Most people who amount to anything do work hard, at whatever their job happens to be. The housewife’s job is home-making, and she is, in fact, ‘making the best of it’; making the best of it by bringing patience and loving care to her work; sympathy and understanding to her family; making the best of it by seeing all the fun in the day’s incidents and human relationships. The housewife realizes that home-making is an investment in happiness.Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Because we want to be making good homes and not just clean houses, we need to properly define homemaking so that we can align our expectations with our actual responsibilities.
What is homemaking?
Before we can improve our homemaking, we need to know what it is and what our goal is. Without a goal, how can we see progress or know if we’re headed in the right direction. Without a clear definition, we’re liable to let Pinterest and Martha Stewart fuel our expectations.
Is homemaking old-fashioned and outdated?
Do you picture a woman with a flirty apron and heels, hair neatly bobbed, red lips smiling? Is that a homemaker?
Homemakers have looked like many things in the history of man, and few of them wore heels. In fact, we must remember that those pictures come to us from advertisers trying to sell us something – an ideal. That picture is just as false as the have-it-all-together career-woman-who-can-also-spend-quality-time-with-her-kids image television promotes today.
For a pioneer wife, a homemaker’s duty was weeding and harvesting from the home garden and making little go a long way.
In Jane Austen’s day, a homemaker’s duty was to plan a menu and delegate the cooking and cleaning to a servant girl.
In medieval Europe, a homemaker was an inn-keeper, a beer-brewer, and a charity-provider.
Harkening all the way back to the ancient homemaker, the Proverbs 31 wife, her activities boil down to caring for the needs of those in her weal: her children, her husband, her servants, her community.
Whatever resources and time we have at our disposal, our function as homemakers is to promote the welfare of our families and our extended connections. The specific tasks, the specific people involved, the tools and the duties change, but the role remains a vital one.
The pioneer wife’s first considering was creating a home where none had existed. The homemaking responsibilities of more established and wealthy times was management, stewardship of what had been handed down.
The dictionary defines homemaking this way:
“the creation and management of a home,
especially as a pleasant place in which to live.”
A homemaker may or may not be the one washing her sheets, but she is the one ensuring its done. She may or may not be the one washing the dishes, but she is the one who sees to it that there are dishes, that they are clean, and that there is cause for using them (i.e. regular meals).
The nitty-gritty work of making a home has been the work of every housewife of lower class, of pioneer women, of farmers’ wives, and now, of even the middle class, who have not human servants but mechanical.
The duty of the homemaker is to take the resources of the family and distribute them as required to care for the family, to provide comfort and a base of operations for not only her family but also her community.
What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow.Martin Luther
A homemaker’s concern is not simply for her home and those who sleep there. A homemaker’s concern is making a home and extending the joy and provision of that home out to where it is needed.
We truncate the role of homemaker when we limit it to meals, laundry, and vacuuming.
A homemaker is important not because someone has to change diapers and wash dishes, but because someone has to care – it is the homemaker’s job to care.
Sometimes – and most times for us – caring means doing the work. But it doesn’t have to.
And here’s the rub: Doing the work isn’t the same as caring. You can care about and care for the home without being the one to mop. And you can mop the floors and not care about having a clean floor or a happy home.
A homemaker is one who does what it takes with what she has to make a home. She is a manager, running an organization, and that organization is a life-giving home.
All that we do shapes others. How we do what we do shapes others. Such is the responsibility and vocation of a homemaker.
If homemaking is making a home “particularly as a pleasant place in which to live,” then our first duty as homemakers is not to find the perfect schedule for chores but to actually be pleasant.
What will make the home pleasant more than having a cheerfully bustling wife and mother at its core?
Of course the floors should be scrubbed and the sheets washed and the meals prepared – these are outworkings, things to keep our hands busy. But what makes us homemakers is not these tasks, but our hearts.
Being a homemaker starts not with a menu plan or a cleaning schedule, but with our attitudes. That’s why our attitude is the first thing we have to organize.
Step #1: Brain Dump
What are your current expectations for life as a homemaker? The only way to find out is to do a brain dump.
When you picture a homemaker in your mind’s eye, what does she look like?
Step #2: Write a homemaking growth statement
Good homemaking isn’t a switch we can flip or a destination we arrive at overnight. Homemaking is an art we grow into with deliberate, continued practice.
So we need to keep our attention on our growth path, not on particular results we hope to achieve.
Brain dump first. What does the next phase of growth include for your homemaking? What does this growth look like in your home? Why did you pick this growth focus? What are your motivations for growing in homemaking skills?
Write a growth statement. Begin with your why, your motivation. Fill in this phrase: “Because I want _______________________”. Then add your growth area main clause: “I will grow in ________________________”. Conclude the statement with one, two, or three process steps that will help you cultivate your growth: “by ________________________.”
Add this statement to your cheat sheet, planner, or an index card so you review it regularly.
Homemaking Growth Statement Examples:
Because I want to enjoy cooking, I will grow in my cooking skills by intentionally choosing 1 new thing to make each week.
A homemaker is one who does what it takes with what she has to make a home.
If people are important, then homes will always be important, also.
People need homes. Even if it’s a mud hut, it is a home to be “made.”
Homemaking is not about displaying middle class sensibilities or acquiring appropriate seasonal decor; homemaking is about loving people in practical, tangible, daily, mundane ways.
Perhaps some have ambition to become better homemakers in order to glorify themselves. If we use our houses to display personal taste, showcase our style, or even minimize personal inconvenience, then we are not making homes, but serving ourselves.
Ambition in homemaking should not be about proving one’s worth, showing one’s style, or making life easy.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” – Philippians 2:3
Wanting to grow in skill and competency is not the same as selfish ambition. If we have been given a vocation – and we have – then we should seek to fulfill it faithfully and to grow up into it, doing so more and more, serving therein more and more.
To grow in our competency and our faithfulness in our God-given vocation, we must first understand what it is.
Home is “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.”
A maker is “a person or thing that makes or produces something.” To make is to “form (something) by putting parts together or combining substances; construct; create.”
Put these two together and you have a homemaker, a person who combines parts to construct a place for people to live as family.
If He wants us to obey the Great Commission and conquer this world for Christ, and if He tells half the human race that they’re in charge of tending the home, it follows from this that the home is actually one of the most strategic and important tools by which the world will be won.Rebekah Merkle, Eve in Exile
Homemaking is a backdrop to life. When it’s done well, it fades to the background, allowing lives to shine through. Drawing no attention to itself, attracting no notice in its execution, homemaking is a humble task.
However, that makes it neither humiliating nor dishonorable.
Quite the opposite.
Its strength and dignity is in its humility. Our loving service is poured forth that other duties might happen, that other workers might be refreshed.
It is not less important for being unnoticed or invisible. It is the work of life itself. We bring forth life, we feed life, we clean up after life, we love and cherish and promote life. That is the job of the homemaker.
Let us not grow weary in doing it.
Step #3: Start with a baby step
You have a brain dump and a growth statement, but neither of those means anything if we don’t put our focus into action with baby steps.
Look at your growth statement. Did you include actions to take in it? Add those actions to your plan for the week. Write them down; keep them in front of your face; do them.
What one homemaking job means the most to your husband? Dinner? A lunch ready to go in the morning? Clean socks? If you don’t know, ask and find out. Make sure the things he cares about, you care about through your actions.
What small step can you take each morning to give your home a bit of attention and an air of conviviality? Put it on your daily list. See what happens after a week of doing it daily.
Homemaking as occupation
I sit with the papers, clipboard, and pen, filling in bubbles and blanks.
I stare and think. What do they mean by occupation? What counts as occupation? What would be the best answer? Is homemaker a valid occupation to put down? Maybe I should put ‘domestic engineer’ to make it sound more official, fancy, or meaningful?
Maybe Winckler Family COO, Chief of Operations?
Should I call myself a Domestic Engineer?
What is a homemaker? What is my occupation? Why do they want to know? What are they looking for? Do they realize the kind of existential crisis their question causes?
I make a face, squeeze my pen, and write the simple word that does best describe my contribution to society: homemaker.
The job of homemaking is of utmost value to culture and society, whether or not that culture and society values it. Even if a woman has another job – one that earns her money, even! – her most significant contribution to her family and to the good of the nation and world is her homemaking.
Homes, after all, shape people.
Those people, in turn, shape the culture, society, nation, world.
- God created & values families, communicating the nature of his relationship with his creation in terms of family relationships.
- God has called me to embody family life as a testimony to His care of me and all His creation.
- When I walk in obedience and faithfulness, I am honoring God and doing good work.
Therefore, a mother is exemplary and virtuous no matter what other people do with her hospitality and faithfulness.
Honoring the occupation of homemaking does not consist in giving it worldly-wise or manly-sounding names like Domestic Engineer or Surname COO.
Such titles say that homemaking is humble and needs a little beefing-up for the resumé.
Talking about how much a mom would earn if she were paid for her various tasks is only the talk of those who think everything ought to have a monetary value and profit attached to it.
Before there are economies or politics, there are plain people. People made in the image of God need no additional decoration to make them respectable. People made in the image of God need homes and families – and that’s exactly what we do as wives and mothers.
It is good, valuable work, no matter the time period, governmental structure, economic type, class or culture you are in.
Homemaking is human.
Homemaking is valuable.
Homemaking is a valid occupation.
Step #4: Iterate for progress
Homemaking is too real and nitty-gritty for the likes of Martha Stewart. Making a home is not about putting on a perfect party or decorating the mantel just so.
Making a home is about creating a place for life to happen – and that’s both messy and joyous. We can embrace both aspects of homemaking. In fact, we must.
Homemaking is a big job.
- It involves caring for a home.
- It involves caring about the people in the home.
- It involves feeding and clothing the people in the home.
- It involves managing the details of life for the family.
What kind of care does your home need most right now?
What kind of care do the people in your home need most right now?
How can you increase your management ability with food and clothes in your current situation?
Repent. Rejoice. Repeat.
When we let Scripture determine our categories and definitions and mission, however, we realize that biblical homemaking is a service to God and His people, and so we can rejoice as stewards in the place God has put us.