Rachel Heath

Intentional Living: learning to be fully present

On the Art and Grace of Homemaking (and how I suck at it)

Many of my friends are homemakers, and I say that with the utmost respect. They are talented, brilliant, creative women (and a handful of men) who bring dignity to the title and joyfully shine the light of love in their homes and on their families.

They have chalkboards in their kitchens on which inspiring messages are written in neat, lovely handwriting, which I assume helps them not yell at their kids while they cook dinner.

Their homes aren’t just clean; they’re decorated with unique items they picked up at thrift stores and garage sales and flea markets for super cheap and then upcycled to fit into a color palette that was clearly intentional.

They have framed family photos and a beautiful homemade wreath on their front door and a special basket in the entryway for shoes. They decorate for the holidays and host baby showers and craft their own Thanksgiving centerpieces.

They remember to replace their burned-out lightbulbs.

I, on the other hand, am more of a home maintainer, and that’s putting it generously.

Most of our picture frames still have the fake families in them.

We have hooks over our closet doors but my purse and gym bag and diaper bag are almost always laying on the couch or the floor or wherever I dropped them when I came in, the contents indiscriminately strewn about from when I dug around to find my wallet or iPod or a spare diaper.

Blocks and stuffed animals and books and dinosaurs and dog toys cover every square foot of our floor. Shoes live wherever we take them off, which is everywhere-ish.

My desk is so covered with mail and bills and receipts and random papers that I practically have to exhume my laptop whenever I sit down to work.

Lip-smudged wine glasses and empty mugs containing dried-up tea bags sit on side tables. Plates and bowls lay on the floor, licked clean by the dog and abandoned.

Laundry is usually spilling out of baskets sitting on a couch or in a corner, sweaters and coats are draped across chairs. Wet dog-nose prints make a blurry line across the sliding glass door which I suspect may never come perfectly clean. I wouldn’t know. I haven’t tried.

The best I manage on any given day is to briefly reign in the chaos before it breaks free again the next day. I put the laundry in piles for each family member, shove the toys into the toy box, carry the dishes to the sink, and refill that wine glass.

Decorating? Psh. Right.

A few weeks ago we were visiting a church. They announced an upcoming holiday event (aimed at women, predictably, but I won’t go there today) where they would be giving away fully decorated Christmas trees and festive tablescapes.

“Tablescapes?” I thought. “Shit, that’s a thing?” I was mentally transported to our dining room table, upon which two small pumpkins sat, colored with sharpies, one half-rotted and collapsing in on itself: my fall “decor.”

I usually just laugh at the myriad ways I don’t fit the feminine stereotype, but I suddenly felt wholly inadequate. In over 6 years I haven’t managed to get our wedding pictures framed (or, for that matter, even printed) and now I’m supposed to have a tablescape?

I, like so much of the feminist movement, have been quick to dismiss the traditionally female role of homemaking as insignificant, the idea of special seasonal decor as silly, but the truth is that I just really suck at it. I mean, I don’t even try. Not at all. Partly out of some misplaced noble rebellion against the stereotype, but mostly because I seriously suck at it and I seriously hate sucking at things.

Honestly, I love visiting my homemaker friends (especially this time of year!) who are gifted at decorating and hosting, who excel at creating a warm space and inviting atmosphere. I appreciate the dozens of subtle details they’ve attended to. I’m awed by the hundreds of quiet acts they do to serve and bless those who live in and pass through their homes. There is an art and a grace to the profession of making a home, and for all my impassioned rants about cultural gender expectations (which I stand by), I’m also secretly disappointed that I seem to come up lacking.

Seriously. How hard would this be?

Seriously. How hard would this be?

Deep down, I want my house to be organized and simple and pretty and have a few of those just-right accessories. I want it to be welcoming and comfortable. I want it to be festive during the holidays. I don’t want a lot of materialistic junk, just a few touches that show that we care about how things look around here. I know the concept of home is more than how it appears, but I’d like to enjoy a living space that looks like I’ve put even an ounce of thought into it.

But maybe it doesn’t come as naturally as I assume it does to all my friends. Maybe it’s something I can experiment with and learn to do. Maybe it’s ok to try a little, and maybe that doesn’t mean I believe all women are predestined to be homemakers and all men are predestined to be breadwinners. Maybe I just want to do some decorating.

I guess it probably starts with replacing a few lightbulbs and breaking out the windex.

Happy Homemaking.

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2 thoughts on “On the Art and Grace of Homemaking (and how I suck at it)

  1. Ah, well, you are definitely my daughter! I’m sorry, but I never had anything to pass on to you about all that stuff! I have never had a “tablescape”, I think my decor is either “haphazard or “neither here nor there”, and after 29 years of marriage, there are no framed photos from our wedding anywhere (and honestly, I have no idea where the wedding album even is at this point).

    I knew a long time ago that I would never fit in as a stereotypical woman, but I am totally okay with that. If it ever bothered me or if I ever felt like a failure as a woman, I have forgotten it did. It just is not who I am. Yes, I love to bake things like cookies and nearly all my dinners are made from scratch, but that’s kinda where it ends. If one could be fired from the position of “Homemaker”, I would have lost my job years ago! I do think there are women to whom homemaking comes very naturally, and even the fact that they enjoy it is a natural gift. I never got that gift. I tried to force it before I ever got married — mostly because I was raised to believe being a homemaker was the one and only thing a good Christian woman could do, but learned eventually that if it didn’t make me happy, there was no good in forcing it. I loved being at home raising my kids, and I don’ think I would trade that for anything else, but I can come up with a list a mile long of things that I personally find more captivating and worthwhile than homemaking. I have really enjoyed getting out and discovering what really makes me “me”, and it doesn’t involve a single tablescape. 🙂

  2. Maybe you need to have your friend Heather come over with her daughter to help entertain the children and you and I can do it together 😉

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