We try our darnedest around here to not be critical, to find ways to be constructive with the materials we've been given....but, seriously?
Oh this lesson. This lesson.
[Bangs head on desk. Thud. Thud. Thud]
I think when we all get together and express our most fervent wishes that the manual would be revamped, this is the lesson we think of. Unfortunately the only thing that the new resource guide adds to it is Sister Beck's controversial "Mother's Who Know" talk.
I have issues with this one from the silly little "Surprise! Fooled you into thinking Homemaking was a real job!" opening exercise, to the twee little stories about how a YW's parents love her because she cleans up, to the promises of "satisfaction" to be found in martyring yourself to your family, to the *conclusion* that a clean house is a happy house. Boy does this one miss the mark.
Buried among all the stuff that makes me a little crazy are two great points. Points that I plan on drawing out, planning a whole new lesson around, and then tossing out everything else.
Here is the only place in this whole lesson where it mentions that men are also responsible for the environment of the home. In my family, we share chore responsibilities (at least in theory. I'm still fighting the effects of my husband being raised with a maid), and even though it would often be easier for me to just do things myself, I delegate because I want my kids to see my husband working in the home too. I want my kids to have chores even though I know they will fight me on it. I think it's an important lesson for the family to work together to create the home. Important for several reasons, but one of them is so that it frees the mom up to do the really important work of homemaking once she's unchained from her rubber gloves.
Point 1: "Homemaking is an important and sacred responsibility." "Explain that homemaking is one of the responsibilities we have been given. Heavenly Father wants all men and women to give their greatest priority to their homes, their spouses, and their families. Our families are part of our divine mission."
One of my dearest friends growing up was the daughter of the resident ward Wonder-Homemaker. You know, that one woman that exists in every ward. The woman that makes her own bread, sews her kids clothes, the woman that everyone else speaks of with equal parts awe, envy, and derision. The first time I met my friend's mom I referred to her as a housewife, and I got my head bitten clean off by my friend's stepdad. "She's not married to her house!" He said. "She's a homemaker! She makes this house a home."
He got it. He understood that what makes a home is not the house maintenance. It's the love and care we show to the people living in it through our work. Its the feeling of peace and security that comes when you feel united together in your efforts. As grownups we understand that we have to provide the basic needs of life - a sanitary environment, food to eat, shelter - but we make a huge difference when we go from meeting the bare minimum to celebrating an artform. We demonstrate with all of ourselves how high a priority our family is. I don't think a kid always appreciates a spotless bathroom, but I know they appreciate good food, an attentive ear, a comfortable room.
The importance of homemaking should be viewed in light of the effect on our families. Call me an apostate if you must, but I think the Spirit is far more likely to dwell in a slightly sloppy home where people are kind to each other than an immaculate home where everyone dreads catching Mother's gaze because it will lead to a list of chores that would make Cinderella blush.
Homemaking is only important because our families are important. And if our efforts towards homemaking are detracting to the feelings of love and unity within our family, then those efforts, in my Oh so Lofty opinion, are misguided.
Point 2: "Explain that homemaking involves a wide variety of activities, all of them important. Of great importance, of course, is keeping a house clean and taking care of the physical needs of the family members. However, there is another important side to homemaking, as Sister Belle S. Spafford, a former general president of the Relief Society, points out:
“Homemaking, as I view it, falls into two major divisions: homemaking and housekeeping. Homemaking takes into account the spiritual values: love, peace, tranquility, harmony among family members, security. It makes of a place of residence a spot to which family members can retire from a confused and troubled world and find understanding and rejuvenation. Its character is quietness; it evidences good taste, culture, and refinement. Men, women, and children alike have their individual contributions to make to good home and family life, and each shares in its benefits.
“Housekeeping involves the work of keeping a house clean, orderly, and well managed. This includes financial management, failure in which often becomes a source of family friction” (Belle S. Spafford, A Woman’s Reach [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974], pp. 24–25).
Of course, immediately after making this point, the lesson then abandons it in favor of another story about cleaning up messes. Which, above everything else, is what disappoints me the most about this lesson. This is the whole point. Homemaking is more than housekeeping. So then why is the lesson all about housekeeping? Why not follow the title of this lesson and teach about what exactly homemaking is supposed to be?
I agree that a clean house creates a more peaceful environment, facilitates learning, allows the presence of the Spirit, and is all around healthier. But is this really news in the Western world? Is this really worthy of being the entire *Conclusion* of this lesson? A clean house is something that I'd guess about 80% of people manage to strive for on their own. The other 20% probably have bigger problems than soap scum in their shower.
Accomplishing a clean house is a constant marathon that no one ever manages to feel caught up on unless they outsource it, and there is a multi-million dollar industry and many great websites devoted to helping us each find our best method. Do we really need to devote a lesson to the theory of housecleaning when we have practical instruction during activities and all of Relief Society to learn more?
Where is the lesson on bringing peace and tranquility and refinement? Is this a holdover from all those "Women are naturally more spiritual" thoughts? We give so much lip service to how sacred a calling homemaking is, and then we never explain why. Why is homemaking sacred? If it's just because the Spirit needs a clean tabernacle to dwell in, then why don't we all just hire maids and be done with it? Where is the big meaty discourse on the divine nature of a Homemaker's calling?
After scouring the available resources, I didn't really find one. The closest I could find was Sister Tanner's very good talk after the addition of "Strengthen Home and Family" to the Young Women's theme. Sister Tanner's discussion of what Young Women can do right now to strengthen home and family is really sweet, and she doesn't once mention picking up a broom.
Once again I'm going to bring up Elder Uchtdorf's talk. And here comes my personal creative manifesto. The true work of Homemaking is a creative art. Creation of a peaceful environment. Creation of refuge. Creation of loving relationships. Creation of budding testimonies. Creation of self-esteem, trust, opportunity, knowledge. This is what's sacred about the act of Homemaking. A clean house makes these efforts easier, but they are not the goal. The goal is *Growth.* And Creativity is the Means.
Each of us as Children of the Creator are creative. This is the language we speak and the sacrifice we have to offer. It is through our creative acts that we can show the depth of our feelings. One of the greatest examples I've ever witnessed was when I was living in Snohomish, Washington and I was friends with a girl named Amy Hawks. I'd spend the night at her house and in the morning her dad would make us as many pancakes as we could eat while her mom passed us the syrup she made herself from the fruit trees in the backyard. What impressed this family so firmly upon me was the feeling present there at the table. They were all united in their joy together, sharing their efforts and their love for each other and me as their guest. I'm sure the pancakes and syrup were great, but I don't remember their taste. I remember how participating in that morning ritual made me feel. Safe. Included. Treasured. Heard.
Those are the feelings that our work in the home create. That is what is sacred.