April 02, 2012

the ideal homemaker- part two {HARD WORK}

{you can read part one- here}

So, we're talking about homemaking.
Can I tell you that there is something inside me that shouts the importance of creating a beautiful, clean, orderly, happy home?
Homemaking is a lost art.

Somehow, as doors began opening for women, we lost the VALUE that comes from old fashioned HARD WORK.
Education is valued in our society.
Beauty is valued in our society.
Cleanliness and Organization are valued.
Wealth is valued.
Being well-rounded, well-traveled, well-versed, well-off-- these things are of value.

But, have we lost the old-fashioned work ethic?
Is physical work as valued as mental enlightenment?
Do we find VALUE and HONOR in physically cleaning our home?
Do we cherish the menial tasks of life?
Eating, cleansing, healing, dressing, caressing?
Whether you work outside the home or stay at home, have many children or have none, all of us are creating a home.
All of us have to care for at least one person, ourselves.

For so much of my life, i have been in a hurry.
I often hear my ancestors questioning my use of TIME.
I have SO MANY time savers-- washing machine, dish washers, redi-made food, no iron clothes, vacuums, cleaning supplies, public schools, a condensed church schedule, technology, etc., etc., etc..
And, what do i DO with all the time i'm SAVING??

What do we do with all of our TIME?
i'm afraid we are continually in search of REST and RECREATION.
we are continually learning, continually exercising, continually planning grand vacations...
why?  have these things brought us greater happiness?  have these things made us better parents?

I think our society is TOO FOCUSED on FUN.
We create lives for our children that are fake.
Sports and standardized testing and amusement parks have replaced true physical labor.
Thank goodness we have sports or our kids would waste away in front of the ever consuming media.
Our culture has drifted so far from the day when those who really worked hard succeeded in life.
Now, we teach our children to do good in school so they will never REALLY have to work.
Are we loosing something essential in our society?
Yes, there is value in LEARNING.
But, there is something life changing about Hard Work.
Caring for our bodies and our homes and our yards are the last form of physical work that any of us have access to.
Do we value that opportunity?

In my life, as i have watched those i love slip into the dregs of addiction, i have noticed something.
Filth comes with sin.
Seriously, I could tell how well they were doing by how physically clean they were.
It may be controversial to apply this too directly to homemaking, but i do believe cleanliness is next to Godliness.
{Note- I have said this 100 times before-- if you can't be clean and be kind, be a KIND slob.  it's better.  Cleanliness is not closer to Godliness than KINDNESS is.  i have issues with people who justify evil actions with good intentions.  Cleanliness is NOT more important than love.  the end.}
I don't believe that if your house is not clean you are less righteous than someone whose house is clean.
But, I do believe that God wants us to have our homes in order.
This is a good priority and He will teach us and guide us as we learn this eternal principle.
Order, cleanliness, and hard work are godly attributes.

It wasn't until i was an adult that i finally understood why i had a mouth full of fillings.
Yes, i brushed my teeth twice daily.
but, i didn't brush well.
i didn't take the time to CLEAN my teeth.
I went through the motions of completing a task without really embracing the purpose of the task.

In one of my favorite books ever, Things I Wish I'd Known Sooner, Personal Discoveries of a Mother of Twelve, Jaroldeen Edwards explains the feminist era that she was mothering in the midst of.  She says,

Dirty Diapers and Dirty Dishes

"Almost always when speakers referred to the role of motherhood they would characterize it by the phrase, "dirty diapers and dirty dishes."  Now that's smart strategy.  In a single phrase, they had captured two of the universally necessary but unappealing activities of mothering, had stripped motherhood to what they (and many others) considered to be its lowest common denominator, and by so doing had neatly denigrated the role and diminished mother and child by reducing their precious relationship to its most menial functions.

"The strategy did not work on me because I already had a large family, and I did not know how I could send any of them "back."  Besides, I understood that raising children meant infinitely more than any ridiculous catch phrase and I absolutely loved the experience of being a mother.  I saw it as a profound career and a noble profession.

"I also knew something about diapering a child that none of the slogan makers apparently did.  As a matter of fact, if there is one thing in this world about which I am an expert, it is probably changing diapers. ... I evaluated for myself what it really means to change diapers.  Is it a demeaning activity for a Phi Beta Phi college graduate?

"To begin with, there is no question that caring for an infant is a meaningful endeavor.  Without the thoughtful, gentle care of a loving adult, babies die!  They die of starvation, disease, filth, and emotional neglect.  There is absolutely no alternative.  Babies must be cared for- and well cared for- or there is no continuation of life on this planet.  A constant supply of the next generation- cared for, educated, and alive- is the single imperative of continued mortal existence.  When we care for an infant, we are dealing with matters of actual life and death; there is nothing casual, demeaning, or unimportant in anything we do.

"However, there is the matter of changing diapers- an inevitable interface of caretaker and child.  In my analysis, I acknowledged that it can be a distasteful task, but also unquestionably one of service, of love, and of cleanliness.

"Furthermore, there is a specific and genuine benefit to the task of diaper changing that elevates it to something quite wonderful.  As anyone who has ever done it will attest, when you change a baby's diaper, it is necessary to look the baby squarely in the eye, to talk, to charm, to woo, to distract, to entertain- to do everything in your power to keep the baby contented, happy and entertained while you perform the tricky maneuver.  You have to be adorable and adoring to accomplish the task.

"I observed that changing diapers requires a mother, several times a day, to interact directly with her baby, eye to eye, face to face, with all the charm she is capable of. ...

"Physically and emotionally, such daily activities as feeding, bathing, and diapering become the taproots of the lifelong relationship between mother and child.  These functions constitute the 'quality time' of infancy.

"I have witnessed a mother diapering her baby and being so charming, adorable, vivid and exuberant that she and the child rang with laughter as beautiful as the sound of golden bells.  ONLY THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER ANALYZED THE REAL VALUE AND PURPOSE OF SUCH ACTIVITIES CAN LOOK AT THEM WITH CONTEMPTUOUS EYES."

Honestly, I could just type the WHOLE book and you would LOVE it.
i loved these two thoughts--
These [menial] functions CONSTITUTE the 'quality time' of infancy.
and that last line,
Only those who have never analyzed the real value and purpose of such activities can look at them with contemptuous eyes.

As I've tried to analyze the real value and purpose of my daily activities, I have come to understand a couple principles better.

When I'm helping I'm happy.  
When I'm working I'm happy.
Physical work is good for my soul.
There is something rewarding about FINISHING a task.
Laundry, dishes, cleaning a bathroom, cleaning out a car, putting a baby down for a nap, bathing a child, even brushing and flossing my teeth.
It FEELS good to work and to FINISH.
There is JOY in hard work.
Alma 36:25 says, "the Lord doth give me exceedingly great joy in the fruit of my labors."

Oh how i have been filled as i studied WORK and IDLENESS in my scripture study this past week.
{JS-H 1:55, Alma 24:18, DC 60:13, DC 75:3, DC 88:118-126, Mormon 9:28, DC 90:18, DC 42:41-42}
I want to consider the ways of the ANT and not the sluggard SLOTH. {Proverbs 6:6}
I am happy when I work hard.

It is NOT that hard to keep a house clean.  Honestly.  We are a lazy people.
I am lazy.
I was talking to a friend about this and she said, "Jen, it's hard work to play with seven kids."
And, that is true.
We are doing A LOT of stuff.
It just isn't always the basic things, the foundational things.
What are we doing with all of our free time?

As i've focused on this principle, my whole attitude has changed.
I'm NOT as focused on FINISHING my tasks quickly so that I can DO something more meaningful.
I'm focused on WORKING HARD.
I'm focused on the example that i'm setting for my children as I find JOY in hard work.
Oh how my attitude is contagious.  And, my children have caught it.
{this is not always a good thing.}
I don't want my children to feel that hard work is drudgery-- I want them to find joy in working and serving.

First things MUST come first.
Ecclesiastes 10:18 "By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through."

When our homes are in order we can serve better.
Something is wrong with a society of really great soccer players who don't know how to clean a bathroom or work hard.
I have seen my children improve in every area of their life as I have taught them to be neat and tidy at home.
Caring for their bodies, their room, their siblings and their home has taught them valuable lessons that will serve as a foundation on which they can build successful lives.

We CAN NOT escape the need for PHYSICAL care.
FIRST, we must take care of ourselves.
Shower, use lotion, look nice, fill our spiritual tanks.
THEN, we must take care of our homes and our children.
Physically and spiritually.
only after these essentials are cared for can we truly serve others.

I have been teaching my children to be FINISHERS not ALMOSTERS.
This is an easy lesson to teach in the KITCHEN- but the tentacles of application carry far reaching effects.

In my journal i wrote- "Reasons Why I WANT to Work Hard Consistently"
1. I am teaching my children to work hard.
2.  Work is fun!
3.  My attitude about work will be their attitude about work.
4.  I'm not working to be FINISHED- I'm working to build and maintain a functioning home.
Everyday i'm shoveling coal into the engine of my home.
5.  If I work consistently on the basics of life- i will have time to work on the more advanced good things of life.
6.  When I manage the home peacefully, calmly and efficiently my husband and children will be able to build higher and better.
7. When my home is in order I can serve at a moment's notice.
8.  My husband will never feel like he is good enough if our home is not functioning smoothly.
9.  Because there is peace on the other end-- a house of order brings rest to a mother's soul.
10.  Because I am in the business of refinement.  As I work hard my dross is consumed and my gold is refined.

True doctrine, understood, changes behavior more than a study of behavior changes behavior.
I know this is true.
As I've pondered and prayed and studied the value of hard work, i have found myself really KNOWING this principle.
There is something wrong with a society that teaches children to value going to McDonald's on a mom date and to moan and groan when asked to do the dishes.
I need to show my children the joy that comes from a job well done.
These functions constitute the "Quality Time" of childhood.
My children love to cook with me.  They love to clean bathrooms.  They love to create things.
They hate dishes and laundry and going to bed...  hmm?  I wonder who they get that from?

I am SO GRATEFUL for the chores of homemaking.
There is joy in physical labor.
Cleansing is purifying to my soul.
I am so grateful for the many opportunities that I have to groom my children.
To care for their clothes, to check their teeth, to teach them the value of order and consistency.
This is a GREAT work.

Ellie has had issues with her bottom that require me to help her with medicine daily.
I am not always thrilled at the time and attention I have to give to her bathroom behavior.
This evening as she was laying on the floor in the bathroom, giggling as she applied cold lotion to her bottom, i was reminded of the years i wiped her as a baby.
I realized that maybe, this time together was a gift.
These basic needs of life have once more connected us intimately as mother and daughter.
We are laughing together and talking together and spending time together.
I was grateful for the time we were spending on a menial task.

These mundane tasks of life are quality time.
Those who really analyze the value and purpose of such activities will see them with eyes of gratitude and wonder.
I know it.

I am happy to be a homemaker.
There is Joy to be found in Life's menial tasks.
Cleansing, Feeding, Clothing, Healing... these are the GREAT works of life.
Life is good.
Baby Changing Diaper
Edited to ADD--
Yes, this post is about teaching our children to work hard.
But, it is NOT just about teaching our children to work hard.
It is about WORKING HARD ourselves.
I see over and over again one trap that parents (myself included) fall into, is pridefully pointing fingers at our lazy children and not evaluating our own work ethic.
Children learn what they live.
The best way to teach your children to be hard workers is to WORK HARD beside them.
When i am happily cleaning, my children migrate to me.
They naturally LOVE to help out- we teach them to hate work because WE whine about it.
i remember thinking, when i was young and pregnant with my first, that i was going to NEVER give him sugar.
I thought i was going to say, "Eat your dinner, and then, if you're good, you can have an APPLE!"
I learned early on to say with excitement to my sleepy child, "Oh look!  You want to go to your NICE BED!"
I should have thought about saying, "Hurry up with your piano practicing and then, if your good, you can help me clean the floor!"  :)

I have been on MANY hikes with Young Women.  There are always the whiners and those who physically struggle with the hike.  Usually, I am one that sings and encourages and bounces up the hill offering to carry other people's packs.  Singing, "Come on girls, we can do this!!"
I am not always a Young Women Leader MOTHER.  I don't always whistle while i work.  I don't always watch my attitude and my words and encourage my children with the same zeal i have encouraged others.  I am not so good at motivating MYSELF.
i should wake up humming and happy to climb my mountain-- i should tie my apron on with ZEAL... dab lipstick on my lips, put a flower in my hair and be GRATEFUL for my daily responsibilities.
This is a beautiful world we live in.  We are so blessed.  It is a BLESSING to be able to work.

We not only need to clean our homes more, we need to teach the world that there is value in the doing.
Cleaning is not something to be put at the bottom of our list so that we can do things that really matter.
There is value in menial tasks-- changing diapers, washing floors, doing dishes, cooking dinner, clipping fingernails, tucking in your children to bed, folding laundry... these are the small tasks that lay the framework for our society.
We are blessed to be able to serve our family.
We are blessed to have the financial means and standard of living such that we can wash our windows and we have so many clothes our drawers are packed.
It is a sacred stewardship that as mothers we should value and appreciate.
Today there is MUCH focus on MOTHERING... as there should be.
But Homemaking is still demeaned.
The mothers who are heralded as amazing mothers are mothers who are actively engaged in worthwhile endeavors outside of the home.
I believe stability in our nation will return if our HOMES are in order.
If we return to basic principles of cleanliness and order at home children would be taught the skills needed to succeed.
There is value in making a home.
Children deserve to be raised in a home where they are provided the basics of life.
Food, Safety, Cleanliness, Nurture and Education.
I am going to start with my home.
I am going to find joy in the WORK of my home.
I believe that as I am feeding and cleansing and serving my family I am creating the framework for a successful society.
What a great work!


beckyjune said...

What a beautiful, thoughtful post. We are trying hard to teach our kids the joy and importance of hard work. They like to tell us that cleaning up is "boring" and they'd rather be doing other things. It seems that kids in general aren't expected to do as much as we had to do as kids in my family and I think it's a sad thing. I want my kids to be self-reliant and able to work hard to reach a goal and to feel good about the job they've done.

The Wife said...

I think often about teaching our kids the value of work. I came across this quote in the Dec. 2009 Ensign by Bishop H. David Burton (and promptly posted it on our fridge as a reminder to me and my husband):

One of parents’ most important responsibilities is to teach their children to work. Even young children can begin to experience the benefits of working when they are involved in household chores and in service to others. Wise parents will work alongside their children, will provide frequent praise, and will make sure no task is overwhelming.

Anonymous said...

im gonna post a link to this on my blog :)

Karry said...

Thanks for another slam dunk Jenifer. Love this post as well as your first. My mom & I have had this conversation before. When it become so 'wrong' to take care of your family.
PS. happy b-day!

jenifer said...

thank you!! oh, birthdays...

jenifer said...

Wife- i love that quote!
and becki-- cleaning is boring compared to this age of constant entertainment.
how can we teach them to crave the boring?
kids are so wise aren't they?!

i love your comments! thanks...

Tiffany said...

LOVE THIS!!!! :-)

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