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June 15, 2009

Take Joy in Your Calling

Dirt Reading Wendy Shalit's review of the book Dirt got me thinking again about an ongoing interest of mine. That is, the role of women. 

Rather than making a one-size-fits-all statement, I think it best to consider the underlying problem. Why, specifically, are women sometimes discontented at the thought of having to keep house and home, cook and clean, and worry about how to balance tasks such as vacuuming with a career? We live in a day when there are endless ways to organize and "simplify," yet our lives are often busier than ever. With all of this "help" many women are overwhelmed with the task, or even reject the idea that homemaking should be part of their role.

Rather than assuming homemaking is a demeaning task, let us consider that it is a glorious task to serve. Service does not equate to debasement; rather, serving others in love is a testament of freedom. If you are able to make the choice, is it better to live in a home of chaos or guide your home toward peace and order?

Having a well-rounded education and making an impact in your field are both important callings. Learning to keep order in the home does not contrast with either of those, but rather, it holds its own important place in the whole of life.

(Image © Seal Press)

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jason taylor

Maybe homemaking came to be associated with "debasement" something like this. Prestige is a strong motivator among men, perhaps stronger then among women. Therefore the jobs men are attracted to would become a sign of prestige simply because they are competed over and success in competition is prestigious. And therefore by converse, jobs men do not compete for are "nonprestigious". Or in other words homemaking became associated with "debasement" simply because it was unfortunately declared to be so for no logical reason.

Amanda Bush

Thanks for your perspective Jason. What I hope is that we will be content in our callings where we are rather than motivated by a constant striving for so-called "prestige." Service and humility are both beautiful marks of character.

jason taylor

Service and humility are certainly beautiful. Which is why I admire Scipio more then Hannibal, and Wellington more then Napolean. And why I admire Sherpas more then Sir Edmund Hillery(so did Sir Edmund Hillery: he knew who to thank for his glory), and in general think Nepali are cool. And the reason for other examples of my taste in heros.

But it is a fact that men are motivated by prestige and unfortunately men are also loud enough about it for it to influence certain kinds of feminists.


I've spent almost twelve years cleaning houses (mine and others) as a way of making a living. There is just so much you can get out of cleaning. It might make you feel good for a bit to take care of your family, but it (in general) is monotonous work. Prestige? Don't think so. If it wasn't for my iPod and headphones, I think I would be numb with boredom at this point......

Rachel Coleman

Amanda, I'm post-jumping to tell you "Welcome" over here. And to thank you for pointing out Wendy Shalit's review. Buried in the sad quotes by women who seem to hate home, I latched onto this quote, where educator and poet Rebecca McClanahan says of her childhood:

“I’d open the door to the thrum-thrum-thrum of the Singer sewing machine or the shoop-splat of fresh sheets being folded or the creamy smell of vanilla and coconut sifting from beneath the kitchen door, and everything else would fall away. The world she made within our walls was the warmest, safest, brightest world imaginable.”

Ah ... it makes me proud to be focused on domesticity. How many people in this world have the power to make a place that is warm, safe, and bright?


I'm getting ready to move out in August to begin my last two years of university 3 hours away from home. My mother continues to look around my room and ask me dubiously if I'm ready to keep things tidier when living with a roommate. I've heard her worry vocally that I am messy because she didn't teach me better housekeeping skills.

And yet I must echo Rachel Coleman's comment about "how many people". My mother may never have gotten all the vacuuming done but she educated my brothers and I at home all the way through the end of high school, has always given generously of herself to the church and her friends, has always had time for me and my brothers, and still manages to put dinner on the table every night. To be focused on the domestic is a life of tireless work and endless sacrifice, one that never ends. I'm not so sure I'm as brave as my mother is, not sure I'm ready to fight the good fight against dirty dishes and endless piles of laundry and ever-returning dustbunnies while loving and caring for others as my full-time job.

And yet I know, because of my mother, that I must try, and learn to begin again every day.

By the way, welcome Amanda! Glad to see you jumping in :)

Heather Songer

I think this discussion is very relevant in the world we live in today where women are seen as career-builders rather than homemakers. While I would agree with the "debasement" argument presented by Jason, I would also say that the feminist thought has greatly contributed to the debasing of the idea of a woman as a homemaker. The task of homemaking is seen as inferior to having a career. Women are applauded for being in the workforce, and women who stay at home are viewed as submissive and weak rather than strong and independent.

Personally, I greatly appreciate the efforts my mom has made. My mom was a stay-at-home mom during my childhood, and it was definitely a full-time job. Having a safe, comfortable, and loving environment as a child helped nurture me into becoming a more confident adult. Without her presence and service, I honestly don't think I would be the person I am today.

So, for those who take up the calling of homemaking, I applaud you. No matter what the world says, being a wife/mother/homemaker is one of the most difficult yet blessed jobs a woman can do.

Thanks for posting this Amanda! I think it's something important that people tend to forget. Keep up the great work!

R Hall

The original discussion of the book seems to zero in on housework at the expense of an adequate understanding of what homemaking can and ought to be -- and what a wife's role can and ought to be. Though time-consuming, housework is simply one aspect of pursuing excellence in family life (as Kari got at), and it need not negate "intelligent" goals and contributions to the family and community a wife can make.

Amanda, thanks -- you've also got me re-thinking biblical masculinity and femininity, the impact of which on our culture is probably much too underestimated.

jason taylor

The deprecation of housewives also ignores how much influence they often did have.

In old New England it was a common feature of life that the men ruled the ships and the women ruled the city. The wife's of merchants and captains dominated local city life to a remarkable degree.


I agree with you here, Jason. It is common for a Proverbs 31 wife to also have a Proverbs 31(v11 & v23) husband.

Rachel Coleman

It's especially interesting to read the remarks by younger women in this discussion. As a college student, I leaned more toward a career and envisioned homemaking crammed into whatever time/energy was left. It wasn't that I thought homemaking was demeaning or less important; I just didn't want to make it my main job.
A couple decades later, having worked at all sorts of jobs, including my favorite — journalism — I concluded that raising children is the only job worthy of what it demands from me.
Kari, thanks for sharing about your mother. This homeschooling mom found your remarks deeply encouraging.

Matt Kuchem

A couple of thoughts...

No movement in a culture comes from thin air. Heather beat me to this point when she said that feminism has had a profound effect on our society. Preceding the feminist movement was a world war that put men in the military and women in the workforce. Since then, the gender dynamic has never been the same.

As for the value of the "domestic life,"
I don't think we can think of it only in terms of housework. Raising the next generation is exceedingly important--for many reasons. In a sense, there is no better way to do missions and shape the culture than to raise, discipline, and educate one's offspring in the way of the Lord. In this way family is at the heart of kingdom-work. Put in this perspective, the "domestic life" of a woman comes into proper focus.

Amanda, I enjoyed your post. Keep them coming!

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