making home

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.

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13 thoughts on “making home

  1. robinbl

    I agree with you Liz, that the idea of homemaking has been given very low status. Being “domestic” is often equated with self-deprivation; if you spend too much time doing housework, organizing your household, being involved in your children’s well-being, then you are not living your life to the fullest. You are somehow missing out on the best things in life for the drudgery of being other people’s servant. But Sister Beck’s talk did not mention any expectation that every mother limit her activities to the home. She didn’t say that you have to be a fifties housewife with only a high school diploma and no outside skills or interests. As you said, everyone lives in a home, whether you stay at home most of the day with young children or have an outside job. Sister Beck is saying that as mothers, we are the ones who have the most influence over what our home life will be like, from the physical and spiritual cleanliness of our home, to the physical and spiritual well-being of our family. I think her words are empowering, not demeaning. Those who are offended by them are not understanding the spirit in which she spoke them.

    Reply
  2. Sarah

    Isn’t it amazing how people can hear or see whatever they want in something. I found Sr. Beck’s talk inspiring when it comes to my role in the world. Lately I’ve been feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the fmily I have and for the opportunity that I have to raise my children I still have a lot to learn, but I love the fact that I can find so much fulfillment within the walls of my own home. I feel badly for people who are offended by the talk because I think they’re missing out on some very important opportunities to be uplifted. I don’t want to sound all biblical and preachy, but I really feel like these are the times when good is being called evil and evil good.

    Reply
  3. Millie

    :: wild cheers and applause ::

    THANK YOU for making our job seem so much more dignified than just straight wiping and cleaning up dirt, poop, etc.

    I love the C.S. Lewis quote – I think I’ll borrow it.

    Reply
  4. kira

    I think Millie was reading my mind! I think that as mothers we have to find a balance between mothering and being just ourselves. Whether it is an hour or two out alone or a pedicure once a month having a balance always helps me face the wiping!

    Reply
  5. Andrea

    Boy, I am feeling a bit low in the home making department. You should see the boxes and trashiness everywhere. On the other hand I have spent the week touring houses, lining up inspections, signing papers, locating things to make moving go easier. I think that should count, huh?

    Reply
  6. Anne

    Wow, it hadn’t even struck me that people could possible be offended by that talk. I thought it was motivating and powerful. I love the way Sister Beck talks–much like Shari Dew, she doesn’t have a sickeningly sweet voice, and she doesn’t sugar coat. She teaches doctrine and testifies. I was really inspired by her statement that our homes should be like a pre-MTC and that our children should go to the MTC and feel like it is a review and not a revelation. Here’s the bottom line: I’m not a perfect mother. I’m not a perfect person, either. But I really like it when I can read something or learn something at church or hear something at conference that teaches me how I can be more perfect. I like it when those leaders at conference are straight-forward and tell us exactly what we should be doing to be better. That’s the beauty of a living Prophet and other servants called by God. And that’s my shpiel.

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  7. Emily

    I liked being called to action from the pulpit at general conference. I think we can all find ways to improve without giving ourselves the what-for over our shortcomings. Sheesh! I think Sister Beck is a powerful teacher and testifier; a woman we’d all do well to emulate. Thanks for linking us to her talk, Liz. I re-read it today and it’s such a helpful reminder of our most important duties.
    And yes, when we really understand our roles, it adds so much meaning and purpose to the minutiae of the day-to-day.

    Reply
  8. rhall

    You did a wonderful job of expressing your feelings. Elizabeth. Women have so many important roles. We are blessed to be so needed by and important to so many in these challenging roles. How wonderful to be alive and have opportunities to use our intelligence to figure out how to grow ourselves and grow others!

    Reply
  9. liz

    “Since they [mothers] are not babysitters, they are never off duty.”

    such a great sent.

    I didn’t find it offensive, i read it as mostly inspiring.

    Reply
  10. Katy

    After our discussion yesterday, I was thinking about Sister Becks talk. I really enjoyed her talk and the thing that I took from it was that I needed to make my home a house of order. Now you know me and realize that doesn’t mean that my house will be spotless. I think the reason I did not take offense is because emotionally I feel like I am in a pretty good place. I do remember going to a RS dinner where they did several skits on VTing and I left totally discouraged and felt like I was terrible failure. Everyone else that I talked to totally loved the skits and felt uplifted. I think was feeling stretched thin and feeling pretty low that day. I think how we take the things that we hear, has a lot with how we are feeling that day.

    Reply
  11. sillyjillybean

    Wow ladies. Great discussion. Guess I better reread that talk. Hope you all know that I love ya’ll–messy or not.:)

    Reply
  12. Rachael

    I have to say that one thing I really loved about that talk is that it made me not feel guilty for worrying about keeping my house clean and about spending time cleaning rather than doing exciting things with my kids. I’ve always felt like I use up valuable play time with them to get chores done, but it was refreshing to hear her note that it’s appropriate to do that, since children need to learn how to create that type of environment themselves. I guess it’s something that would have made sense to me to begin with if I’d actually thought about it; it’s just hard for me to remember that when I’m frantically trying to fold laundry and my two-year-old is whining for me to color with her or play outside…I feel like I should be doing chores on my “own” time (aka naptime).

    So that’s what I really liked about this talk–keeping a clean and orderly home which invites the Spirit is part of nurturing!

    Reply
  13. Katie

    I loved her talk and I felt the same way as you did… I haven’t heard negative things about it… I just loved that she was so strong and forthright…not excusing the wonderful role of motherhood… Not a day goes by that I am thankful to be home with my children… I love it! Not saying that I don’t have hard days… I most certainly do… but- ever since I was very young I wanted to, longed to be a mother! There is no other place I would rather be… I do think that for some it is harder- I have a sister who always wanted to be a professional- she is now a full-time mom- and though she loves it- she struggles more than I do…

    Reply

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