Monday, August 11, 2008

Happiness is Homemaking

While going through some books the other day, I came across a tiny book that made me smile. It took me back to the days when I was “just a homemaker.”

Happiness is Homemaking is the title of a small paperback book with a lime green cover written by Ella May Miller, published in 1974. Thirty-two years ago, when I got married, my mom’s best friend insisted I have a copy of the book that had inspired her and my mom on their homemaking and mothering journey. I read the tiny book with delight over and over again. It became my mentor when I was a young military wife living almost 2,500 miles from home. I was passionate about keeping house and being a stay-at-home mother, and often turned to the little book for ideas and inspiration. The tattered pages and wrinkled cover bear witness to the fact that it was well used.

We moved 13 times in 14 years, and I still remember each humble little apartment, trailer, and house where we lived. Even in the process of moving, with our belongings tucked away in cardboard boxes in our used Ford Pinto, I would tell others that we still had a home, but we just needed a place to put it. Each move was a new adventure, and I couldn’t wait to get settled in and make our house a home. I happily decorated our humble little abodes with simple items, many of them handmade. Cross-stitched samplers adorned every room, lovingly created during quiet afternoons while babies napped. Crocheted blankets brightened up worn second-hand furniture. A kitchen table centerpiece of fresh flowers handpicked by tiny fingers, and treasures found at yard sales or flea markets provided a homey feeling to our rather humble surroundings. I recall the satisfaction of setting the table for our evening meal with the dishes I had collected in my hope chest since I was a young girl. I enjoyed preparing new recipes that I found on the food splattered pages of old cookbooks and women’s magazines handed down from my mother and grandmothers. We savored many comforting soups, stews, and casseroles on our meager grocery budget. Evenings were spent curled up on the couch reading many of the same books over and over again at the request of eager toddlers.

I won’t dismiss the fact that those years were difficult and hard, and raising children and staying home is not without its share of struggles. I can with all honesty say it is the most satisfying thing I have ever accomplished, and I would not trade it for the highest paying career or position in the working world. Being a stay-at-home mom and homemaker is tough, but it’s worth every drop of sweat and hard work that goes into it.

I look back with fondness to that time; a season when I didn’t question what I was to be doing with my life. I never wondered if I should pursue a career. Never worried whether or not I was where I was meant to be. I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt I was to be a wife, mother, and homemaker. I took great pride and pleasure in my homemaking and felt a contentment and peace unmatched since that time. I believe I felt that way because I was doing what God had called me to do; I had accepted the high calling of motherhood and homemaking with joy.

Now my children are grown, and I question my role daily. While it’s true that my children no longer need me like they did when they were small, I wonder if I’m where God would have me to be in this new season of life or if I simply fell into the trap of thinking that I should have a job because my children are older. Do our God-given roles as women really change that much? I’m still a mother and now also a grandmother. My calling to be a wife, mother, and homemaker has not been eradicated just because the children are older, it has simply changed.

I wonder if working and using so much of my time and energy for my at-home medical transcription job is right. Though I like my job and it is interesting, and I’m able to remain in the home while working, I’m not nearly as content as I was during my homemaking days. I dislike the fact that much of what I seem to be focused on now has no eternal value whatsoever. I feel guilty that I don’t have the time for my family and friends. My dad is getting older and I can’t spend as much time with him as I once did. My house is falling apart, literally. I used to enjoy having a home where people could feel at home and comfortable. I usually had food prepared to offer if someone dropped in. Those days are gone. Housework is neglected and the mess leaves me feeling stressed out and frazzled. Contented afternoons sewing and making things for my home have been replaced with rushing to meet deadlines and catering to the demands of doctors. The thought of what to make for dinner makes me cringe and head to the nearest fast food place. I’m exhausted, tired, and weary. I glance at the photos of my grandchildren on my desk and feel sad that I’m missing out on so much of their lives because I am working now. I think about my daughter and daughter-in-law and how much more I would be available to help them out in times of need if I was not working. I miss cooking and baking and the wonderful smells from the kitchen. I miss the house being reasonably clean and tidy. I miss having time to enjoy a cup of tea or time to go outside and enjoy the outdoors. My days are spent in front of the computer, plugged into headphones typing. I often think about all the things I no longer have time for. I miss being “just a homemaker.”

As I gaze upon the tattered green book from days gone by, I’m once again reminded that happiness really is homemaking. I believe God has entrusted women with the care of our homes and families first and foremost. If our homes and families are neglected at the expense of our jobs, then we need to take a good look at our God-given priorities. What truly matters in light of eternity? This is something I have been asking myself lately and it certainly is not my medical transcription job. I’ve been praying about where God wants me in this season of life, praying that once again I will embrace my role and gladly accept my God-given calling as wife, mother, and homemaker.

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