Lynn Bowen Walker is a Stanford graduate who was trained as a journalist, but who chose instead to dedicate herself to raising a family and building a strong home. A homemaker now for 23 years, she wrote much of this book while in the car waiting for her children to finish practices. In addition to making a mean chocolate chip cookie and having written for many magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman and Glamour, she has contributed to several books and is raising two sons with her husband, Mark.
Pam Young and Peggy Jones, real-life sisters and authors of the wonderful book Sidetracked Home Executives, once calculated that in their jobs as mothers and homemakers they had collectively:
Been pregnant for 54 months
Been in labor for 52 hours
Produced 821 gallons of mothers’ milk (8 oz. of milk, 6 times a day, for 365 days, times 6 kids)
Changed 78,840 diapers
Spent 6,000 hours in the laundry room
Run 14,965 dishwasher loads
Waited at the orthodontist 144 hours
Gone to 1,008 school conferences
Chaperoned 1 junior high dance
Broken up 105,850 fights (10 fights a day times 365 days times 29 years with fighting-aged kids)
Made 14,000 peanut-butter sandwiches
Baked 47,232 chocolate-chip cookies
Made 1,044 gallons of Kool-Aid®
Paid $34,580 in allowances
Spent 1,800 hours helping with homework
Spent 7,800 hours at soccer games, football games, basketball games, and lessons.1
I don't know about you, but it seems to me that the soccer-game figure is a mite low.
Help for the Unhappy Homemaker
By Lynn Bowen Walker
A friend who’s been home raising kids and now grandkids for more than thirty years shared that one of her most discouraging moments was being asked by a young girl, “Do you work at all?” My friend was so stunned she couldn’t give an answer.
Being a homemaker in our culture is not a valued position. Though the job involves incredible amounts of physical, mental, and emotional energy, it can still be trivialized by those who’ve never done it. When our work isn’t valued by others, it is only with great effort that we value it ourselves.
When my sons were two and three, I took a trip by myself to visit my sister, who lives in Norway. For the week I was gone, my husband took time off from work to care for our boys. Seven days later when I returned, I was greeted by a man who was utterly exhausted. “I don’t want you to ever have to go grocery shopping with the kids again,” he panted. “From now on, I’ll watch them while you go.” Apparently a tipped-over cart, food strewn everywhere, two howling children, and glares from elderly ladies gave him an empathy for my job that all the play-by-play description in the world couldn’t have won. “I could get the laundry washed and dried,” he said, eyes glazed from no sleep, “but I couldn’t get it folded. When they napped, I napped.”
Those of us who run a home every day have a thorough appreciation for the enormity of the task, even when our children no longer ride around in grocery carts. Counters do not wipe themselves, socks do not wash themselves (or turn themselves right side out), mail does not answer itself, and, as a college friend discovered to her dismay, “You mean you have to buy toilet paper?!” Those of us who run a home know there is always more to be done.
But to those who have never attempted it, homemaking appears to involve no work at all. If that special someone in your life hasn’t yet had the opportunity of running your home for a time—even if it’s just a day or two—consider going on a weekend women’s retreat or maybe a short visit to a relative. Give him the gift of discovering just what a homemaker’s job entails. Attitudes around your home may never be the same.
* * *
“You were born fifty years too late,” a friend tells her married daughter, who, though still childless, is tired of the working world and wants to be home.
Our culture so esteems those who work for pay that those of us who work at home for no pay feel obliged to answer the do-you-work question with a no. My husband, when he hears me being asked that question, often breaks in by answering, “She has the hardest job in the world—and also the most important. She’s home raising our two boys.” I love his acknowledgment that though I don’t spend the bulk of my waking hours off in some rented building doing tasks that have nothing to do with nurturing my family, I do indeed have a valid and incredibly valuable career.
Sometimes it’s tempting to take on more public commitments than we can really handle. Let’s face it: clearing the same old clutter off the same old counters and slicing up enough lunchtime apples to circle the globe can get tiresome. The family is not likely to burst into spontaneous applause at the sight of (yet another) clean bathroom sink.
But if organizing the bake sale or directing the Christmas play come at the expense of dirty laundry that’s beginning to emit interesting smells from our back room, it may be time to back off from some of our more public activities. Our families pay a price when we are overcommitted. As homemakers, we need to be careful we don’t give away so much of ourselves to the outside community that we have nothing left for those at home.
Dr. Mary Ann Froehlich, in her book What’s a Smart Woman Like You Doing in a Place Like This? Homemaking on Purpose, says, “The godly professional seeks God first, then cares for her family, and then serves the community. Each is an outflow of the other. But many well-meaning women fall into the trap of serving the community first, then fitting in their family’s needs, and finally having a few minutes left over to spend with God. They are always fighting burnout because their resources are constantly running dry. Life is running backwards!
“Consider the following ‘log in the eye’ situations,” she continues. “Sally teaches gourmet cooking classes two evenings a week. Her family is home eating TV dinners. . . . Sue is a successful music teacher. She is based at home and has a large number of students. By the end of the day, she is too tired to give her own children music lessons. Kathy diligently prepares and teaches two Bible studies a week. She does not have devotions with her own children.”2
We need to be careful to give our families our best, not our leftovers (dinners excepted!). Homemaking is a challenging profession, and to do it well demands our best efforts—especially if we’re domestically challenged. Some things just can’t be squeezed in like one more person in a restaurant booth.
“So much depends upon the homemakers. I sometimes wonder if they are so busy now with other things that they are forgetting the importance of this special work.” These words were written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The year was 1916.3
* * *
Let any man of sense and discernment become the member of a large household, in which a well-educated and pious woman is endeavoring systematically to discharge her multiform duties; let him fully comprehend all her cares, difficulties, and perplexities; and it is probable he would coincide in the opinion that no statesman, at the head of a nation’s affairs, had more frequent calls for wisdom, firmness, tact, discrimination, prudence, and versatility of talent, than such a woman.4
—Catharine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, American Woman’s Home
* * *
As I sat on the gym floor waiting for my son’s wrestling practice to finish, I read a magazine article about women who own their own businesses. Each had a specialty. A niche. Something that made her company different from all the others.
I got to thinking about that in light of homemaking. Isn’t that true of us too? Aren’t we all keepers of the home differently, depending on our interests, our energy level, the ages and number of our children, our family’s priorities?
Our spiritual gifts, too, help determine our niche as homemakers. If God has gifted us with hospitality, our homes might draw friends for warm chocolate-chip cookies, a homey atmosphere, a cup of tea, and a listening ear. If God has gifted us in serving, our homes might be bustling hubs of meal preparation for the sick in our congregation or places where baby clothes are laundered and readied to be brought to crisis pregnancy centers. If God has given us gifts of knowledge and wisdom, our homes might be quiet places where we study God’s Word and perhaps lead others in Bible studies.
Our job descriptions and our homes will look different than those of every other homemaker. The problem comes when we begin to compare, to think that because someone else’s home is straight out of a magazine, complete with hand-spun dog-hair blankets, prize-winning begonias, and her own flock of grain-fed geese, our homes should mimic that. We are each unique, “immaculately unique,” as one author puts it. God has given us “varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:4–5). We have different gifts and different ministries. Why do we think our homes should look the same?
So give it some thought. Ask God. What is your niche as a homemaker? How should your home be unique as a result? Dwell on the wonder that, just as each person’s thumbprint carries swirlies and whirlies unique to its owner, so our homes carry one-of-a-kind impressions simply because our touch leaves an imprint that no one else can duplicate.
* * *
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” (Isaiah 40:28–31)
Thank You, Father, that I don’t have to be a homemaker quite like anyone else, that You made me an original and that my life and my home can reflect that. Help me to count on You for the strength to do my best as I serve my family.
Excerpted from Queen of the Castle: 52 Weeks of Encouragement for the Uninspired, Domestically Challenged or Just Plain Tired Homemaker; Copyright 2006 by Lynn Bowen Walker; Published by Integrity Publishers. Used with permission.
1. Pam Young and Peggy Jones, “Sidetracked Sisters,” audiotape from March 1998.
2. Dr. Mary Ann Froehlich, What’s a Smart Woman Like You Doing in a Place Like This? Homemaking on Purpose (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1989), 35–36.
3. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Ozarks: The Rediscovered Writings, ed.
Stephen W. Hines (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), 64. Originally written in 1916.
4. Catharine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, American Woman’s Home (Hartford, CT: Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, 1869; rep. 1998), 220–21
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