Homemaking: An Art to Be Learned
Three-year-old Abigail and five-year-old Esther, in their matching, hand-sewn dresses finish their snack, then go to pull out their miniature sewing baskets to finish their Christmas gifts for Grandma and Grandpa--three weeks ahead of schedule. The middle boys, John and Samuel, stack their dishes in the sink, then go to finish shoveling the walk, without a reminder from Mother. Fifteen-year-old Elizabeth begins folding a snow-white load of laundry before starting supper’s dessert. Mrs. Smith, meanwhile, has put the baby on the floor, and has begun leisurely filling out next week’s meal menu with a cookbook. Peace reigns over the house.
One of a young girl’s favorite dreams is the former scenario. An impeccable house, lovely children, boundless time and talent. Yet the misconception often made by both mothers and daughters is that the skills needed to create at least part of that dream are absorbed by osmosis. But in reality, the following scene is more often created:
Mrs. Sally Smith hurriedly glances at the clock. The children were going to come in any minute: it was cold outside, and she just had to get these overdue birthday cards out. She turns her attention back to the task, but then the door bursts open. Five children, ages three, five, eight, twelve, and fifteen come in. The two boys come in first, shoving each other. “Where’s the food?” John asks impatiently. “I bought a box of sugar cookies three weeks ago. It’s somewhere in the cupboard.” Mrs. Smith says, annoyed. She then turns her attention to little Abigail, who is bawling because she fell in the mud. At that moment, the baby begins screaming in the bedroom. “Can you change her please, Beth?” she asks as she runs to the bedroom. Elizabeth reluctantly takes her in hand. Just then, Samuel teasingly snatches a cookie from Esther, who drops her other cookie. John, then steps on it, and Esther starts crying. Mrs. Smith hurries out, trying to calm the teething baby, but is stopped by a yell. “Mom! There aren’t any clean clothes for her!” Elizabeth shouts. “Is too! In the...stop that John! In the closet..give it back Samuel! That dress I got for two dollars from Goodwill! Get that out of your mouth David !” Mrs. Smith yells back. “What’s for dinner, Mommy?” Esther asks sweetly. “I have no idea. Stop stepping in the mashed potatoes, John.” “Well, what are they there for?” “I don’t know. Maybe I don’t have time to clean?!! Stop stepping in them!”
That scene is generally not what we envision when we think of our lives as future homemakers. But it is very likely to happen, without proper instruction. So what should Mrs. Sally Smith have learned when she was younger? There are several basic points: sewing, cooking, cleaning, baking, laundry, and scheduling. Now, while the first scenario is not very likely to be achieved in most ladies’ daily lives, a better situation can be put into practice through these areas. For example, if Mrs. Smith had learned how to sew, she would not have had such a problem with clothes. A sturdily-crafted pinafore can eliminate many stains and spills that little girls are apt to have. And they always look very cute! Of course, sewing doesn’t automatically make things clean, but being able to make your own clothes and aprons does help. Knowing how to sew can also save a lot of money by altering growing children’s clothes.
If Mrs. Sally Smith had learned to do the laundry, she would not have had barely any clean clothes, but since she did not learn this till she was married, she only does a load or two whenever she absolutely has to. She much prefers to go and buy something cheap at the closest store. Abigail generally has eleven dresses in the dirty clothes hamper and one or two in her closet.
Cooking is also essential. Mrs. Smith never learned to cook or bake, so the latest special at Kentucky Fried Chicken is generally what is for dinner. A squabble by starving children is not unusual, because Mrs. Smith hardly ever has any snacks on hand. They’re too much trouble. As for cleaning, Mrs. Smith sometimes does a house-clean monthly, but generally bimonthly. She never learned how to clean regularly and efficiently, so she wastes a lot of energy and time each month.
As far as scheduling is concerned, Mrs. Sally Smith never really heard the word. It seems like too much of a regimented lifestyle to her, with the result that not much ever gets done in her haphazard household.
So you see, being taught home economics is very important. There are many good home economics courses in the stores today. One very good one is Christian Light’s Home Economics course. Such courses as these cover a wide range of topics that come up in the daily homemaker’s life, with emphasis on cooking and sewing. If you prefer to teach your daughter yourself, try forming a club, with rewards for learning how to do a particular skill. Or schedule a Mother-Daughter time each week, where you can work together. Remember to treat it as importantly as any other engagement. Your daughter will learn from your attitude whether home economics is really important or not.
For you girls, if your mother is not interested in home economics, was never taught any of the skills herself, or is just too busy, take initiative! Ask her to consider purchasing a good home economics course. Many of them you can use to teach yourself, and I’m sure she would enjoy learning with you if she doesn’t know some things! If the money is just not available, then shadow your mother as she goes around. Good cookbooks like Betty Crocker’s, or sewing books like the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (all available at your local library) can also be used to self-teach. Whatever you do, don’t give up!
Two topics that are usually not covered in home economics courses and are often forgotten when a mother is teaching her daughter, are cleaning and scheduling. Cleaning is an important lesson, however unenjoyable it may be. Make sure you can at least do each job, and do it once or twice. Mothers, try to make it fun. Teach the chores to your daughter like adventurous preparation, not another chore. Teach them that everything can be done to the glory of God, even vacuuming or washing dishes. One very good book on cleaning is Don Aslett's Is There Life After Housework? It is a very helpful resource for both current and future homemakers.
Learning to schedule is also very important. Without scheduling, many hours are likely to be wasted in a week. Scheduling helps you to get done the things you need to and want to. Get on Titus 2 for some great books and other resources. But you can learn to schedule even without a book. Daughters, try to make your own mini schedule. I schedule my mornings with help from Mom, because that’s when I’m usually slow. Having a schedule helps me be productive.
Home economics: It’s a very important subject, yet it is often neglected. Collect your resources, and start learning the art of homemaking today. Then this scene is more likely:
Mrs. Sally Smith carefully consults her schedule. “Good. I’ve got a lot of things done. I think I’ll go get out the cookies I made yesterday. The children will be here soon,” she says to herself. But first, she crosses to the bedroom and wakes the baby up. If he doesn’t get up now, he won’t go to sleep tonight anyway. Then, after settling him in the playpen, she gets out the cookies and hot chocolate. The door bursts open and the five children come in. “Please hang up your coats and take your boots off,” she reminds the children. They quickly obey, then sit down to eat their snack, except Abigail, who is crying because she fell in a mud puddle. “Come, Abby,” Mrs. Smith says cheerily, and quickly changes her into a fresh pinafore. Now happy, Abigail sits down to eat. “Elizabeth, I need you to fold the laundry in fifteen minutes, please. Boys, I need you to shovel the walk in an hour. Girls, why don’t you start on your Christmas projects?” Mrs. Smith directs patiently. They nod, and Esther looks up. “Will you sew with me?” “Of course,” she says, “But first, I need to put in tonight’s stew.” They all scatter to their various tasks, and peace reigns.