March 24, 2012

the ideal homemaker- part one {consistency}

i honestly believe that i could have been anything i wanted to be.
i'm smart.  i'm good.  i work hard.
ok, let me revise this...
i am not super athletic, so i don't believe that even if i wanted to i could have been a professional athlete.
maybe i just never gave this a good enough chance.
but, most everything else in life i believe i could have done if i had wanted to.

i still think i could do many things great if i WANT to.
it would be easy for me to go back to school to get my PhD and become a professor.
i could write a book, if i wanted to devote the time to it.
i can sew well and fast.
if i wanted to i could spend many hours quilting and sewing and really be great at it.
i'm smart... i could learn more about politics and have a voice in the nation.
maybe not in some huge way, but in a small great way.
i would make a good lawyer or a manager or a pta president.
i could start a business or get a job and work my way up.
i even think i could learn to play the piano or be a really good painter...
i've been offered the job as an activities director for a nursing home.
i could do that really well.
if i put my mind to it, i know i can do great things.
{i mean this humbly... i think we all could be great at something if we really tried.}

just last night i was thinking, as we were driving home from the high school dance extravaganza--
is there something that i wish i devoted more time to?
i am pretty good at most things-- is there anything that i want to be REALLY good at?
have i missed my true calling in life because i'm not paying attention to my gifts and talents?

i woke up this morning with one thing clear in my mind.
do you know what i WANT to do?
more than anything else?
i want to be a really great homemaker.
i AM a really great homemaker.
but, i want to be better.
yes, i know there are times when i slip into the mode of self-incrimination.
where i, like many women, drag myself down with talk of some unbelievable ideal that i'm not measuring up to.
people are always telling me to lower my expectations.
to go easy on myself.
i know why they are saying that and i appreciate it.
But, i'm not beating myself up... i am not there right now.
i feel like i am really good.
and, i want to be BETTER.
it is my nature.
i know it is exhausting to many-- but i am a climber.

it is embarrassing to me that i continually talk about this part of my life.
i honestly think that for many people housekeeping is just not an issue.
either they have it figured out better than i do, or they don't care about it as much as i do.
i have seen this situation with many of life's pursuits.

i have friends who home school- and they are passionate about it and it consumes their life.
i love school.  i have never felt a need, or a passion, or a desire to teach my children math.
i'm glad they can learn that at school and come home so i can teach them the non-academic things that i do care about.
i don't mean this to sound demeaning to homeschoolers.  part of me WISHES i felt passionately about homeschooling because i know i would be good at it and i LOVE the idea.
but, it's not my thing.
i have friends who spend lots of time on their physical fitness.
i'm not that passionate about fitness... i'm ok without a six pack.
i have friends who sew many hours of their day-- i have been there before, i'm not there now.
i think i have enough quilts in my home.
i have one friend who HATES cleaning bathrooms.
bathrooms are not an issue for me.  i don't know how i clean my bathrooms, but i just do.
they stay pretty clean and i don't even think about it.
i teach my children easily.
i decorate my home naturally.
i talk about my religion freely.
i make friends with many people.

[NOTE-- as i've gone throughout my day pondering this post i completely DISAGREE with the tone of this section.  homemaking is not just MY thing.  homeschoolers, athletes, artists, working mothers, people without children, even movie stars-- all of us NEED the basics of life.  it's everyone's thing.  we all have unique trials as we strive to establish our happy homes, but we ALL share this quest.  yes, homemaking seems to come more naturally to some people.  But we all can learn to create a happy home.  homemaking is ESSENTIAL to a functioning society.  You do not need to be a full-time homemaker, like i am, but EVERYONE needs clean clothes, a safe and inspiring shelter, cleanliness and nourishing food.  we each have different strengths and weaknesses in our homemaking en devours... but homemaking is not just MY thing-- it's a pre-requisite.  Perhaps you eat out every meal and live in a grand hotel-- homemaking is STILL an essential part of your life-- it's just that you are hiring people to do it for you.  Perhaps you are living in a place where poverty makes homemaking near impossible.  Then, the quest for food, shelter and safety take an even more prominent role in your life.  homemaking is something i feel strongly about, and it's NOT just my thing.]

Homemaking seems to come so naturally to many people.
Some would say that homemaking comes naturally to me.
Those who know me best would say that MOTHERING comes naturally to me.
HOMEMAKING has been LEARNED through blood, sweat and tears.
i am an emotional, creative, lazy mess.
i like to clean and make things pretty-- but i am NOT consistent.
i am cyclical.
and, for the most part this works just fine for me and my family.
especially because i am married to dependable.
todd steps in when i am not disciplined.
i am fun, creative, emotional and spontaneous-- and he is scheduled, disciplined and responsible.
our life works... but it is not ideal.
i feel it in my bones.
i know there is a better way.
i know i will be happier if i am more disciplined.
i know i will enjoy my home better if i can learn the art of making housework a trail ride, not a rodeo.

when i was a young mother, i tried hard.
i have always spent a lot of time with my kids.
painting, playing, taking walks, doing crafts, reading books, etc..
that is good.
when i tried to be better at housework my kids would get in my way and i would find myself so mad at them.
they were my distraction instead of my life.
so, i always felt guilty cleaning my house.
i was a mean cleaner.
i felt guilty for not being better at housework and guilty when i was doing housework.
i would be mad at my kids for my messy house.
cleaning would come when i just couldn't stand things anymore and i would start to yell.
the kids would run around cleaning to avoid my wrath.
our house would be messy-- and then mom would get mad-- and everyone would clean.
i am still like that, in a way.

no wonder everyone (myself included) has an idea that housework is a punishment.
when my house was overwhelming, i blamed myself and husband and my kids.
Saturdays were not a special day, at our house.
Saturdays were a contentious day-- a day we would fight over cleaning our house.
it is easier to BLAME your family for your messy house than it is to CHANGE things.
this is my book.
this is my life...
i am an Almoster-- there is a whole chapter about me in this book!
i have a dear friend who has struggled with her home.
to the point that CPS was threatening to take her children from her.
i often heard her blame her active 3 year old for the mess.
her kindergarten-er had the chore of "laundry".
i would hear my friend complaining that her daughter was just not doing her part.
and i would feel sad.  because i understood.
it is easier to look outward for a fix to our homemaking issues than it is to look inward.
i don't believe a home is messy because of irresponsible children, and i don't believe a home is clean because of responsible children.
a homemaker sets the tone of the home.
it is our responsibility-- and our family will mirror our attitude.
i know how hard it is to figure things out-- to battle our own emotions and our own will and to learn the great art of homemaking.
i also know how important it is.

i had to tell myself that my house was MY RESPONSIBILITY.
yes, my children do chores and my husband helps out a lot.
but, i could not blame them for the anxiety i feel when my house is a mess.
i always remind myself there are plenty of people who have a large family and an orderly home
i have come very far in my 15 years of practical training...
i came up with an inspired house cleaning schedule-- {celestial cleaning}.
i learned to spend one day a week cleaning while i talked on the phone to a friend.
oh, how that has fed my soul while i performed the monotonous tasks of homemaking.
i learned to PURGE!!
you can NOT keep your house clean when you have too much stuff.
it is impossible.
piano lessons helped me to become a more consistent mother.
after school time began to be structured with chores and practicing and homework.
mornings became more structured with school and scripture study.
i even figured out laundry.
today my house is beautiful.
i have seven children and my home is well-maintained.
my closets are organized.
i have a system.
i am clean.
we eat good meals almost every day.
we invite people over often.
i work hard.
my children help out around the house.
we are a happy, functioning family... and, i'm not complaining at all.
but, there is just one more step...
one thing that i'm missing.

you see, i find value in being creative.
i find value in being kind.
i find value in being fun and loving with my kids.
i find value in making things beautiful.
i find value in serving others.
i have a hard time with consistency.
i feel that there is a lot WRONG with being CONSISTENT.

--CONSISTENCY makes you cranky.

--CONSISTENCY makes you selfish.

--CONSISTENCY takes away agency
when you value consistency you are not judging what you really think the most important thing is, you are just doing what you said you would do because you said you would do it.  for example- some nights i just don't think soccer practice is the most important thing.  some nights i think my kids need to focus on homework, have a good dinner, and go to bed early.  Yes, soccer is a good thing- but, it is not always the most important thing.

--CONSISTENCY is fake.
i just hate the idea of going through the motions when you don't WANT to do it.  many 'consistent' people i know seem to begrudge what they are doing.  i want to yell at them sometimes, "if you don't want to do the dishes, DON'T DO THEM."  i'd rather have a messy sink then feel someone's crankiness because they are doing something they don't want to do.  i can't stand the contention that comes from consistency.

for me, consistent people tend to place TASKS ahead of PEOPLE.  i tend to place people ahead of tasks, often.  if someone calls me on the phone my tendency is to stop everything and talk.  in my mind it is a service.  i am really good at serving others and letting others serve me even when it hurts my life and ruins my  consistency.  if someone offers to drive my kids somewhere-- and i have a whole schedule of how my afternoon will run that includes my carpooling, i say "no, it's ok."  when they insist, i just let them.  because i don't want to be offensive.  OFTEN my consistency goes right out the window because i care more about people than consistency.

But, guess what?
i KNOW that i'm missing something.
this is one of those speed bump areas in my life where i see what i believe, but i KNOW it's not quite right.
so, i need to do some REPROGRAMMING.
i can see there are some really bad things about being so FLEXIBLE.

--INCONSISTENCY makes you cranky.
a little bit of work everyday is manageable.  leaving everything for one big, crazy afternoon is really HARD.

--INCONSISTENCY is selfish.
my family should be able to depend on me.  it is selfish for me NOT to be dependable with meals, and laundry, and appointments, and pick-up times.  it is selfish for me to waste my days and then be cranky in the evenings because my house is a mess.  it is selfish for me not to have food in the house, not to do better with my budget, not to create an environment of peace for my family that they can use as a springboard to other great things.

a mother once called in to the Dave Ramsey show saying that her husband was working so hard so that she could stay at home with her children.  she asked what she could do to support him?  Dave said that he also worked hard.  He said that his wife, Sharon, was an exceptional homemaker.  He said that his home was always a place of peace.  He didn't have to worry about things at home, so he could concentrate on things at work.  He said, "Some women are just full of DRAMA.  Sharon is the opposite of drama.  She creates places of peace."  i LOVED that.  i want to be more like that.  i don't want my husband to call in the middle of the day and hear me frazzled because i am overwhelmed and can't manage my time, my home, my children or my money.  i want to be a place of peace for my family so that they can focus on great things.  i'm not there yet!!

--INCONSISTENCY takes away your agency.
when i am inconsistent with the mundane tasks of life, they rule my life.  all i do is try to catch up.  my life is just a series of selective neglect.  i imagine that if i was more consistent i would have more freedom to do things that i love doing.

i remember in my younger years, i would do some amazing events at my church.  often, the week that i was in charge of an event, my home would be HORRIFIC.  i thought that was normal.  that if you were focused on one big thing, other things would fall.  and, this is true to a point.  it is normal, but it isn't ideal.  i have learned that you CAN serve outside the home without neglecting your home.  i have gotten so much better at doing big things outside of my home without creating complete chaos inside my house.  but, i still have a ways to go.  sometimes the most real people i know are people that are quietly consistent at home without being showy outside the home.

--CONSISTENCY is personal.
sometimes i think that being consistent is doing service in your home, to the people closest to you.  and guarding yourself from the whims and fancies of outside influences.  sometimes i think that when you are consistent you are doing the things that you really think matter for the people that you think matter most.  and, i wonder if you are consistent with the menial tasks if that would open you up to even MORE opportunities to connect and serve without feeling the nagging guilt that you SHOULD be doing something else.

today i'm continuing my journey.
i don't believe you can become consistent just by TRYING HARDER.
i've tried hard.
i've tried to try harder.
trying to be consistent just keeps confirming to me what i already believe.
consistency makes me cranky.
i can do HARD things-- but i have to BELIEVE that the hard is worth it.
i think that NOW i need to VALUE consistency more.
i need to really try to see WHY consistency is important... to understand the good in it.
so i can become a true believer.

i love the quote--
True doctrine UNDERSTOOD changes attitude and behavior.  The study of doctrine will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. 
Boyd K. Packer, Do Not Fear, Ensign, May 2004, 77.

Elder Bednar makes the point (in his new book about learning) that we often focus on APPLYING principles in our lives when we need to focus more on UNDERSTANDING.
If we truly understood or believed a principle the application would be natural.

Can I give you an example?
i have ALWAYS struggled with KNEELING to pray.
i hate to kneel.
i would TRY, but i was horrible at it.
my bed is really high.
i'm always freezing and i have always enjoyed my evening prayers much more when i was wrapped in my covers.
i have never understood the PURPOSE of kneeling.
i asked a friend of mine her feeling about kneeling in prayer and she shared her testimony of it with me...
she said she likes to think about it as BOWING BEFORE THE LORD.
not just kneeling.
with tears in her eyes, she told me about an ancient temple in south america.
the temple had three statues that represented the father, son and holy ghost.
the entrances to the temple were archways that were very low.
archaeological had many hypothesis for these low archways-- they thought that maybe the people were shorter at that time.
but, they made the conclusion that the temple was built to foster worship-- that one must BOW as they entered.
she said that image always stuck with her.
guess what?  it stuck with me too.
i heard her testimony and i FELT it in my soul.
i have CONSISTENTLY found a desire to kneel each morning and each night since that discussion.
it is an honor to kneel and not just an endured duty.
because i UNDERSTAND.

i want to understand consistency more.
CONSISTENCY is my thing.
my current speed bump.
what is your thing?
what is the principle that if you UNDERSTOOD it, valued it, believed it, would make you a better homemaker?

something has happened in America.
we have LOST the art of homemaking.
we have LOST the understanding of why homemaking is important.
value has shifted... what do we value today?  money?  fame?  vacation?
my Mexican sister in law told me that in Mexico they try to stay white so they don't look like field workers.
in America we try to get tan so we look like we have the luxury of sitting in the sun all day.

i want to understand how this has happened.
have any of you read any great books about the decline of the homemaker?
was it the feminist movement?
i believe that the art of homemaking was probably lost as we were GAINING some great things.
i think we can regain our homes while maintaining our freedom.
this is my passion.

i am rereading one of my FAVORITE books- The Art of Homemaking by Daryl V. Hoole.
i LOVE it.
i once bought five copies off ebay to give to all of my daughters when they get married.
there is great value in being a happy homemaker.
even if you work outside the home.

i'm going to continue to share my homemaking journey with you.
because i'm going to figure this out.
i am close-- but not there yet.
i have friend who i have known since the early days of my marriage.
i remember her continual struggle with exercise.
her chagrin when her husband bought her cute, pink running shoes for her birthday.
on her blog the other day she posted this picture--
after years of hard work she wrote, "It's official.... I'm an athlete."
and, she is.

homemaking is my passion.
i'm going to continue to learn the ART of homemaking.
and, i'm going to continue to ENJOY the process.
life is good.

see this page?
the top one is a picture of me in the morning...
(minus the curlers... i WISH i knew how to use curlers.)
the bottom one is a picture of who i want to become...
i really NEED a donna reed dress?
do you think folding laundry would be more fun in high heels?
just wondering?
i LOVE being a homemaker!
really, i do.

read the ideal homemaker- part two {hard work}- here.


Kent and Lieren said...

Thank you for this post it was wonderful!! I am teaching in Young Women's tomorrow and the lesson is on Homemaking. I have been thinking about this all week and I just really enjoyed reading your thoughts about this... And I still think I might be tempted to sport tennis shoes while I am cleaning even if I was wearing a cute dress lol :0)

valerie in TX said...

Apparently I'm feeling the need lately to comment on all your posts in a list. :)

1. You WOULD be a great PTA president....I think you should try it. :)
2. I want to be more like you when I grow up.
3. I'm pretty sure nothing is more fun in high heels. ;)

Handsfullmom said...

I feel a lot the same way as you -- I could have been wildly successful at anything and I desperately hope I can make my home and family a wild success.

I also resonate with the idea that just as my husband works hard, my job requires me to be diligent and work. I see some moms complaining about their husbands not helping enough or pulling their share when these same moms hang out in their pajamas and on the computer for many hours every day. I get that husbands should help. I do. But please, girls, make sure your efforts match his before you complain about how he doesn't give you enough.

And can we arrange a swap? I'll give you some of my consistency and you can share your creativity.

Amy said...

I just posted something similar to this. I found that my new motivation(because I used to have it, I did) was the affect it was having on my 14 year old daughter. I was giving myself a whole list of excuses for why I didn't have to be as good as I once was. And yet, she has still been wishing for who I was, and not caring at all about the excuses.

Not because she isn't a wonderful, caring, sweet daughter, because she is. But because it was starting to affect her. She was embarrassed for people to ride in the 12 passenger van, worried that the house wouldn't be clean if people came over, worried that everyone would know we cleaned because company was coming over.

And I could let that be my reality anymore. So I'm embarking on a 30 day challenge to find the homemaker that is inside of me still. I make homemade bread, I sew, I serve in church, I make dinner. But the pride I once took in my home had left me, and now it's time to get it back.

Great post, I really needed to know someone else "out there" had some of the same feelings.

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