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Ode to Feminine Genius: What is This Homemaker Stuff, Anyway?

polish-madonnaWhen we first started hammering out details for this series, I got really excited. Then, I saw the word homemaker used repeatedly. Not really knowing much about the word, I looked up the definition and found:

HOME·MAK·ER
[hohm-mey-ker] noun
1. a person who manages the household of his or her own family,
especially as a principal occupation
2. a person employed to manage a household and do household chores for others,
as for the sick or elderly.
Origin: 1885–90; home + maker

Can be confused: homemaker, housewife (see usage note at housewife).
Usage note 1. See housewife.

HOUSE·WIFE
[hous-wahyf or, usually, huhz-if for 2] noun, plural house·wives [hous-wahyvz]
1. Sometimes Offensive. a married woman who manages her own household,
especially as her principal occupation.
2. British . a sewing box; a small case or box for needles, thread, etc.
verb (used with object), verb (used without object), house·wifed, house·wif·ing.
3. Archaic. to manage with efficiency and economy, as a household.
Origin: 1175–1225; Middle English hus (e) wif. See housewife

WOAH. Back the truck up.

1. Sometimes Offensive . a married woman who manages her own household,
especially as her principal occupation.

My inner feminist nearly flipped her lid.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I never much liked the imagery of being married to my house and I certainly did NOT sign up to be the principal keeper of the house.

WHAT GIVES?!

Recently, and more appropriately, FINALLY, at the young age of {insert garbled words}, I have managed to come to grips with my role in the house and its place within my primary vocation as wife and mother. For many years, though, there was a gap of epic proportions to describe the disconnect between myself and the house. It was always something I dreaded, resented…even hated.

Laundry, meals, grocery shopping, meal planning, repairs, cleaning, more laundry, more groceries, home decorating, maintenance, gardening (seriously?), and overall pride of home.

Yuck. I’d rather just piddle around on the interwebz.

That’s way more fun…plus, I know how to do that.

And do it well.

Most of us were never taught how to manage a home, or taught that it’s ok if you hate it or aren’t good at it. Many of us have been worn down with society’s idea that our self worth is attached to only the work we do outside of the home. And sometimes those images and thoughts come with an undercurrent of you’re not worth anything if you stay at home (or worse, care for the children).

YOU ARE LESS THAN.
YOUR WORK IN THE HOME HAS NO VALUE.
YOU CONTRIBUTE NOTHING TO SOCIETY.
GET A REAL JOB. 

For a number of years, I lived for my kids to be at school. I loved my ME time! They received a good education and I got what I thought was well-earned quiet time. I lived for naps because I still had littles at home who needed naps. I dreaded 2:45 p.m. because with it came the afternoon madness of homework, snacks, craziness, extracurriculars, living out of the vehicle, husband coming home to utter madness and no dinner made. SHEW.

My life was full of self-inflicted chaos.

And worse, I didn’t know it could be any different.

Conversations over the years with other women led me to believe I wasn’t alone in my distaste for taking care of the home. Over time, I found there was a common thread, but couldn’t quite place its origin until one gal and fellow Ink Slinger Misty hit the nail on the head.

She said {paraphrased} that our culture doesn’t nurture or foster home management for girls. As women we are often left in the dark on home management or are supposed to automatically know how to run a home and take care of it, right down to the minutiae. We’re not only supposed to know how to do these things, there is also this impossible standard of both liking it AND doing it well and without complaint. PFT!

Imagine if we trained up our children in ways that helped them to understand how the home works? From researching and shopping better insurance rates, to knowing and learning tips to buying the best tires for your cars, how to delve into a life of frugality by being empowered – truly empowered – to make your own chicken broth, canning tomatoes, making your own laundry detergent, etc., to creating a schedule for cleaning in the home, meal planning, tips for staying productive throughout the day instead of sliding into a rut of the stereotypical watching your “stories” and mindlessly popping bon bons, knowing you will have good days and bad days and the WORST kind of days and that that is ok, we all have them!

What if, instead of telling our children that the world is right and their worth is attached to college degrees, good-paying jobs, climbing the corporate ladder, getting that nice home in the designer jeans neighborhood and buying the latest cars and tech toys, we instead teach and consistently reinforce in them that their worth came attached to their soul the moment they were conceived and that God has indelibly marked us as His and that nothing in this world will ever fill the secular void like His love does?

Now, I’m not saying that having a college degree or any of the other things are bad. What I’m saying is that we rework our perception of what fulfills us, so that even if we have achieved some/all of the above, we are still aligned correctly and rooted firmly in God’s love so that we can use the good from a good-paying job to build up the Kingdom.

All we have, all we work for, all we do is to build up the Kingdom. This is the root of why we should take care in doing everything so as to please the Lord.

Even the home.

The thing I dreaded taking care of because I detested it so much.

::sigh. Ok, Lord, you win. Show me how to do this with less complaining and more glorifying You::

A Handful of Tips That Work for This Gal

1. Pray. Before I get out of bed, I like to spend time in prayer, anything from reading the daily readings, to contemplative prayer, praise and thanksgiving. It helps set the day right when I’ve given God His due.

2. Make your bed. This is one of my top three things that must get done each day for me to feel some level of accomplishment. Yours may be different. Identify what you have to accomplish each day and stick to it. Starting laundry first thing in the morning helps me get the day going in the right direction. Seen here is a small peak at Mt. Washmore.

3. Cleaning schedule. This helps my house run smoothly. About 10 years ago, I decided to give FlyLady a try and after a year or so, I modified her schedule to fit our family. The result is that we have a set laundry schedule {girls on Mondays, me on Tuesdays, boys on Wednesdays, husbie on Thursdays, towels/sheets on Fridays}, set days for certain cleaning tasks that are divided among family members, from bathrooms to bedrooms, vacuuming, mopping and sweeping.

4. Many hands make for light work. Kiddos as young as two can start helping with chores. In my house, I have learned that while yes, I did not marry the house, I am by default simply based on the time I am in the house, that logistically I am in charge of the majority of the home. Thems the breaks. So, it makes sense from a practical and logical standpoint that because I am home, the majority of what goes on in it is left in my charge. That doesn’t mean that I do all the chores, but that I do my part while managing who does what and overseeing, helping, and correcting the chores or projects.

5. Lowered expectations. Your home won’t look like something out of Real Simple unless you don’t do any real living in your home. If you accept that your home will look like people – gasp – live in it most of the time, it will greatly reduce your stress. In our first home I always felt like things needed to be pristine and perfect – something I failed at daily and exacerbated my frustration with the house, the family, myself.

I leave you with a quote by a veteran momma that really hit the nail on the head for me.

“I think it is helpful to look at life as a book with many chapters. Some chapters aren’t very pleasant, some you try to avoid, some you love.

The chapters build on each other; often circumstances occur due to the events of the preceding chapter. Raising young children can be very challenging, especially if you are trying to be supportive to a husband who is starting a career and is frequently absent. (As mine was.)

Try to enjoy this chapter. Often in retrospect, it seemed too short. But the fruits of my labor are succulent! My children are thriving, independent adults, but sometimes I wish they were young again in the early chapters of my marriage. Try to enjoy today, however laborious it may be. With each task, you are creating a childhood they will remember, good or bad.”

::DISCLAIMER: Recognizing that each family, marriage, woman is different, this series is intended to give advice and information based on the writer’s personal experience. These are not intended to say that our way is best and that we know what’s best for your family, but rather the point is to share some things that have worked for us. We welcome your ideas in the comments and/or look forward to seeing your posts that highlight things that work in your home. We’re all in this together!::

Reprinted with permission from Catholic Sistas.


Martina is a 30-something stay-at-home mom to six kiddos, 4/96 through 6/12. She recently decided to homeschool after many years in public school. In her "spare time," she serves as the chair for the Pastoral Council at her home parish and helps with their Adult Faith Formation program, from the planning committee to facilitating and mentoring incoming facilitators. She also enjoy photography as a hobby. She enjoys talking about all things Catholic and always looks to infuse a little bit of humor whenever possible.
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  • Shelby

    Good article. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “Get a real job’ during the years I was raising my daughter. And since I only had one kid, the ridicule was even worse since…..I dunno. One kid somehow means she didn’t deserve to have a stay at home Mom? Anyway, my child is all grown up and out on her own. Now what I run into is, “Since you have no child at home, why are you not out there grabbing at a job??!” True, we could use the money– but here’s the thing: the things I used to do as a housewife (the term does not offend me) and the needs of the community are still there, child or not. The gist of what I hear is that while it is grudgingly excusable to be a homemaker (term does not offend me) when one has kids, it is absolutely inexcusable to be one once the children are grown. “This is YOUR time to grow as a human being, to explore your strengths and talents, to FINALLY join the world!” well-meaning and not so well-meaning people tell me. Really? I was not doing those things before? And I’m not doing them now? I don’t need to ‘get a life.’ I already had one– a good one. The only thing that has changed is that I do have more free time to do the things I always did, i.e.: volunteer with elderly, take sick neighbors food, spend more time reading about Saints, the Church, and more time to go to Confession. Having a child was not my ‘excuse’ to withdraw from the world. Having a child allowed me to BE involved with the important things of the world– and I have no plans to change this course. Again, this was a great article. Thank you.

  • CDville

    Last spring I mentioned to some friends that I feel so much pressure to find a full time job when my youngest launches in a couple of years. They all gasped and said no, they need me to be flexible and available. There are really very few of us to do the volunteer work and to help our friends (who often would rather not be employed) when they need help.