I spend much of my time wiping things. Kitchen counters. Noses. Sticky floors. Hands and faces. Bottoms.
Wiping, wiping, wiping.
On a bad day, I wonder why I bothered to go to college at all (there was no Wiping 101).
But, on a better day, inspiration strikes.
Inspiration came two weeks ago, as I listened to this talk by Julie Beck at General Conference.
[Quick explanation for people who read this blog and are not Mormons — twice a year we stay home from church and watch 8 hours (4 2-hour blocks over two days) of speakers, made up of our General Authorities (prophet, apostles, and other leaders of our world-wide church). It is long (unintentional napping has been known to occur) but we love it — it is edifying, instructive, and thought-provoking. If you’re a little curious, click here to learn how to watch or listen in one of 69 different languages, or you can read the text of any of the speakers.]
In a nutshell, Sister Beck reminded us of the importance of motherhood, and that a big part of mothering is nurturing. Part of nurturing is homemaking, or in other words, providing a home environment that is orderly and comfortable. And that is why I do all that wiping.
For this reason and many others I found her words so uplifting, and I was sad to realize days later that many women did not feel the same way. As I read comments on a couple of different blogs, I learned that many felt hurt by her words, as if they were a reminder that they did not measure up to some standard. Others were annoyed by the somewhat “traditional” role outlined by Sister Beck.
I am always saddened by discord. I have read and re-read this talk, and I still feel inspired every time. I realize that I am part of the choir that Sister Beck was preaching to, but I truly feel that her words in no way put women down, or “put them in their place.” Instead, she wants women to realize the higher purpose of what they are doing. We can always be better and do better — not just as wives or mothers, but as people. The Lord would not want us to feel bad because we think we don’t measure up — he would want us to continue to aim higher, slow though our progress may be.
Mormons are so fond of quoting C. S. Lewis that’s it’s become a bit cliche, but here’s a particularly pertinent one:
“[Homemaking] is surely in reality the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, mines, cars, government, etc. exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes?….[The homemaker’s] job is one for which all others exist.”
I guess the final point I’d like to make is that regardless of one’s situation, everyone lives somewhere, and in that way, every person is a home-maker. You make the place you live your home — why would you not want that place to be comfortable? There’s a long history lesson that I’m leaving out, but at some point, making a home well has become relegated to a very low level of importance and status in our culture. Women like me (and there are lots of us, in and out of our Church), are trying to buck that trend.
I’m going to set as my own standard of homemaking “organization, patience, love, and work.” I’m pretty sure Sister Beck didn’t intend that I do so perfectly, but as a wife, a mother, and a woman, it’s something important I can aim for.