“His house was perfect, whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Evil things did not come into that valley.
“I wish I had time to tell you even a few of the tales or one or two fo the songs they heard in that house. All of them. . . grew refreshed and strong in a few days there. Their clothes were mended as well as their bruises, their tempers, and their hopes. Their bags filled with provisions light to carry but strong to bring them over the mountain passes. Their plans were improved with the best advice.” (J.R.R. Tolkein, The Hobbit, 61)
I’ve always loved this description of Elrond’s house from Tolkein’s book, The Hobbit. It conjures up the image of what a home should be – a place to sleep, work, eat, sing, rest, where physical and emotional ailments are mended, where evil does not come.
Homemaking is just that, the making of a home. It is mainly a woman’s responsibility. We are naturally endowed with divine attributes of sensitivity, nurturing, caring, and creating. Our task is to create an environment where our family members feel safe, loved, nurtured. It should be a place with simple beauty that is conducive to the Lord’s Spirit, for that is after all where we are trying to lead our family, isn’t it, back to Him.
Homemaking is done in the simplest of gestures, in what most would label the mundane tasks of life. Who isn’t refreshed by clean sheets, a vase of flowers gracing the table, warm bread from the oven, or words read from the scriptures?
“Homemaking skills are becoming a lost art. I worry about this. When we lose the homemakers in a society, we create an emotional homelessness much like street homelessness, with similar problems of despair, drugs, immorality, and lack of self-worth. In a publication called The Family in America, Bryce Christensen writes that the number of homeless people on the street “does not begin to reveal the scope of homelessness in America. For since when did the word home signify merely physical shelter, or homelessness merely the lack of such shelter? … Home [signifies] not only shelter, but also emotional commitment, security, and belonging. Home has connoted not just a necessary roof and warm radiator, but a place sanctified by the abiding ties of wedlock, parenthood, and family obligation; a place demanding sacrifice and devotion, but promising loving care and warm acceptance.” (Susan W. Tanner, “Strengthening Future Mothers“, Ensign, June 2005, 20–24)
Homemaking is becoming a lost art. Many girls are leaving home not knowing how to do the basics in cooking, sewing, budgeting, laundering, cleaning. I took a class during my second semester at BYU-Idaho called Homemaking 101. The first day the teacher had everyone (all girls) introduce themselves and state what they hoped to learn or gain from the class. Two of us weren’t married. I was taking the class as one of my “fun” classes, something I was interested in. The rest were newlyweds. Almost every single one said they needed to learn (and their husbands wanted them to learn) how to cook and budget. They wished they had taken the time to learn the basics skills of running a house. It wasn’t necessarily the case that their mothers hadn’t tried to teach them. They just didn’t want to learn until faced with the realization that it was something they really did need to know! I was ever so grateful as time went on to my parents who made sure I was taught those skills at home. The only two things I learned in that class that I didn’t already know were napkin folding (that was actually really fun!) and formal table setting (as in for a four or five course meal).
Many of these girls growing up had viewed homemaking as a drudgery so it was something they were remiss to learn. This image of a wife unhappily slaving away at home has been perpetuated by media and the culture around us. Girls are constantly bombarded with the messages that they can’t possibly feel fulfilled or successful if they stay at home. As mothers who truly do feel fulfilled and successful being at home we need to counter those messages. And the best place to start is within our own homes by example and attitude.
“Do not be deceived in your quest to find happiness and an identity of your own. Entreating voices may tell you that what you have seen your mothers and grandmothers do is old-fashioned, unchallenging, boring, and drudgery. It may have been old-fashioned and perhaps routine; at times it was drudgery. But your mothers and grandmothers have sung a song that expressed the highest love and the noblest of womanly feelings. They have been our nurturers and our teachers. They have sanctified the work, transforming drudgery into the noblest enterprises.
Homemaking is whatever you make of it. Every day brings satisfaction along with some work which may be frustrating, routine, and unchallenging. But it is the same in the law office, the dispensary, the laboratory, or the store. There is, however, no more important job than homemaking. As C. S. Lewis said, “A housewife’s work … is the one for which all others exist.”(James E. Faust, How Near to the Angels, April 1998)
There is reassurance and comfort for the whole family when the time has been taken for the simple everyday tasks to be done. Yes, they are mundane, but they need not be boring, not when the proper perspective is kept. I’ve shared part of this article before but will share it again:
Almost two thousand years ago, in a tender and telling New Testament story, the Savior taught us of the magical nature of home as he created for His disciples an impromptu refuge on an obscure shore. This very familiar story takes place at that critical period when the disciples experienced not only the unprecedented agony of Gethsemane and the betrayal and crucifixion but the unspeakable joy of embracing the resurrected Lord.
What happens now? seems to have been the pervasive atmosphere of their world. A little lost, they returned to the pursuits and prospects they had left, without a backward glance, three years before. “Peter saith unto them, I go fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing” (John 21:3).
Imagine the weariness and discouragement of men whose arms have cast and recast nets, only to draw them back empty again and again. Famished and exhausted, they headed back towards shore. “But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, . . .and did cast himself into the sea. And the other disciples came in a little ship, . . .dragging the net with fishes. As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. . . Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. . . Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.” (John 21:4-9, 12-13)
While the disciples were struggling and striving, wavering between hope and despair, the Savior of the world was creating a little, temporary home for them – a place where they could be refreshed and renewed, and later instructed. It was a home first and foremost because he was there. It was a home, too, because like a loving wife or mother, he was considering their needs and pleasures, their comforts and joys- and meting his services to their heartaches and yearnings.
The meal the Savior prepared for His disciples was a simple one. Have you ever wondered at that? This was, after all, the resurrected Lord. He could have produced any food from any corner of the planet and from any period of time. It could have been pate, peach cobbler or pressed duck. Instead, the risen Christ – with hands bearing our wounds – prepared a sweet, simple, familiar meal for his weary followers. And it is upon the simplicity of that meal that I would like to focus particularly. For the Lord was celebrating something we seem to avoid in our culture; he was celebrating the mundane, the repetitive, the ritual. (Nancy Young, “Who Sweeps a Room,” BYU Women’s Conference 2000, emphasis added by me)
If doing the “mundane,” making a home for loved ones, is good enough for the Savior, it is certainly good enough for me! Yes, there are many, many days where I feel my efforts go unnoticed. But, in the end, I know my family knows I love them. That makes it all worthwhile. It is also something I hope to teach my daughters.
Homemaking is truly an heavenly calling.
**Side note** I know that these basic skills should also be learned by boys and men. We plan on teaching them to our son. He already has a turn in the chore rotation helping with laundry, cooking, table setting, etc. My own brothers were taught these skills. They both bake excellent pies and my brother, Jon, can iron a shirt more perfectly than anyone I know. But the point is, even though they know these skills it is to be a help to their wife. It is not to take over her divinely appointed domain as the homemaker.