honk if you’re a homemaker

um…i’m a (insert wince) homemaker.  this would be my response to people our first two years or so of marriage when people asked what i “did,” though i would always try to slip in that i was writing on the side.  and i think i’m kidding myself if i even said i was a homemaker more than once or twice.  but i was.  and i am.  i would even hesitate, in the privacy of my home, before i checked the “homemaker” occupation box on various applications and surveys.  but i must say it got easier to say/admit once it was obvious i was pregnant with elisha.  i mean come on, i was with child and it is one of the few times in life that our culture seems to fully embrace what is involved with homemaking.  there are even quaint terms like “nesting” to describe this period.  while pregnant i would explain to someone who asked what i did on a particular day that i cleaned, organized, cooked, etc., and they would say, “oh, how sweet, you’re nesting!”  not so much.  i was keeping house.  and on most days truly enjoyed it.  i’m currently rereading keeping house:  the litany of every day life by margaret kim peterson and i highly recommend it.  a good friend alerted me to the book and i can’t thank her enough.  i wish i was able to read it my first year of marriage.  it’s a theological and cultural exploration of homemaking.  the last paragraph in the preface sums it up well:

“keeping house can be a very mundane activity.  it is certainly repetitive, and the kinds of work that it involves are varied enough that few people enjoy all of them equally.  but at the very same time, housekeeping is about practicing sacred disciplines and creating sacred space, for the sake of christ as we encounter him in our fellow household members and in neighbors, strangers, and guests.”   

i could quote the whole book for you, but i’ll refrain.  i trust you’ll read it.  men and women.  my mom enjoyed it, too, but she thinks peterson romanticizes hand-washing dishes 🙂  it is very affirming, especially to those of us who aren’t always comfortable explaining to people what we “do” as homemakers.  or to those of us who wonder about the value of what we do from day to day.  so yes, i am proud to check that “homemaker” box–boldly, in fact. 

mop.jpg

a key aspect of homemaking is delegating.  elisha understands this well and is excellent at mopping up various pigs and dogs that litter our floor. 

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4 thoughts on “honk if you’re a homemaker

  1. Good words. I also didn’t have a job when first married and had a hard time describing what I “did” – who does that anymore? Not many. Sadly I’m not that great of a housekeeper too, so saying I’m a homemaker is perhaps not the best term for me, but I do stay home and take care of my family… and try to keep house too. 🙂

  2. Can you believe that after 16+ years, I still have a hard time saying that I’m a homemaker? I’m sure part of it has to do with the cluttered – and, dare I say, sometimes filthy – state of my home. I don’t think some occupations are that easily defined, especialy when you add in the countless other resposibilities that are thrown in as children and their different “stages” are thrown into the mix. I just think of each segment as part of my call to live life to the fullest. What a great job!

  3. At the risk of totally missing the mark, I’ll post a response. I say missing the mark because I haven’t read the book on homemaking and we all know how annoying it is when a person doesn’t get the framework or terms of the conversation but chimes in anyway.

    That said, here goes. I’m *not* a homemaker, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. I have little or no vested interest in the place where I live or with the people with whom I live. I do not legally own or even rent the place where my mail is delivered. I cannot call the people with whom I live “mine” (my husband, my kids, etc). I am a single, 37-year-old female who moved “home” to live with her dying father and grieving mother. My father has passed now and I continue to live with Mom and with three other house-mates, a family of three whom also lost a loved one this year and who resultantly needed a place to call their home). To help my sister out (and as it turns out to help myself out) I spend a great deal (her husband would say an inordinate amount) of time with her kids. And I even “baby si”t her lab puppy every day while she goes to work. But I do this where I live, which is to say, “at Grandma’s house.”

    So by most standards I have little to add to a conversation about home-making (again, forgive me if my usage of the word clashes with that of the book/topic)? The home I help make is not my own, nor are the people I nurture there mine. But wait. I love making the house I live in feel like a home. I love inviting others in, taking time to nurture those who walk through the door. I enjoy making my living space a welcoming “haven” for friends and strangers alike. Although it is more straight forward, and yes more respectable in our culture to say, “I’m single, working on my second masters, working two well-paying p/t jobs and starting my family’s dream business,” I must make a scandalous confession: I sometimes yearn to say, “I am a home-maker.” Or “I stay at home and raise OUR kids.” Those tasks/titles would justify my existence to many inquirers. Rather than explain “who I am” by noting that I work at my church and I am trying to finish a masters, while also starting a business, I could say I am a wife and mother and leave it at that (even if I did engage in those other activities). Maybe this has to do with where I live (a conservative, somewhat suburban-rural thriving town, comprised mostly of young families and retired persons). I doubt that if I lived in Manhattan or even Miami I would feel the same.

    I know the grass is greener, no matter what neighborhood we call home. Didn’t Pascal say it’s part of the human condition to imagine a better world or at least a different life for oneself? Yes, but sometimes I wish I could wear a label that would describe what I really invest in (people) and put words to my deepest loves, sacrifices and commitments (people), one that would describe my deepest joy (people). Sure, “youth pastor” or even “caterer/chef” can sort of convey one’s love for life and people, but they don’t pack the punch of “wife,” “mother,” ande even “homemaker.” And let me tell you, one of my other prominent labels, “single, 37-year-old virginal auntie” is practically a label of shame these days, rather than one of respect.

    Let’s face it. Life in the modern world is full of ironies, injustices and reductions. I am the least likely girl the crowd would consider a home-maker, or even a woman who would want to be considered thus. Only the people who really know me understand that the jobs and the education are valuable, but if there are no people to nurture, not home to make, there’s little meaning. I know. It’s easy for me to say I’d love to be considered a homemaker because I’m not labeled one. I’ve had tons of other monikers slapped on me, but the offensive and ridiculing “just a homemaker” isn’t one of them. As a result, I don’t find myself struggling to come up with “justifications” for how I spent my day today, what I “accomplished” with my work. But I do finding myself wanting to put down roots somewhere and with particular someones (even a particular some-one) and I do find myself with an incredible amount of creative energy to put toward the place where I live and an almost staggering amount of “maternal” love for sisters’ children (and dog!).

    Our culture tends to slap labels on every person, doling out misunderstanding and injustice for all in equal if different measure. As a people, we tend to completely miss the value of any work or endeavor that cannot be quantified in dollars and cents. Maybe that’s the larger point? We all wear labels that either don’t fit or rub us the wrong way sometimes. Put another way, none of us has a title that sums up all we are, or it seems, even the most important part/s of us. That’s true for single “career” women who are and would-be homemakers, and it is also true of homemakers who are proud to be homemakers but are far from “just” anything or anyone.

    Maybe it’s just good for all of us to turn our respective labels over and really look at the fabric the cloth is cut out of.

    Very Happy New Year,

    Kelli

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