The Value of Homemakers

cooking2I didn’t know, until I saw a link at Bobbi’s, that an article was going viral called I Look Down on Young Women With Husband and Kids and I’m Not Sorry by someone writing under the name of Amy Glass.

“Amy” starts out provocatively by saying, “Every time I hear someone say that feminism is about validating every choice a woman makes I have to fight back vomit. Do people really think that a stay at home mom is really on equal footing with a woman who works and takes care of herself?”

She goes on to say that “If women can do anything, why are we still content with applauding them for doing nothing?” that when a woman “stays inside the box and does the house and kids thing” it “is the path of least resistance,” that “women secretly like to talk about how hard managing a household is so they don’t have to explain their lack of real accomplishments,” that “Men don’t care to ‘manage a household.’ They aren’t conditioned to think stupid things like that are ‘important’” that “Doing laundry will never be as important as being a doctor or an engineer or building a business.”

I’ve been thinking about this article for several days and trying to decide how to respond to it.

I could respond to the irony that in a society whose watchword is tolerance someone would manifest such intolerance, not to mention arrogance, towards another person’s differing life choices.

I could share the value of service to others. If you’ve ever lamented walking into a hotel room that has mold in the shower stall or stained sheets, or sat down at a restaurant with dirty silverware on the table or a waitress who couldn’t care less about getting your order to you correctly and in a timely manner, you’ve shown that you value good service. No matter what a company’s reputation or net worth is, if “the little” things aren’t taken care of, customers turn away. In that sense, the maid, the cook, the person at the front desk, etc., are all as important as the CEO. If we value such service in business, why should we despise it at home? G. K. Chesterton is quoted as saying, “Feminism is mixed up with a muddled idea that women are free when they serve their employers but slaves when they help their husbands.”

Even the Lord Jesus demonstrated the value of “lowly” service when He took on the role of a servant and washed His disciples’ feet.

I could point out just how much work a homemaker does. The division of labor varies from household to household, but most homemakers’ tasks include all or most of the following: planning meals, cooking, washing dishes, cleaning the rest of the kitchen (refrigerator, microwave, stovetop, etc.), sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, cleaning toilets and showers, mirrors, dusting, shopping for groceries, clothes, and household items, making appointments and reminding family members of them, washing, drying, and sometimes ironing clothes, taking some to and from the dry cleaners, organizing and maintaining household goods, and decorating. Investopia in January of 2012 estimated the worth of a homemaker’s services at above $96,000 per year. And, if one has children, all of the above increases and includes wiping noses and bottoms, teaching and training children and all that that involves, chauffeuring them to all the places they need to go, keeping on top of schedules and needs, etc.

If someone wants to hire a maid or cook, or eat out all the time so they don’t have to cook or wash dishes, that’s their prerogative, and that’s fine. But if someone wants to do these things in her own home for her own family, she should not be thought of as stupid, lazy, or in any way less of a human being.

I could answer Ms. Glass by sharing my own experience. As I was growing up, my mom was at home for long stretches and then worked outside the home for a while at intervals. When she worked, we had various babysitting situations, from someone coming to our home, to our being cared for in someone else’s home, to daycare (the worst, in my opinion, though my more gregarious sisters didn’t mind it as much). There was just nothing like mom at home.

When my husband and I were first married, I worked outside the home, and when I worked full time, we both worked on making dinner and washing dishes and other household chores. I don’t remember accomplishing much else in those days except work, dinner, kitchen clean-up, and laundry.

When I had my own children, I wanted more than anything else to stay at home with them. Not only did I want to be the one to teach and train them, but I didn’t want to miss out on their first smiles, first words, first steps, and time spent with them every day. When they went to school, I wanted to be the one to pick them up and hear all about their day and help them with their homework.

The Bible doesn’t say all women should get married or that no married woman should work outside the home, nor does it delineate who should take out the garbage, but it does say that older women should teach younger women “to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:4-5) and that it is good for young women to “marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully” (I Timothy 5:13-14). Our own household has fallen into more or less traditional roles. My husband doesn’t mind pitching in with household duties if need be, but he works 50-60 hours a week, so I don’t expect him to. I try to make home as peaceful a place as possible for him to come home to, something I couldn’t do if I was out working, too.

Some years ago I contracted transverse myelitis and couldn’t do much of anything on my own for the first few weeks. If I had ever had any doubts about my value as a homemaker before, they were put to rest then, as I saw the pressure my husband was under to try to work plus do everything that needed to be done at home.

Personally I have loved my life as a homemaker, and I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I’ve even been able to engage in a certain number of creative outlets and volunteer efforts, something I could not have done if I had been working full time.

I would say to Ms. Glass that homemakers and doctors each invest themselves in the lives of other people. It doesn’t matter what level that investment takes or how many people’s lives are involved. If the next generation is valuable, then the people who teach and train those children are valuable.

I could also share with Ms. Glass voices other than my own:

Homekeeping is a fine art. It grasps with one hand beauty, with the other utility; it has its harmonies like music and its order like the stars in their courses. Miriam Lukken in Mrs. Dunwoody’s Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping

We have our own small square of life on this planet, and it’s our choice to do with it what we will. We can bring order and beauty to that place we have been given. We can touch the people who come within our sphere of influence with love and care and comfort. ~ Claire Cloninger

The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest. ~ Thomas Moore

Homemaking—being a full-time wife and mother—is not a destructive drought of usefulness but an overflowing oasis of opportunity; it is not a dreary cell to contain one’s talents and skills but a brilliant catalyst to channel creativity and energies into meaningful work; it is not a rope for binding one’s productivity in the marketplace, but reins for guiding one’s posterity in the home; it is not oppressive restraint of intellectual prowess for the community, but a release of wise instruction to your own household; it is not the bitter assignment of inferiority to your person, but the bright assurance of the ingenuity of God’s plan for the complementarity of the sexes, especially as worked out in God’s plan for marriage; it is neither limitation of gifts available nor stinginess in distributing the benefits of those gifts, but rather the multiplication of a mother’s legacy to the generations to come and the generous bestowal of all God meant a mother to give to those He entrusted to her care.” ~ Dorothy Patterson

No ordinary work done by a man is either as hard or as responsible as the work of a woman who is bringing up a family of small children; for upon her time and strength demands are made not only every hour of the day but often every hour of the night. She may have to get up night after night to take care of a sick child, and yet must by day continue to do all her household duties well; and if the family means are scant she must usually enjoy even her rare holidays taking her whole brood of children with her. The birth pangs make all men the debtors of all women. Above all our sympathy and regard are due to the struggling wives among those whom Abraham Lincoln called the plain people, and whom he so loved and trusted; for the lives of these women are often led on the lonely heights of quiet, self-sacrificing heroism. ~ Teddy Roosevelt, 1905

But housekeeping is fun……It is one job where you enjoy the results right along as you work. You may work all day washing and ironing, but at night you have the delicious feeling of sunny clean sheets and airy pillows to lie on. If you clean, you sit down at nightfall with the house shining and faintly smelling of wax, all yours to enjoy right then and there. And if you cook—that creation you lift from the oven goes right to the table. ~ Gladys Taber, Stillmeadow Seasons

The preparation of good food is merely another expression of art, one of the joys of civilized living. ~ Dione Lucas

Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love. ~ Craig Claiborne

Great thoughts go best with common duties. Whatever therefore may be your office regard it as a fragment in an immeasurable ministry of love. ~ Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott, b. 1825

The human being who lives only for himself finally reaps nothing but unhappiness. Selfishness corrodes. Unselfishness ennobles, satisfies. Don’t put off the joy derivable from doing helpful, kindly things for others. ~ B.C. Forbes

The best things in life are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

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

Order and beauty are contagious. So are disorder and ugliness. I want my house to reflect the peace and order of heaven. T. Sparrow

The job of keeping a home is an honorable one. There is a difference between a housekeeper and a homekeeper. A hired housekeeper will keep the home clean and do the duties as expected of her employer, but a homekeeper does the duties in her home from her heart. She does it out of love for her family. She looks upon her duties as the most important job in all the world. It takes a lot of patience, skill, commitment and love to be a keeper of your home. Be faithful; in due time, your familoy will rise up and call you blessed. I am honored to be the keeper of my home. ~ Mrs. Martha Greene, from Treasury of Vintage Homekeeping Skills

In these notes, I have endeavored to impart knowledge necessary for keeping a neat, well-ordered home. But beyond that, I wish for you to understand the larger issues of homekeeping — creating an environment in which all family members grow and thrive, a place where each member may evolve to the full extent our Creator intended. ~ Mrs. Dunwoody’s Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping

The sheer Quantity of time I’ve spent on these endeavors is astronomical. People making doesn’t happen overnight or just in the evenings and on weekends. To those who say it’s only quality that counts, I suggest trying the quality time approach with the garden. As anyone who’s ever had one knows, a garden requires a lot of work. What counts is being there, through thick and thin. Nobody, and I mean nobody can pay someone to do what only a mother will do for free. ; You can’t buy that kind of nurturing, protection, and interaction on a 24 hour, 7 day a week basis. ~ Debra Evans, Heart and Home

Seen from the outside, housework can look like a Sisyphean task that gives you no sense of reward or completion. Yet housekeeping actually offers more opportunities for savoring achievement than almost any other work I can think of. Each of its regular routines brings satisfaction when completed. These routines echo the rhythm of life, and the housekeeping rhythm is the rhythm of the body. You get satisfaction not only from the sense of order, cleanliness, freshness, peace and plenty restored, but from the knowledge that you yourself and those you care about are going to enjoy these benefits. ~Cheryl Mendelson, Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House 

I would hope that some of these thoughts would be enough to convince Ms. Glass of the value of homemakers and the right for women to exercise their freedom of choice in such an occupation. But there will always be Amy Glasses in the world, some who have said much worse. Whether or not some women denigrate the role and worth of homemakers, I hope that these words encourage you who are reading who have chosen that path.

See also:

Wanting things to be “perfect.”

I confess: I don’t really like to cook.

A Real Home.

A Homemaking Meme.

Another homemaking meme.

A prayer for home.

Two views of housework.

Meditations for daily tasks.

Thy list be done.

The Blue Bowl.

9 thoughts on “The Value of Homemakers

  1. As always, Barbara, balanced and well-thought-out. I believe a lot of our values are topsy-turvy today. The idea of more kids in daycare and more women in the workplace has two sides to it, as you expressed. May we all search God’s will for our families! Bless you!

  2. Very well-said, Barbara! Having worked outside the home for 8 years, I can say that homemaking is definitely a harder “job”!

  3. I applaud your response, Barbara! It was well thought out and respectful. Respect, and her lack thereof, might be a virtue Ms. Glass might want to take a hard look at.

  4. I just wanted to tell you “thank you” for this post! It was just what I needed! I struggle so often with feeling “worthless” as a stay at home mom(even though really I know it isn’t true, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!!!), so it was a huge encouragement! 🙂

  5. I was “raised” I guess you can say by a working women. I had a unnecessarily hard childhood that I would not wish on anyone. I thought that was the way that things were done though the woman works and comes home, eats and sleeps only cleans when time allowed thats it. She had something to prove and she wanted to prove to us that she was worth something. But she missed our entire childhoods and you only get one childhood. I had friends whose moms stayed home with them and they had great childhoods. their parents came to their sporting events and everything. I walked home from every practice of every sport that I wanted to be on. My ‘mom’ came to one event of mine that’s it she was too busy and tired from working outside the home. I was a working woman I worked from 13-26. At 19 I went to college. From 19-26 I worked 2-7 jobs at a time never less than 2 never more than 7. I made a boatload of money I was bring in around 90,000.00 a year. I paid back my student loans three years after graduation. that included housing expenses food and everything else I am in no debt of my own right now. I wasn’t happy I was working all of the time my partner who I got with when I was 19 our relationship was a mess. I can not even claim the first seven years of our relationship and we were living together. He was cooking and going to school I was doing everything else. It was not working . This last year was our first 4th of july together. We missed the fireworks but I was still crying because I had missed so much of our relationship. It feels like we are really just getting to know each other and we have been living together for 9 years. I am a housewife and homemaker now and I love it! I am actually working a lot harder now than I ever was working outside the home believe it or not. I never understood the whole housewife and homemaker thing until I actually did it. I love getting to be home when my partner gets home. I love making homemade meals from scratch. I love having the time to really clean and to really go through my home to get rid of things that we do not use, fit into or no longer need. I am constantly cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and taking care of food shopping and paying bills when needed. We also go with out a lot of fluff or extras that we really do not need anyway. We don’t go out a lot we, we don’t own a tv or microwave, we don’t have any unneeded extras at all. Our date night includes a homemade meal and talking sometimes we go to Wendy’s for an expensive night out. But I am so much more fulfilled now than I ever was and I know what I do is not for everyone but when we do have children I will be the one to raise them. I know that society want all women to work outside the home for the GDP to go up. Because if a woman works outside the home gives her baby formula instead of breast milk, diapers instead of elimination communication, cribs which most parents do not use and dresser sets that they really don’t need until toddlerhood instead of a twin size mattress on the floor next to mom and dad bed and had a nanny raise her child then the GDP goes way up. When she saves the money and does it herself the GDP goes down. Society is tricking women and making women feel bad when some women just want to just be women. So if you’re working then work be that career woman that you want to be if you are a housewife then be a housewife I knew and respect how much work I do and most housewifes do. There is not enough time in a day to really be both. The first feminist were spinsters with family wealth they didn’t have husbands children or houses to clean keep that in mind. But be secure in your position and in who you are because there is nothing wrong with it either way.

  6. Pingback: My favorite posts of the year | Stray Thoughts

  7. Pingback: The Value of Housework | Stray Thoughts

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