homemaker does not mean the household will be ruled mechanically with an iron fist. It just means that the other members of the family love her enough to help her.

The working son or daughter who has spent the day away from home, knowing the burdens of washing the dishes, will be considerate and not use all the glasses in the shelf, and then, when it appears there are no more, go to the china cabinet and get out the better ones and use them all up. They will find innovative ways of diminishing the work load. The best way to be conscious of this, is to pretend they are a guest in someone else's house, or that they are in someone else's place of work.

For example, instead of getting out a drink and leaving the container on the surface in the kitchen, they will dispose of it themselves. Maybe they will scrape their own plate instead of leaving it all for the one who is cleaning up the dishes. Maybe they will put away the peanut butter jar instead of leaving it out after they have made a sandwich. They will rinse the sink after using it in the bathroom, so as not to disgust others who happen by afterwards, and not to spread bacteria. They will toss out their paper cup after brushing their teeth, rather than leaving it out. They will be conscious of the burden they are creating for the keeper of the home.

I married a man who for some reason liked to have a pen in every room, and a pen on every shelf, every surface, every table, every where. I could not figure this out for awhile, because I owned one pen, and I always knew where it was. I was from a large, poor family, and we did not have a lot of things. I had a pen that had a little lever on it that allowed it to drink up ink from a bottle. It was kept in a top drawer of a desk and it was never lent out. In those days (time changes so rapidly, "those days" were not so long ago), pens were personal because the way an owner wrote with them could wear down the nib in a distinctive way. Others would not be able to write as well with them.

My husband was from a family of only two children, and I was from a family of 9 people. Therefore when they got a package of pens, it mean they could all have several of them. He put them all over the house so he would not have to look for one when he needed it, and that is why I kept finding pens all over the house. Add to this the papers that usually went with them, the wooden toothpicks, the tie tacks, his favorite mints in cellophane, the mail, and a dozen other little "things," and my housekeeping was driving me crazy.

I finally put it all in a big sturdy basket and showed him where it was. From now on, everything would go in a wood box or that big brown basket. As I mentioned before, he only wanted me to be happy and would have been very sorrowful if he knew I was distressed about anything, so he happily complied to this. He now knows where to go to find his pens. I still have my one pen in the desk. (I think part of the problem was that there was a time you could only buy one pen, and it was quite costly. Now, you can buy them cheaper by the dozen in huge cellophane bags and they end up all over the house.)

Another thing I did was to show him the list of things I had to do: the ironing, the washing, shampooing the carpet, sorting the laundry, making beds, etc. I also showed him some of my favorite books of houses and house plans and interiors, and told him what I was trying to achieve, and how my mind rested so much better without too much clutter. In these pictures you rarely see a stinky old pair of tennis shoes and dirty socks in the middle of a room for someone to trip over.

While out on a shopping trip, we ducked into a nice shop that sold things for the home. He enjoyed going in there so much that it became customary for us to shop there. I pointed out that one of the reasons it was so pleasant to go there is because there was no unnecessary clutter that would spoil the atmosphere or the view. Our grown sons and daughters could use these lessons to help them understand how order in the home contributes to a feeling of well-being and calmness.

Students particularly are fond of coming into the home, slamming the door, dropping bags, going to the kitchen, eating, leaving a mess, dropping their clothes in a corner in their room, or even on the bed, and for weeks and weeks they live like this, while their mothers become more stretched out with their time and their nerves. The homemaker is the keeper and the guide of the home, and that does not mean she is just there to work.

We all have yard clutter, too, and paintings like this are good teachers for the family, as they can appreciate the serenity of the house. Yard tools and such can be housed properly, and people do not need to create more stress for the homemaker by expecting her to put them away.

In the end, the place we love the most will be the home, but the homemaker is not the only one responsible for its atmosphere. Other members have to be responsible to make it run smoothly. Remember, she probably does not get a paycheck and is trying to make a profit by doing most things herself. She doing this out of the goodness of her heart and the conviction that she is in charge of it.

To summarize and as a reminder of the main point: The woman is the guide of the home. She may not do all the work but she is responsible to see that someone does it and that somehow it gets done. The members of the family are responsible to help her achieve her goals of completion of tasks, cleanliness, orderliness, and beautifying. In doing so, they stand to benefit enormously. If they create more problems and stress for her, they will suffer from personal confusion and stress themselves.

Additonal comments: It is also a good idea to prepare the family to get along on their own, so that the woman, in a sense, works herself out of a job, or at least part of it. That way, when she is older, she is not still doing the same things, especially those things that require more hard labor.

She ought to, as she gets older, have trained the family well enough that she can put up her feet and read something, or do some needlework, while other members prepare dinner or do the washing up afterwards.

Unfortunately, the trend of our time is all too much the opposite. Instead of becoming more independent and taking care of themselves (not to be confused with the Biblical concept of inter-dependent), the husband and children retreat more into baby hood. This is partly the woman's fault if she spoils them.

There is nothing wrong with waiting on your husband or children if you want to, and if it gives you joy, but they should not demand it and they should know you are a human being with only two legs and two hands and do what they can to eliminate the burden of jobs in the home, especially if they are creating a lot of the mess.

When I was a teenager we were invited after church to visit a preacher's family. They had four daughters, all teenaged. When we got there we were rather taken aback at their attitude. Their mother asked them to help, and to wash some dishes that had been left, but they would not do it. She ended up serving us all by herself. Their kitchen was always piled high with dirty dishes and yet they had four able bodied girls.

I would have understood it more if the family had busy boys who were working or were not too adept at dish washing, or house keeping, but with four able-bodied girls, I felt ashamed for the mother and for them. They were not cooperating with their mother in preparing the meal and not helping at all with the washing up. I never understood it and was at the time quite apalled. I was only 16 at the time and would never have talked back to my mother the way they did theirs.

Little did I know that this was going to become a trend amongs modern families. It was like sliding downhill with no way to go back. Over time, more and more families operated this way.

The mother of this girl eventually got sick and died. I think the family should be prepared to take over the house if the mother does get sick.

I'm sure most women get headaches and have down days, and it seems to me they could recover more easily if the house was kept up and if they didn't have to wake up from illness to face a mountain of laundry, dishes, clutter, and unnecessary work--work that was caused because people didn't put away anything or becaue of the trash people left around.

I cannot help wondering if some of this downhill slide in homemaking has something to do with the great amount of institutional living that goes on. Whereas school children once had to help sweep the floors and clean the chalk board, now they merely study while janitors take care of it.

When home, they may think that it is the woman's "job" to do all this--including sweeping out the garage and growing a garden for food...and then heap more burdens on her by their careless habits. Jesus chastised the Jewish leaders for the burdens they put on people, saying that they would not lift a finger to ease their burdens, but put more burdens on them.

The woman at home is such a precious and unique thing in our society it would seem that men and children and the relatives would do what they could to make her temperament good by cleaning up after themselves and doing what extra they can, also. She can be a better companion to them, and she can be an encourager, if she isn't worn out. I remember my mother was always a listener and an encourager, but she made us kids do all the work!


Anonymous said...

I have the first one. It looks so beautiful hanging on my wall.

Lynda said...

I love the paintings you post on here. They are inspirational and make you think what they might have been doing in there time. I posted a link to a website that I frequent about housewives. Come by and check it out.

Sweet Necessi-Teas said...

I love the old-fashioned paintings. They seem so peaceful... Just wanted to let you know that I always enjoy reading your thoughts and comments (just read the excellent post on fighting depression. Keep up the good work!

Mrs. Anna T said...

Dear Lady Lydia,

You made an excellent point here. A keeper of the home is not a drudge or slave. She does important work that is to be respected. If someone leaves a trail of mess wherever they go, it plain and simple means they have no respect towards the homemaker!

Mrs. H said...

What a great explanation! I always tell my friends and family that as a stay-at-home mom, I do feel it is my responsibility to "clean," it is not my responsibility to "clean up after."

Lady of the house said...

Lovely post!

Anneatheart said...

I loved this post! It 'validates' the homemaker even more. Thank you.

Lady Eleanor said...

You've pointed this topic out so eloquently. I do believe you've taken such feelings right out of many homemakers minds and hearts including mine.

I would highly appreciate a little advice. I would like to print this post and have my husband and son read it to understand this point of view. I don't have a major problem with them not helping me out by any means. I mean sure, there are those times when they may make things more difficult for me but not too many thankfully.

The reason I'd like for them to read it is so that they may become more conscious of making the effort to not make things more complicated for me.

In your opinion, do you think that if I gave them this to read, would it be to rash of me? Would it seem too pushy of me? I sure don't mean to direct this in a negative way to them, just open their eyes and hearts a little to this topic. You have written it in such a direct light but at the same time conveys family unity.

Lydia said...

In being the guide of the home, the pictures tell the rest of the story! She is also there to show her love and appreciation of life's beautiful activities, such as playing the piano or going for walks, and the quiet times of reading and writing letters, devotion, etc. If she is saddled down with hard work all the time because of the carelessness of the rest of the family, she cannot even spare the time she will need to get herself dressed, much less make a dress on the sewing machine. The family needs to understand that she is requiring no pay check, but her payment is in time and in the privilege of being able to pursue interests of her own. They will understand also that to give her this time will require that they pick up after themselves and take care of themselves as much as they possibly can. It costs them nothing to give this to her as a daily gift. It is such an easy thing to give. Many people find it easier to buy something than to really do the things that please the woman in the home. Giving courtesy is not a great sacrifice and will go a long way toward family harmony. It builds up the woman and keeps her from aging too fast!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this well thought out article. It's something that has to be read out-- loud to young people in the home ,and even husbands have to read it to have understanding concerning the limits of a mom in the home.

You have a gifted way of explaining home life as it should be. I sure do appreciate you.
from the Elizabethian Tea,Elizabeth

Cara said...

Thank you so much for explaining this concept in such a gentle and understanding manner. I get overwhelmed by the amount of "extra" work that is created by my dear ones, and I never quite know how to go about explaining why it shouldn't be that way. This is perfect.

Lydia said...

In approaching family members, including husbands, I think it is well to remember that they are human beings and they are strong. They are not going to implode or have a melt down if they are asked to help you out by not cluttering or leaving messes. You might say that you are feeling too stressed out to make meals or get things done on time, and they could help you out by taking care of themselves and being more conscious of the messes they create. You might tell them you have to be on your feet most of the day and that it is one more thing you will have to do if they make you clean up after them. Also, they need to have a sense of the feelings of others and the effect they have on others. It always makes me smile to think how frightened we are of telling them what we want, thinking they are going to get offended, but they can listen to the worst talk show radio programs with the most awful screams and the most offensive topics; they can watch a ball game where people get knocked down and blood is everywhere; they can read a headline that shows some criticism of this or that, and they can listen to friends talk negatively about any subject, and they do not fall apart. Some of them can even go into a haunted house at Halloween and not get offended. Some of them can listen to the world's music and the most outrageous news reports and advertisements and it does not discourage them in the least. So, when we ask them to help us succeed in our lives so that we can better serve them and help them succeed in their lives, we should not worry that they are going to get all unglued and go on a pout. They've faced worst things. You can do it by showing them it is an opportunity to shine better in your eyes and a chance to lift you up and in the process, get great feedback from you. If they run you down and make life hard for you, you can't give them the encouragement they need. You can't make them proud of the home and you can't be available to take them things they forget. Just today my daughter got a call from her husband to please go buy him some work gloves. If her housekeeping got too overwhelming due to his carelessness and thoughtlessness, she would not be able to pick up and go when needed.

Lydia said...

Another thing that really is effective is to trade. When someone comes to you with a shirt that needs ironing, or wants you to fix something to eat, all you have to do is say, "I will do that if you will pick up your socks and shoes and get them out of the way so we won't trip on them." or "I'll be happy to find the bandaids for you and even get you one, if you would please take the newspaper out of the living room and put it in the bin," or "Sure, I'll make you a sandwich. While I am doing that, maybe you could please take the laundry from your side of the bed and put it in the laundry room for me, so I can get your shirts clean by tomorrow."

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this article. I spent 3 weeks flat on my back this summer due to a pinched nerve and back problems. My physician told me this was the result of years of overwork in my home and yard. I was busy trying to do everything for a family of four with very little help (the 3 males in my family felt that anything to do with the house was "my job" and they didn't need to pick up after themselves, take out the trash, or even assist with the yard work). I allowed this to happen--I was so busy trying to prove that I was a hardworking,worthwhile person even though I only have a part-time job and am "just a homemaker." This experience was an eye opener for all of us. I now expect my sons to contribute to our work at home, pick up after themselves, and keep their rooms tidy. I have also turned the heavy outside work over to my husband--I explained that I cannot do all the housework and do heavy yard work as well if I want to keep my health. I also told him I would cheerfully adjust our family budget if he chose not to do the work himself, but hire it done instead. He said he would do it, but six weeks have passed and the grass is very tall, the bushes are shaggy, and the yard is full of weeds. I will give him another two weeks, and then will adjust my grocery budget and hire a yardman. I was feeling guilty about "shirking" but no more!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful article, Lady Lydia, and a topic that is all too often misunderstood in the promulgation of the "superwoman" myth, whether the woman in question works outside or inside the home.

Your article brought to mind a thought - that women who guide their homes in this manner are giving an enormous gift to their husbands and children when they expect and encourage them to look after themselves in the way described. There are so many young people these days who have never done a thing for themselves! It is not a kindness for a wife and mother to wait on family members hand and foot, to the point where children never develop tidy habits or a sense of being part of the making of a home. I encounter many young adults who have never learned to keep up their surroundings, and they are mired down with the clutter and filth that they leave everywhere, simply because their mothers, thinking that it was their duty to make slaves of themselves, had always done everything for them. A twenty-one year old who has no idea how to do laundry or maintain a decent kitchen is a sad sight indeed, and indicative of a failing, however well meant, on the part of the mother.

Acting as a guide of the home rather than a slave in the home reaps benefits that extend far beyond the home itself, as well-prepared young adults eventually make their own homes and have the proper training to make them places of light and comfort.

Anonymous said...

This article came just in time for me. I do have my children helping with chores but I some times feel as though "it is all on me." We are about to go through an adjustsment, and this is just the attitude booster I needed to help me plan.


PS:Lady Lydia, I have a question on the BW bulletin board. Perhaps you has some advice on the subject.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for another wonderful article. I often write this to you, but all of your essays would make a wonderful book!

Lydia said...

I have written a book, "Just Breathing the Air." I know you would be lifted up by it and you would not be sorry to have it in your home.

Lydia said...

My Dad did not do housework but he also was very considerate. He did the outdoor work and he also put away his tools and papers and was polite about his clothes-they were always hung up and not in piles on the floor.

Anonymous said...

I think you make some really good points in this post. You have inspired me to encourage my own children to be more independently helpful around our home. Thank you.

The Proverbs Wife said...

Dear, Lady Lydia

You have gleaned much wisdom in your lifetime. I am always filled with joy when I read your blog. I teach my children from an early age to begin learning how to run the home. I often remind them that I am not simply trying to burden them with responsibilities, but to prepare them for life without me. Whether it be from me being called home to the Lord or them marrying and leaving our home. Part of my job as a mother is to equip both my sons and daughters how to care for a home. This training requires patience at first but offers great rewards. Rewards such as the smile on my thirteen year olds face when she prepared her fist meal and recieved rave reviews. Lady Lydia, I could go on for days about the rewards but I'll end here. Thanks for all if the wisdom that you share.

wendybirde said...

Hi Lady Lydia,

Even though this is an older post i find myself drifting back to it. The dangers of burnout and such spoken of here, this to me is part of the danger of viewing things as "equal" like we do---even those who support a woman being home based tend to phrase things as "well, a man has his work outside the home and a woman inside the home". And while in a way that's true, it still misses a bigger point: i think a woman is NOT meant to simply shoulder the same work load as a man, be it inside or outside the home, we are not built for that physically or spiritually. There should still be a PROTECTIVE instinct towards the woman (girls as well!), even when she is at home...A man (or boy) seeing a woman (or girl) is stressed and stepping in to help or make things easier somehow is naturally honoring that protective instinct. And his standing by and letting her shoulder more than she can handle well is ignoring that protective instinct, that protective instinct which is so critical.

It was that very instinct that seems was also missing in Adam in the garden as Satan approached Eve. I think this stuff is an OLD wound we still carry in our dynamics with each other, and its no wonder it presses so many buttons. Healing here truly does begin at home...