When I tell people that I am a doctor but I stopped working to stay home with my daughter I get a lot of funny looks. In my conversations on the topic I often hear a phrase that used to irk me a little, though I wasn’t sure why, it went something like,
“That’s great that you are able to be home, that just would not work for me, I have no desire to be a homemaker.”
And I get it, in our world homemaker evokes certain images.
There are those women wearing designer jeans spending the mornings at the gym and the afternoons on the phone, paying their cleaning lady on her way out. Others are barefoot in overalls and pigtails spending the day making granola and composting toilets. And of course there is the soccer mom with her mini-van, day planner and iPhone spending her day on Pinterest and her evenings posting pictures of her kids and her creations.
The stereotypes, at least, aren’t all that appealing.
And of course I recognize that working outside of the home provides necessary income as well as a satisfying experience for many, so don’t get me wrong I have nothing against working outside of the home. In fact, quite the opposite I have great respect for both men and women who leave the house everyday to work and even more respect to those who also manage a a family with young children at the same time.
But the above comment makes me think that somewhere along the way we as culture have lost what it means to be a homemaker and forgotten the essential role that home plays in all of our lives. Let me explain.
. . .
Today I got to a chapter called “Interior design.” Even for me, who loves all things crafty and cutesy, the title was a turn off. I can’t design a room to save my life, I’m no good at it and I don’t enjoy it.
We all live somewhere. A castle, a palace, a mansion hidden by acres of wooded land, a large town house, a suburban home with lovely gardens, a farm house set back from the road among rolling fields, a cottage by a brook, a Swiss chalet in the Alps, a villa above the lake, a modern home of old bridge timbers, rock and glass fitted into cliffs overlooking the sea, a house identical to hundreds of others in a housing area, a tiny house built against other tiny houses with common walls between them- all in a row, or a flat in block of flats, an apartment in a New York skyscraper, a trailer or caravan in a park full of these, a tent in the desert, a hut in the jungle, a bamboo house on stilts above water, a one-room tree house, a room in someone else’s house, a stuffy room at the back of a boarding house, a one room cave in rocks, a thatched roof cottage, a clearing in the woods where you can put your sleeping bag, a hotel for ten days- some kind of spot in the world is the place we each call home, no matter how temporary that place might be.
By the end of the list I was both delighted to think of all of the different homes and wearied by Shaeffer’s persistent style of listing every possibility leaving nothing to the imagination.
But in it Shaeffer helped me work out why the comment I mentioned wasn’t sitting right with me. I realized, we are all homemakers. We all live somewhere, we all have some sort of of home, and we all have a relationship with that place. It shelters us and we care for it.
. . .
There was once a day, at least in America, and probably most of the world where both man and woman made their living from their home and by their home. A man’s work tended to be the work that required more physical strength, because, men are stronger, and the woman’s work tended to be based around caring for children, because women give birth and have breasts. But the survival of the entire family had to do with the functioning of the home and its ability to produce food as well as crafts, services or something useful to the rest of the world. Far from simply being a place to sleep and relax, the home was essential for production and as a gathering place for community.
Today the majority of men and women have left the home to work, yet our homes remain the place where our children are formed and where they first learn to interact with the world. Making our homes the starting place of all culture and society.
Our homes speak of who we are and at the same time shape who we will be.
Whether we are full time homemakers or have a work outside of the home, the place where we live matters and as we care for that place we are homemakers.
If you ask my daughter what we have been doing this week she will tell you,
“We are unpacked. But now we are making our house a home.”
And I think she is right.
Thanks for being here.