Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"How do you spend your day?" the trouble explaining homemaking

It happened again: another person asked me a variation of the question "what do you you do all day?/ how do you spend your time at home? / how can you stand so much time at home? etc. etc." This time the question truly was asked in the nicest possible manner, with absolutely no judgement or meanness.

I remain baffled and shaken up by it, though, because it was asked by a pretty good friend with whom I have a great deal in common. We're both Christians, about the same age, we have the same number of children (who are even the same age), and we live in the same city. We have been getting together each Tuesday morning at the park for a play date with one other family and have been having a picnic snack mid-morning.

And today conversation amongst us three mothers led to lunch food ideas - "what do you usually give your kids for lunch?" she asked, looking for ideas for her own routine, no doubt. I mentioned that yesterday we had leftover dinner food at lunch: fish, broccoli and baked potato. Boring, balanced, tasty, easy enough to just reheat and eat. Trying to keep the conversation going I politely asked how she usually handles lunch. She pointed at the picnic spread of portable sandwiches, fruit, crackers and water and said that they have this every day, that they never have lunch at home, they are always out and always have something pretty similar to what she had packed. I was stunned. "You never eat lunch at home?"

Never. Eat. Lunch. At. Home. The picnic lunches she packs are perfectly healthy, that wasn't what stunned me, it is just baffling to me that she can prefer to be out of the house so much on a regular-like-clockwork sort of basis.

Conversation progressed and we sort of compared (in a very friendly way, no animosity or argument that I sensed) how we each function.

My house and life would be a wreck if I were not home most mornings and afternoons - the continual cycles of household cleanliness, food preparation, child care rhythms all keep me utterly occupied. Rarely in my life now do I get to indulge in the lovely sewing projects or recipe experiments that I used to do, and that in a future season I will once again do. Right now, with my about-to-turn-3 yr old and my 11 month old my life is a lot more about keeping my head above water and keeping things fairly clean, so that we can just get ourselves happily to the next meal, the next bath, the next outing, the next nap time. I don't mean to express those thoughts in a desperate way.

But! I was stunned when my friend said that after they do their morning routine of getting dressed, breakfasted, and getting the kitchen cleaned up, she and the kids are completely bored by 8 or 8:30am. So they pack a lunch and go out - to a different playgroup, children's museum, library story time, Bible study group or park for each day of the week!

Curious about our routine and about how we do not live like that, she posed that dreaded question which i already mentioned. I then felt my brain seize up and my words refused to flow at first. I thought of my online homemaker blog friends (bless you, fellow happy homemakers! I am so encouraged by you and wish we all lived in the same neighborhood!) and wanted to phrase my words/explanations to her in a loving, inspiring way that would help her.

And I hope I did help, though I suspect I didn't. I mentioned that my girls play well independently, even Baby Madeline, and are always busy with something, and that I feel that my homemaking activities are never really done, so I am always busy, too. I shared all of what I just shared with you, readers, and I also mentioned that as a Christian I think of homemaking as a calling, and I mentioned Titus 2's admonition for women to be keepers at home. This is an important job, and if we don't do it, it will not get done. However, we were more focused on the question of how to fill the day, rather than whether to be homemakers or not, so bringing up Titus 2 felt a little off-subject.

So here we are back home from our morning out and now the little girls are napping. Although I have 5,000 things I need to see to instead (see note) I just had to blog about this, because i have no other outlet for such an ordinary-yet-extraordinary conversation.
Things I need to do:
defrost meat for dinner
clean both high chairs
Take dry diapers out of the dryer
Empty dishwasher
scrub the bathtub
take a stack of cardboard boxes to the garage
sweep the dining room
carpet sweep the living room
mail 2 letters
update the grocery list, while finalizing next week's menu in anticipation of house guests
prepare 2 loads of laundry for 7pm when I can once again use the washing machine
get to the filing my husband asked me to do
do the ironing

and if I were to go on and write out all my other tasks that need doing, goodness gracious, we would all be here forever. When someone asks me what I do all day, or if I am bored with things (who has time to be bored? and who can get bored with 2 adorable little girls to care for?), I get rattled inside and don't quite know how to unrattle myself.

How do you respond to such questions? And how do you share, in a loving manner, how to become content at home? I would looooove to hear how other homemakers handle such things, or how you stay/become unrattled.

Update, on Wednesday morning:
Ok, so I shared my concerns with my husband last night. And he listened. But he just calmly asked me why I was so dismayed by that conversation, and continued to ask me variations of "why" until I began to feel .... like maybe I'm just crazy? Are there other homemakers out there who understand me here, or am I the problem? I could really use a little encouragement.


  1. I totally understand! I have six children, ages 2-14, and I never get bored or lack something to do. But to explain? It's frequently things such as you listed. I have a friend like the one you mentioned, who is always going out, but she has her mother help her once a week all day, plus her dh even does laundry. I don't have that kind of help, although now that the children are older it helps quite a bit.

    I don't think most men understand the all-consuming business of home life that we deal with. Encouragement for you!

    1. I'm so grateful for your kind words! It is good to know that I am not alone in this. Thank you.

  2. I'm not a homemaker (yet) but I think it's the little things that add up when you are really making a house a home. I've tried to explain to Robert that a homemaker makes the home more comfortable. I feel that I'd have more time to bake, which any husband would appreciate. I could get errands done during the day that he doesn't always have the time to do, be home when repairmen come, etc. It's really helping him out, too. It sounds like your friend just isn't as fond of home as some of the rest of us-I love being home!

  3. Thank you, Melissa, I seriously appreciate your feedback. After talking with my friend I just felt so weird...and I know I'm very attentive to the needs of our home and family, but I am not a perfectionist and there is always much undone and much remaining to get to later.
    It is hard to explain what a homemaker does and how important a homemaker is , especially to someone who didn't have a mother who was a homemaker (like my friend, and I'm thinking your husband is in that boat too?).
    Great hearing your comments!!!!!!

  4. Keeping home is definitely all consuming, but one doesn't understand until one has done it! Be blessed in your work, neverending as it is!

  5. Heather,
    I could've written your words today! I have this same exact convo with my husband on a continual basis! I always say..."am I crazy? Why do I seem so swamped in loads of chores while others flit about and do their cutesy little playdates and library reading and zoo and park etc. etc. Just one outing a week seems to throw us off enough! And that's MOPS! So, I feel you! And you know what I attribute it to? You are a Type A personality with a great desire to serve God in the capacity before you, so you put forth 100% effort to make your house a home of love and order and peace. You hate it when it's dirty so if it's clean you feel more calm and restful. I think you are givng your children a wonderful gift, and I know friends who would never have "scrub shower" on their list- but that's me too! I do regular chores and the deep cleaning chores as I go- I don't leave them to all pile up for a nasty 3 days of deep cleaning. I think it's better that way. Now, not all of it gets done at the same time, like before when we had kids and we entered into that "happy" time where the "world" (aka our environment) was all in order, all clothes clean and put away, car is clean in and out, beds with clean sheets, dishes, you name it- but even without kids those times were a real challenge!
    I was just laughing so hard when I read your blog, we sound so similar. I just found your blog today off of the homemakers linky share.
    You have blessed me. Keep it up- for God's glory, and never ever compare yourself to someone elses standard. You have been called to serve in the way you know how. Do it with all your heart. Love Abby