When I started this blog, years ago, it mostly focused on homemaking. I couldn't find a whole lot of encouragement and support online in regards to what I was doing, so I thought I'd throw my voice out there and help lift my fellow women who had chosen to pursue homemaking as a career. The years have gone by, we've added more children to our family, and now homeschooling is the main focus of my day, and the blog has shifted to reflect that change in emphasis as well.
With that shift, it felt as though the mood around here changed. Instead of feeling like a motivational figure, either online or in my own home, I felt like a manager of tasks. "Do this, and you'll achieve that." "Keep pushing through, and you'll eventually have success." "Pray, and His strength will come to you and allow you to finish the difficult challenges in your day." I felt like I was striving to complete an obstacle course in a rainstorm--like there's this film of me falling down in the mud, but then dragging myself back up, sweat and rain streaming down my face as my eyes focus upon some goal in the distance, and my brow furrows before I force myself to start moving forward yet again, staggering with that first step, but then growing stronger and faster. You know, that epic shot of the underdog before they harness all their strength and miraculously win the race, all to the soundtrack of the drumming of an isolated heartbeat. I will finish this race. I am a finisher. I work smart. I've got God on my side. Strength, self-discipline, commitment, go.
The dishes can wait, there's a grammar lesson that needs teaching. The laundry can sit in the baskets while I drill math facts. We'll vacuum after piano practice; and, because the school day is taking longer than originally planned, we'll order pizza for dinner or have Dad bring home drive-thru. I'm going to buy frozen breakfasts to heat up in the morning because there's no time to cook in the mornings before starting school. The call to homeschool is of higher importance than the call to be a homemaker.
At the end of this last school year (2012-2013), I knew I was done. I was done with this. Done with the battle, the gritted teeth, the slow-motion shots of myself prevailing against difficulty every. day. of. my. life. (Of course, at the time I was trying to nurture four young children while recovering from two herniated discs that literally had me lying flat on my back. I guess it's pretty natural that one might feel like everything about their life was a bit of a battle.) Fearing that homeschooling was no longer the path I was supposed to pursue, I prayed many a tearful prayer that I could do the right thing, that I could choose the path that God had prepared for me, and that I could feel joy in walking His path, whatever it may be. Because all I could feel was anger and resentment--here I was, a college-educated, ridiculously smart woman of enormous ability, stuck on a couch because I injured myself with carrying heavy loads of laundry, bearing children, and sitting on my butt teaching my kids. Hurrah for homemaking and my wonderful feminine potential!
It was in these low moments of last spring that my eyes were opened to the importance of what I was doing. You see, three months of not being able to walk, bend over, lift, cook, or sit--in a home with four young children who stay home all day--it trashes your house. Completely. Michael worked his tail off making dinners and getting the laundry done in the evenings, but the other ten "children are awake" hours when he wasn't around--the house was getting trashed worse every single day. One Sunday my bishop shook my hand before church and asked how things were going. I broke down in tears and just blurted out, "My house is filthy and I can't clean it up." And then my eyes widened at having said that, out loud, to my bishop. Bless that man, he told our Relief Society president and she had a posse of women show up at my house that week for a serious housecleaning event.
It was during that "work party" that my eyes were opened: that same Relief Society president, while sweeping the dining room floor, bent over at the waist to pick up a piece of garbage off of the floor. First, I felt a pang of jealousy because I couldn't remember the last time I had bent from the waist and not felt pain; second, that little moment of picking up a piece of trash made that room look so much better. I felt better not having to see that piece of trash. I felt better not having to worry about tripping over something. I felt better not having to smell food rotting in the garbage cans or in the sink. I felt better seeing the carpet and the vacuum tracks that told me the carpet was clean. I felt relieved whereas I had felt suffocated an hour before. I said a silent prayer that I could remember that moment, and it has stuck with me since.
We just had General Conference last weekend. It's a time when we receive counsel from church leaders in the form of various talks/sermons. Two weeks before this General Conference I felt a strong desire to "prepare" for it. Normally I consider Conference a positive experience if I manage to just listen to the sessions, but my heart yearned for a significant experience this time around. So I embarked upon a course of preparation--I attended the temple, I re-committed to daily scripture study, I read a talk every day from the last General Conference, I was more attentive in my prayers, and I was diligent about writing in my journal. Our bishop counselled us to pray earnestly to Heavenly Father to know what lessons we needed to learn, or to know what answers we should be searching for. I prayed, but I didn't really have an idea of what I wanted to hear or for what question I wanted an answer.
But I was starting to notice a pattern in my studies: talks that mentioned the work of homemaking, the work of motherhood, and the gentle love of Christ were hitting my heart in an almost painful way. It started first with Elaine S. Dalton's talk "We Are Daughters of Our Heavenly Father," when she said, "Our daily contributions of nurturing, teaching, and caring for others may seem mundane, diminished, difficult, and demeaning at times..." and, of her own mother, "She was never recognized by the world. She didn't want that. She understood who she was and whose she was--a daughter of God. Indeed, it can be said of our mother that she acted well her part."
I found myself wanting to be like Sister Dalton's mother. I want my children to have a mother who lovingly serves them without complaint, who has a gentle answer and a powerful faith that shows, through example, that God is with us. I wanted to see the beauty in folding laundry, making dinner, mopping the floor, and scouring the bathtub. I know it's beautiful because I've seen the homes and families that have a mother who knows those things are beautiful. I know how I feel around those women, and I want my children to feel that way around me: calm, safe, loved, at peace, clean, healthy, strong, beautiful, glorious. I've respected those women since childhood when I'd visit the homes of my friends whose mothers were full-time homemakers, and I knew that was the kind of mother I wanted to be when I eventually had children.
And then there was Elder Richard G. Scott's talk, "For Peace at Home," which grabbed me starting with the first few lines: "Many voices from the world in which we live tell us we should live at a frantic pace. There is always more to do and more to accomplish. Yet deep inside each of us is a need to have a place of refuge where peace and serenity prevail, a place where we can reset, regroup, and reenergize [sic] to prepare for future pressures." And it hit me--I have no place like this. I have a building that I have to keep clean, in which I also have to simultaneously prepare meals, teach children, and keep young children from harming themselves. All I saw from wake-up to lay-down was work. I was living in a cubicle.
So I started to pray to know what this all had to do with me. I was already home, what more could I do?
General Conference weekend arrived. I sat on the couch, journal and pen in hand, to take notes rather than knit as I usually do. The talks were good and uplifting, and then Elder D. Todd Christopherson took his turn at the pulpit and launched into a beautiful discourse about the morality of women and how our innate desire for the virtuous and lovely is so under-appreciated by so many in this day and age. He talked of the power we hold to inspire others to reach higher, and of how strong our influence is within the walls of our homes. It was during his talk that I felt, in my heart, a re-affirmation of the immense importance of homemaking.
Our homes are where our children's standards are shaped, where they learn what is right--and parents vary widely in their teachings of the definition of "right." Standards aren't just obeying the Ten Commandments; standards are knowing how to treat others, how to speak to others, how to conduct one's self, and how to love. People act out what they learned in their homes far more often than what they learned anywhere else. How am I teaching my children to act? What "version" of right are they internalizing?
What is the spirit of our home? Is it peace? Love? Contentment? Christ?
Or is it anxiety? Anger? Resentment? Exasperation?
What am I teaching my children to be comfortable with? What is "normal" to them?
I've tried to shift my focus off of the homeschooling and back towards homemaking since last weekend. I've prayed for the strength and the desire to prepare healthy meals, to keep caught up with the laundry, to clean all the things, and do all the organizational stuff that keeps things running smoothly. And you know what? Life is better this way. Homeschooling is so much easier and enjoyable this way--and I would venture to guess that we'll actually get more done each day once things are really running smoothly again. Heavenly Father even showed me, through my bout of sickness this week, that the "burden" of some of my tasks can be shared with my growing children. (Maybe I should say "joy" of my tasks...)
When my children are nourished with a healthy and balanced diet, they are calm; and, therefore, kinder. They are able to focus much better and perform better on their schoolwork.
When my children are able to get dressed in the morning without having to search for clean clothes, they have more time for their schoolwork and chores, which allows them more time to play. There's no anger on their part about not being able to find something they wanted, and no anger on my part about how long it's taking them to get ready.
When my children can walk through a room without stubbing their toes on toys, stepping on LEGOs, or tripping on items, there's no tears and yelling at other siblings for not picking up their stuff. If everything is put away, then it's easy to find those things when we need them, rather than getting angry and frustrated about not having what we need when we need it.
When the grocery list is filled out, I purchase everything I need instead of getting halfway through a recipe and realizing I'm missing a key ingredient and having to either run to the store or leave out the ingredient and risk the dish tasting wrong.
When the calendar is kept up-to-date, we have a chance at attending the neat things we'd like to attend.
When the baseline essentials are taken care of, we have time for the sublime--and we can enjoy it completely.
Is "homemaker" synonymous with the word "peacemaker?" For it is in our homes that we strive to create peace, a place of beauty and refuge from the storms of life. In our homes we teach peace to our children, in essence creating peace for future generations. Creating an orderly home is most definitely being about our Father's business.3
As a woman, a wife, a mother--as a homemaker, a hostess to Christ, my supreme goal is to invite Him into our home, and into the hearts of my husband and children. There are many, many tasks that lend to the accomplishment of that goal. It's work, and how I view and execute that work largely dictates how much of Christ's Spirit will enter my home.
I have so much influence through my work as a homemaker. I now see how important it is to put that work first. It's far easier to love and teach in a peaceful environment.
1 Matthew 5:9 KJV
2 Matthew 5:8 KJV
3 Luke 2:49