Something to Think About

4:56 AM

According to my plans of last year, I would have graduated to an intensive homemaking regime -- cooking, cleaning, crocheting. That's what stay-at-home daughters did. Since I had no thought to get a job or go to school, I figured I ought to bite the bullet and be a stay-at-home daughter in stereotype as well as belief. (Truth be told, I stunk at homemaking...unless we're talking bathtub scrubbing. I loved Softsoap. And Comet.  And Scrubbing Bubbles. Just in case you wanted to know.)

Generally speaking, there are only three options available to stay-at-home daughters:

1. Work for Dad.
2. Start a home business.
3. Train for one's future home full-time.

All three are respectable choices. Working for the family business -- nice. Starting a home business -- hats off to you. Gathering homemaking skills -- good job. My dad didn't have a business, and I didn't sew or paint or sell books, so I set my sights on the third one: full-time homemaker-in-training. 

It sounded legitimate and doable...until I started thinking about it. How did that look, practically? Who could I copy? Where were the guidelines? What counted as "homemaking skills"?

Perhaps I am the only one who thinks like this, but I sometimes purposefully block out the truth. I'll peek around the corner of my question and catch a glimpse of the answer -- the truth -- and then I slam my eyes shut and pretend with all my might that I just imagined it. Sometimes I'll creep back to that question corner and use peripheral vision to peep at the truth. I imagine myself doing that. Literally. 

When I peeped around those question corners, those questions about plucking visionary daughterhood from the clouds to the earth, I ran smack into this:

It doesn't take much to master basic homemaking skills.

I am not trying to be disrespectful. I am not crazy, either. It's true: it does not take much to master basic homemaking skills.

How long does it take to learn how to put dishes in a dishwasher? Fold a towel? Follow a recipe? Push a shopping cart? Create a budget? Change a diaper? Read a pattern? Clean a toilet? Answer: not very long. All human beings who plan on eating, wearing clothes, and making messes ought to know basics -- sewing on buttons, fixing breakfast, dusting the living room. And I think everyone who lives in a family and who especially wants to start their own ought to learn how godly families operate. Time management, childcare, homeschooling skills even -- these are all excellent, excellent things to know.

But they don't take forever to master.

The typical stay-at-home daughter plans on mastering homemaking skills until a good, godly (and handsome) young man carries her over her own threshold. For the sake of argument, what happens if he does not come until she's thirty years old? Does it really take from the time she graduates high school to her wedding day -- some twelve or thirteen years -- to learn the basics of homemaking?

No, it does not. 

How do I know? Because I, Queen of Haphazard Homemaking, have run a home before -- all by myself. I didn't set aside any specialized course of training for it (though I remember when my mother taught me how to stitch a straight line and sift flour): I just lived life from day one to the day I graduated. I've been doing laundry, washing dishes, making lunches, cleaning rooms, and shopping Walmart since forever. I know basic first aid and health. I learned how to budget, do taxes and clip coupons. I read up on childcare and even parenting -- just for fun. I've talked to my mother and older women about respecting husbands, raising kids and every homemaking subject under the sun. 

I am not perfect, I am not particularly talented, but I am capable.

Many women encouraged us homemakers-in-training by recounting how college and career halted their advancement in the home arts -- they couldn't even boil water. (As a side note, if you cannot get a pot, put in water, set it on the stove, turn it on high and wait for bubbles, you cannot succeed in anything else in life.)

I do not deny that it may take a little bit of concentrated training to learn basic skills if you did not grow up folding your own laundry and whipping up spaghetti for hungry siblings. Any skill takes some focus, a little practice (and a pinch of luck in my case). But I do not understand how we can say that a girl who grew up knowing how to do everything needs more practice and training until her husband arrives. 

Some will say, "But I've been a homemaker for twenty-plus years and I'm still learning!" or "Homemaking isn't just pushing a vacuum -- it's raising kids and loving a husband." But that is just the point: an unmarried girl can learn every skill her mother has and still not be ready for marriage, motherhood and full-time homemaking. There's a learning curve in being the mistress of one's own house, of loving one's own husband, of raising one's own children. That's the difference between training and doing. All the experience in the world cannot erase that initial bump in the road. 

That reasoning did not convince me, needless to say. During the summer, I would (pretend to) buckle down and be a real-life, honest-to-goodness homemaker-in-training. I would do my chores, straighten my room and ask my mother what she needed me to do. Generally I handled meal rushes or helped with shopping -- a total of maybe two or three hours a day. She didn't have anything else for me to do. Whenever she told me to run off and do whatever, I felt this horrible squeeze in my soul: that was it? There was nothing left for me to do? Nothing?

There wasn't. My mother is a very capable homemaker. My sisters are more helpful than I am. When we all pitch in, the homemaker-in-training work is done -- in a snap. What's left is mother/head-homemaker/wife stuff. I can sew and I can bake cookies and I can read a book on child training -- but there was no way I could live my days until indefinite and unsure marriage defined by something that lasted no more than a few hours.

Permit me to go so far as to say that I don't think the full-time homemaker-in-training exists. The prominent ones who advocate this lifestyle have their own businesses or work for their fathers. Most of the women raising homemakers have young daughters. This is such untested ground. Full-time mothers and homemakers are some of the busiest people on earth: I get that, I've seen it, and I don't wish to diminish the importance or difficult of homemaking, boots on the ground. 

I only wish to be Captain Obvious in a sea of idealism. Homemaking skills and women who love home life are a must -- but it does not take years to dust a shelf properly. Just something to think about.

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10 impressions

  1. Excellent point and it may seem obvious, but it needs to be said.

    Adele

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  2. So true. Thank you for clarifying on this subject. As I have said before, I do consider myself a 'stay at home daughter' though it looks different than many ultra-conservative's view on SAHD's. (Though I rarely use that term, since most people already consider me a looney creature anyway, no need to add to my reputation!) Out of those 3 options you listed, I decided to go with none (exclusively). My dad doesn't have a home business, I'm not talented with a needle or crochet hook, and I'm absolutely menacing with a paintbrush in hand. I'm already up to the highest level of training in the 'managing your home without having your own that you're entirely responsible for' if you know what I mean.

    So, I combined all my skills and desires and it has turned our rather nicely, at least until the Lord directs another direction. I'm a music teacher (though not by choice, particularly. I'm grateful for this job, but am extremely thankful it is only 6 hours a week) so that where I make my wee pittance of money, I help teach my sister at home, make all the lunches and supper at least 3-4 times a week (Bailey, you have no idea how I envy your having sisters near your age to help cook. My 17 yr old brother cooks once a week, but how fun would it be to have sisters to join you in the kitchen! :) and I have time to volunteer at church, direct the drama group, help with homeschool group activities, volunteer at other area organizations from time to time and, in general, be available to help. I don't fit into anyone's mold, and I'm perfectly ok with that. Many would say I'm not a 'true' SAHD, since I work outside of the house and have taken college classes before.

    Instead of spending my time focusing on how I'd run things or do things if I had my own home (not saying that's entirely a bad thing, if done carefully in moderation) I try to actively seek ways to serve others and learn about being a 'living sacrifice' as Scripture dictates. The Christian life is all about service in whatever capacity you may be in: child, adult, married, unmarried, God uses situations now to prepare you for whatever may be down the road. Thank you for sharing your heart and views with us!

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  3. I think you're missing option #4: Ministry. By the time a young woman has the maturity (age and experience), time (graduated high school), and driver's license, there opens a HUGE door of opportunity to serve the church, home and community in a variety of different ways. Just think of the things you and girls your age have already been doing: organizing and teaching girls Sunday School classes and Bible studies, managing VBS and other church activities, preparing piano and song ministries for church and nursing homes, volunteering in public schools, providing insight and encouragement through writing articles and blogs,cleaning church facilities,teaching younger children in homeschool, freeing up a busy Mom by running errands, grocery shopping, and sharing in cooking and housekeeping jobs, etc.

    Add to that the possiblity of teaching homeschool co-op classes, teaching reading or English as 2nd language to adults, preparing and delivering meals to and/or visiting the elderly, helping busy moms of young children who are just trying to give them a Christian home education minus government nanny care, serving in a crisis pregnancy center or other local mission, foreign language study to do former...well, the list could go on.

    No one could do all those things at once, of course, but they don't just HAPPEN. They take SOMEONE who has the time and energy and passion to do such. Someone who has the vision to realize that those sorts of activities aren't just something to "fill my time" or "give myself a purpose for living", but to understand that those things work together to BUILD THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

    I think there is a huge void in Christian ministry because the young, capable, pre-married ladies are otherwise occupied--in a full time job, in college, or worse: idle or clueless. The ones left are married women with children who now have full-time ministry managing their own homes or fathers juggling work and home or anyone who has full-time employment, or elderly, retired adults who might have time but less energy.

    Before you conclude that I'm being a "Vision Forum" (or insert other now suspicious and stereoyped stay-at-home daughter vision)commercial, I wholeheartedly agree that God has opened a door for you to go to Hillsdale College and study and has created you and gifted you with such a disposition to learn and grow and minister in that setting. As He has other unique paths for other individuals!

    I just wanted to chime in about the very real possibility and need for full-time, unpaid (usually) ministry!

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  4. Savannah -- YES! I support girls who want to be full-time homemakers someday, and I support stay-at-home daughters who are as busy and productive as you are. I love how balanced you are: you grasp the importance of the home and yet you don't let that distract from meeting real, immediate needs that only fresh young faces can address. Bravo for using your gifts and serving God with your whole life!

    And by the way...you may come cook dinner with me whenever you like. I'm pretty crazy in the kitchen, though. You'll have to dance to music while spilling noodles across the counter. You up for it? ;)

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  5. Mama, I agree! I think that young people neglect full-time ministry as a legitimate option. If a young woman decides not to get a full-time job or attend college (like awesome Savannah :)) in order to pursue different talents and ministries, more power to her!

    I was speaking of the stereotypical SAHD options. Ministry isn't really one of them...unless it happens within the four walls of a house. Many (most?) girls who stay home don't do so to pursue full-time ministry -- they do it to be full-time homemakers-in-training. They feel the home is their ministry, when it isn't -- that's the wife/mother's primary ministry. Many girls say -- and this is what I believed and have seen most girls buy into -- that they're staying home in order to pursue advanced homemaking skills...when they're already 100% capable.

    It's not staying home that I'm talking about....it's this notion that training for homemaking can consume years and years of a girl's life...years she can use to minister outside and inside her immediate home to a hurting world. Whether a girl stays home or not wasn't the point of this post: it's what she does with her time and her life before marriage.

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  6. Bailey, I enjoyed both your post and your mother's comment, and I think they go together beautifully to create a thought-provoking viewpoint on the duties and opportunities of unmarried young women. On the one hand, you're quite right - spending all those years on the fundamentals of homemaking (just the "doing stuff" like dishes and laundry) might not be the best way for a bright young woman to spend her time; and that goes great with what your mom said - we need to use our lives productively, with the goal of building up the body of Christ and reaching out to the lost.

    For a lot of girls, as your mom said, this translates to taking their homemaking skills outside of their own homes and into the church and the homes of other believers - I think of the young women in very conservative churches who do not believe in higher education; many of them work for the businesses of other church members or help out other women with young children. And then for others of us, it consists of getting training in other fields besides homemaking, so we can bless others in a completely different way.

    The bottom line is that we are to be furthering the Kingdom every day of our lives, and not selfishly focusing on our own happiness (which often means our future marriages). There is so much to do and so much to experience that we should live our lives in wonder and hard work every day, no matter what that looks like.

    Thanks for the great post, Bailey, and please thank your mom for her comment, too! :-)

    Love,
    Vicki

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  7. THANK YOU. While the stay at home daughter movement does have some valuable things to offer, so much of it is downright unrealistic for many families. Thank you for finally pointing out the flaws in the view that so many people embrace.

    I think that many girls buy into the stay at home daughter ideal because they are so disillusioned by what our culture has to offer, but it's not about doing the opposite of culture. It's about doing what God has called YOU to.

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  8. Bailey, I think your premise is right on, and this is one of my pet-peeves with "my circles."

    "Cook, clean, and read Pride & Prejudice. Mr. Darcy will arrive shortly."

    That said, I think the problem here is not the philosophy of stay-at-home-daughterhood, but rather a deep misunderstanding of what being a woman ruling her home really means. It's so much bigger than just doing chores.

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  9. Great thoughts. I agree about the ministry thing. Sometimes though, it can be hard to get yourself into the niche you need to be in. Esp. if you don't have a driver's license or money to get one. :/

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  10. I felt like my 4-5 years between highschool and marriage were very profitable and I don't regret any of what I did - a little of everything!(about a years worth of mission trips/camp work, teaching piano, taking piano lessons, other odd jobs, some college by corrospondence, work around the home and farm and church...) I would also agree that homemaking skills are not that hard to learn (at least if you know that basics) and I would recommend that any single girl - at home or at college have some ministries/activities that focus on others! My observation is that since a single person really doesn't have to worry about anyone except themself, the temptation is to get an inward focus - which is the worst training possible for homemaking :)

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