Homemaking, in some corners of the world, is a forgotten art.
I love being a stay-at-home mom, and some of my closest friends have also found fulfillment by not pursuing a career away from their families.
Charleen Mullen is this kind of mom. I wrote about her and her family in today's story "Beautifully Lived Simple Life." (And Brandon added Marci's photos to a photo gallery, available for viewing with my story online.) During the photo shoot for Romantic County, Charleen realized that people don't actually live the way it's portrayed in the magazines.
Those stories are there to inspire us to look for beauty and to find ways to add beauty and graciousness to our lives, to inspire those we live with (and us, too--especially when we're drowning in diapers or multiplication facts).
Rather than discourage readers, though, especially those who have no home, or live in a tiny apartment with only the bare necessities, this story can still be inspiring to us as women.
It's been said that the man is the head of the home, but the woman is the heart. I personally believe in God's design for the family, and have been most content as a help-meet to my husband and a full-time teacher and nurturer to my children. I am richer for it, and can enjoy peace of mind in knowing I've raising children who are trying to be a benefit to society, rather than a burden. (Charleen told me she feels the same way.)
Being a homemaker can be as boring or as fulfilling as you want it to be, no matter what the household income is, no matter where you live or how many people you live with. I'm still new to the country life, and I have to admit, there are days when I love it and days when I don't. But no matter what the day is like, I have learned (and am still learning) how to look for the good in each situation.
When my first-born was a little guy, we lived in a dilapidated single-wide mobile home, that was parked on my in-law's property outside of Tucson. I had always dreamed of a home in the suburbs where my kids could ride their bikes on a tree-lined street and play at the neighborhood park with their friends. But there I sat, surrounded by dirt and cactus (not to mention the scorpions, black widows and rattlesnakes), with not a sidewalk or park to be seen. It was frustrating--especially because we only had one car in those early days, and my husband worked two jobs. So, I spent a lot of time at home. But when we could, we'd go to a park, or spend a hot, desert summer day at the library or the mall, with me pushing a baby stroller.
Just because times were lean and extra money was scarce didn't mean we couldn't have fun together. It just meant we had to be creative.
We read a lot of books. And I read to my son (who was an only child for the first ten years of his life) two or three times a day. One of my favorite memories is watching him as a two-year-old sitting on the kitchen floor with one of his chunky toddler books, just jabbering away and waving his arms as he "read" the story to himself.
(He's still a reader today, only now the books are a lot thicker and the print a lot smaller. When he visited us last month, his current read had Leo Tolstoy's name on it.)
We'd also have "popcorn parties." In the middle of the afternoon, or after his nap I'd make a big bowl of popcorn, and we'd sit on the floor and just have a great time munching and playing a game or talking about our week, or our goals and dreams.
(Again, whenever he comes home--he's in his almost mid-twenties now--we'll go a few places, but he still enjoys just hanging out at home, watching a movie and eating popcorn or ice cream, building a pirate fort out of Legos with his sister, helping his dad with a project around the house, or just talking with his dad or me into the wee hours of the morning.)
I guess I've apologized over and over again that we couldn't do more for him while he was growing up. Being that I stayed home to teach and rear my kiddos, the family budget has always been tight. So, there wasn't the money to send him to adventurous summer camps or provide him with all the newest gadgets that his friends had. But this last time he was home, as he looked through the family photo albums, he saw pictures that made him smile, and even laugh. When he got through, he said, "You know, I really did have a happy childhood!" Yes, he did. It may have been humble, but for the most part it was happy.
What our children will treasure the most when they grow up and leave home has very little to do with the furnishings or the make, model or sticker price of the family car. It will be the memories of time spent together, talking, sharing, dreaming, working, laughing, and sometimes even hugging and crying. This is family life. And us moms are the mortar that holds the bricks together. Rich or poor, famous or not, you and I have the ability to mold our childrens' character and help them to appreciate every thing that's good, right, true and even beautiful.
Finally, after thirty years of marriage and always struggling to make ends meet, we, too, like John and Charleen Mullen, have our "dream home". It still needs a lot of work, but it's starting to come along. During the spring, I can go out to the garden and cut a few flowers to put in a pitcher of water to add beauty to the kitchen table. (If you live in town, you can plant flowers or tomatoes in large pots, and enjoy a little bit of gardening.) I still shop at thrift stores and yard sales, and a couple dresser drawers are filled with gently worn tablecloths and doilies that I drape over my hand-me-down furniture. Scented candles are inexpensive, and I usually have a couple lit around the house. I am fortunate enough to have two dining tables--one in the kitchen and one in the living room, so during the winter months, with a fire in the woodstove, we'll sit at the table close by and enjoy a cozy meal. In the spring and summer we'll picnic in our backyard.
We've never had money to go on expensive vacations or to afford boating or skiing equipment. So, we've made do with what was available. Never fancy, but always comfortable and tasteful--and bathed with love.
I'll close here with a couple poems from "Chez Fifi's" blog, copied with her permission:
Making A House A Home
It takes a lot of loving
To make a house a home;
It takes photographs and souvenirs
And knick-knacks on the shelves,
Memories of the ones we love
And pieces of ourselves.
It's flowers planted by the door
And dinner on the stove,
But really, what it takes the most
Is kindness that is shown,
By people and the love they spend
To make a house a home.
And from a magazine ad...
When I was a child, they said,
"Look, but don't touch."
Beautiful things were just out of reach.
But now I'm the grown-up.
I make the rules.
Beauty in this house is meant to be touched.
Beauty in this house is meant to touch you.