October 23, 2008
I don't work outside the home. I don't like that sentence. I'd be happy to say "I don't work" because I think people actually understand the meaning without the outside the home part. Would anyone really assume that one would just sit on the computer fooling around playing Free Cell all day long, ignoring the laundry, forgetting about dinner, leaving the beds unmade? cough
Until recently, I've had my kids home with me all day long - we were homeschoolers. So I thought of myself as a homeschooler first and a homemaker, or whatever you want to call it, second or third or eighth, on some days. Washing the windows and scrubbing the floors became chores that I executed when necessary, like when a child or dog became affixed to the hardwood in the living room or when our windows fooled us into thinking we were snowed in.
Now my children are in school all day and what the heck am I? I may "work outside the home" at some point, but Stan and I still appreciate the balance it gives our family for one of us to be home taking care of business. That's me and that's certainly okay with me. That said, though I'm not opposed to the idea, I don't really think of myself as a "homemaker." I'd rather like to actually, but - sorry mom - "homemaking" wasn't something ever modeled to me. My mom was a teacher and more the ole feminist type who told her daughters to be sure to live on our own before marriage and all that.
But here I am married with children and I don't regret a thing about my decision, only that I'm not a very great homemaker! I have dreams of the things I'd do, the routine I'd keep, the dinners, the beautifying, the organizing, the comfort-making, the stain removal. For some reason though I've not risen to my potential, I hope. I think sometimes I've been stymied by the question: what's it all for?
Answers are coming. My friend Coleen, who I've mentioned here often lately, gives me a whole new appreciation for homemaking, being a stay-at-home mom, tending the hearth. She makes beds. She reads the morning paper. She loves planning meals. She attends her kids' games (often quietly carrying along fruit rollups and hot chocolate for my kids) and drives them home to a waiting dinner. She gets the stains out of her son's soccer jersey. She paints the shed. She decorates the house beautifully and tastefully. She washes her floors. A lot. As a matter of fact I've interrupted her on our walks - If you mention washing those floors one more time I'm not walking with you anymore. Anyway, she does all these things and much more without ever mentioning the words homemaking or housewife or stay-at-home mom or any of those loaded words and phrases, because living up to those words and phrases doesn't seem to be on her radar - people are.
Coleen does a lot of things in her days that some people might not care to appreciate but I can tell you that some do. Besides the inspiration her actions have been giving me just to do those mundane things that sometimes seem meaningless or unnecessary or small, I've seen her provide a place of warmth and love for the people in her life. And I've begun to realize just how rare a talent this is.
Just the other night she invited me over for a girls' night type thing. I walked her back door where all her friends enter, carrying my peach and blueberry crisp. I sat down at her bar and she began putting down the most delicious food under my nose. A small plate of grilled shrimp layed out on slices of orange between two generous bowls of the most incredible dipping sauce. A fondue pot warming a cheese dip made from scratch for apples and chunks of bread. In walked Lorraine from an hour away. She's divorced, alone with her pets and would like a companion to share her life. She was carrying the world's best pizza she gets from her neighborhood and a beautiful dish she'd bought for Coleen just because. Coleen put the pizza in the oven to warm and then Diane came in and plopped down. She wasn't carrying anything because she'd just been to court with her son who's been in some minor trouble lately. Her nerves were frayed, Coleen poured some red wine and put it down in front of her. Coleen's daughter was snuggled on the couch behind us with a low fever, her son was out and about with friends, calling every once in a while to let her know what they were up to.
Just as we'd settled in with good food and friendly conversation, Coleen's brother in law walked in the back door. A boisterous guy with a good sense of humor, he began blaring about politics, delineating his conservative views and prompting good natured teases from Lorraine. We laughed and listened and enjoyed the raucous. It was so mature and understanding and generous that I found myself routing for both sides and laughing aloud at the same time.
Coleen's husband came in from work and immediately asked if Stan would like to accompany them to a comedy show downtown, he had bought an extra ticket. Soon Stan, after a long week of backbreaking work in the field, walked in with an expectant smile and the men left together, leaving us in the glow of the kitchen chatting quietly again.
I've always admired Coleen's way of entertaining and bringing people together, but this evening clarified something for me like nothing ever has: we need people in our lives who tend the hearth and our hearts. I believe God gives gifts to all and not all of those gifts earn a paycheck. Some reap love, friendship, sharing, caring, healing, appreciation, joy.