Monday, January 31, 2011

Homemaking Part 1

The first of a  series of posts on what it means to be a homemaker.
Please check for more Homemaking posts in the coming weeks.

I started to think about the meaning of homemaking when my mother mentioned the other day that she misses it.  She lives alone in a beautifully decorated 3-bedroom apartment (worth mentioning, since I live with 5 other people in a 2-bedroom bungalow).  She misses making nice meals and meeting people at the front door and taking care of a home in a way that makes it pleasant for other people to live in.  She doesn't miss housework.  She misses the often-ignored work that we do that makes other people feel comfortable.

In the 80s elementary schools stopped teaching Home Economics and started calling it Family Studies.  I don't think the subject matter changed much. For the two years that I was in Family Studies I made a few recipes, sewed some curtains, learned about kitchen safety and did a project to create a floor plan for a nursery.  We certainly didn't study the economics of running a household, nor did we study how to create and be part of a fabulous family.  We didn't even study what I would consider for adolescents and teenagers to be the most important aspect of family studies:  birth control!

Frankly, I think it's impossible for schools to teach homemaking.  Homemaking is about making the home a place where people want to be.  It's not about having throw cushions that coordinate with the couch and curtains--although that can be part of it.  It's not about washing floors and windows--although you might have to do that.  It's not about having a bedtime routine or planning your meals a month in advance--although some people find that helpful.

My paternal grandmother was a homemaker of the Home Economist variety.  She was a mother of 8, a Dutch immigrant farmer's wife, who brought her family to Canada after World War II.  She dried apples, made currents into syrup, knit socks for every member of the family and got them all to church every Sunday morning.  She stretched every dollar and nothing ever went to waste.  The family never went hungry and the kids were never cold.  But her children don't remember her as being warm, comforting and patient.  She was devoted, diligent, strong and smart.  Her home was clean and everything was in its place and she welcomed her grandchildren with homemade fudge, but I don't remember ever having any fun at Grandma's house. 

My mother was a next-generation-homemaker/home economist.  She blanched peas and beans to put in the freezer.  She made applesauce.  She sewed our clothes when we were little and she crocheted afghans when we went to university.  Our clothes were stylish as well as practical and our home was decorated with taste and comfort.  Christmases were elaborate with food, decorations and presents.  We did not live a life of total austerity.  We were nurtured as well as nourished.

My mom has occasionally described me as a homemaker, but until recently I never thought of myself that way.  I thought that it was a pretty old-fashioned term.  But I'm coming around to accepting it.  Being a homemaker carries a certain amount of moxy.  It's something I can do with style. I've called myself a stay-at-home-mom and I have said that I'm not a very good housekeeper, but being a homemaker is a lot bigger than being a good housekeeper.  Saying that I'm a stay-at-home-mom simply describes where I am all day.  Saying that I'm a homemaker explains what I do all day. It's about purpose.

My grandmother's purpose in homemaking was all about frugality.  My mother's purpose was more about getting the details right.  That's my mom:  she knows how to do things right.

What's my purpose in homemaking?  I think it's to keep things simple so that we can live freedom and joyThat's why I say I'm not a good housekeeper;  I like to keep it simple and I don't like to follow a lot of routines and schedules.  Our day are free to do whatever we want.  Whatever brings us joy.

So maybe I am a homemaker.  And I'm lovin' it.

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