My first exposure to the term “homemaker” came when I was in middle school and helping my parents with their tax returns (itemizing deductions was the perfect task for an obsessively detail-oriented kid). There was no stigma attached to it – it was just the way to describe what my mom did, and she was (and is) pretty darn good at it. Aside from a brief period of wanting to be a doctor, I’ve always aspired to the same life. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to realize that “homemaker” had negative connotations in some circles, even in the academic circles at my Catholic college (but not, thankfully, among my circle of friends). After graduation, I got an unexpectedly great job that I loved, and I began to understand how someone could really enjoy working outside the home – I was challenged, gained new skills, and got to interact with smart people on a daily basis. Meanwhile, my apartment was always just a little past messy, and I excused it with the fact that I was, after all, working full-time.
This excuse carried me through my first year and a half of marriage, and that’s how I explained the art that didn’t get hung up and the last few boxes that may or may not be untouched in our basement. When two workers come home tired at night, it’s hard for them to motivate each other to do more than the bare minimum.
Then, along came baby, and suddenly I found myself home all day, and sometimes with a spare naptime stretch of time. Spending all day in my own house has opened my eyes to how best to make it a home – the closet full of boxes, the unfolded laundry, the dirty dishes all make our apartment more like a receptacle of stuff than an inviting refuge from the long day.
Homemaking isn’t just the endless series of menial tasks that it seems to be; a truly made home is a place for the development of a family, for the nuturing of souls. Every counter cleaned and toilet scrubbed allows the tired homecomer to relax, or the weary mother a sliver of calm to enjoy (if only very, very briefly). As Pope Pius XII wrote in an address to newlyweds,
But where will you find true family life without a home, without a visible focal point to encompass, anchor and sustain this life, to deepen and develop it, to cause it to bloom? Do not say that the home exists materially from the moment the two hands are joined and the newlyweds have the same room, under the same roof, in their apartment….No, the material house is not enough for the spiritual edifice of happiness.
I’m still far, far from having succeeded in many respects of homemaking, and some days, we just shuffle from room to messy room before going to sleep in a bed that never got made. However, I’m putting forth a deliberate effort to create places of beauty in our house. Whether it’s keeping fresh flowers on the table, keeping the (non-literal) cookie jar full, or simply not complaining about daily chores, I’m trying to keep in mind that “the woman’s role encompasses those countless, ceaseless details, those imponderable daily attentions and cares which create the atmosphere of a family, and, depending on whether they are properly performed or not, make the home either healthy, attractive, and comfortable, or demoralized and unbearable.”
Instead of cursing the drudgery, I’m trying to remember that making a home is a high calling. Love is in the daily attentions and cares. My vocation is in the countless, ceaseless details.
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