I know an amazing young lady. When it comes to homemaking, she can do anything. Anything. Sew a Civil War ballgown in an afternoon? Yep. Deep clean the bathroom with the explanation of, “I was just bored”? You bet. Whip up scrumdiddliumptious desserts on demand? Better believe it!

Unfortunately for you, she chooses to be my personal younger sister and make cookies for me only…I am sorry to say she is not for hire.

Now, the odds of Bethany and me being sisters don’t match the fact that we, indeed, are. I like brownies and ballgowns as much as the next person, but I haven’t the knack for them, much less the obsessive enthusiasm. It takes strenuous motivation to convince me to look up from my pink notebook, theological websites and 500-page classics. Truth be told, it shocked me to find out I was contributing to this website: they got the wrong Bergmann sister!

Not that I sit in a corner and refuse to wash dishes. Not that I think sewing is a lesser skill than taking a swing at political philosophy. It’s just that it doesn’t naturally occur to me that the room is messy or that apple pie would go perfectly with tonight’s meal or that a simple furniture change in my bedroom would transform it into something wonderful.

Perhaps you have a little girl who’d rather hole herself away with anything but pins and needles. Perhaps you’re that girl yourself. In any case, do not fear—it’s entirely possible to shape a non-homemaking-bent girl into a willing participant. My mother did that with me—without, I think, consciously knowing.

Interested? Here’s what she did.

1. Two Is Better than One

The difference between cleaning the chapel to Irish music at camp with a bunch of friends and scrubbing toilets back at the ranch is the social aspect. For someone like me, there’s little joy or excitement in sitting by oneself doing something she thinks incredibly boring—especially if she’s no good at it. I would never have sat down by myself to learn quilting, but when a good friend held a quilting bee, I jumped at the chance. (I was the last to go home, actually.) Not only was there a bunch of girlfriends to keep my mind off boredom, but I also had many fast, capable help lines and a ton of encouragement.

This social aspect snuck previously mundane activities into my good graces. My sister teaching me to crochet was one of my most hilarious (and pitiful) memories. I now associate knitting with her company. I love cleaning up after dinner with my sisters, singing songs right out of the 1940’s. And nothing beats the camaraderie of Thanksgiving Day, when all the ladies prepare their special dishes in one kitchen—together.

2. The End Zone

When I was younger, my mom worked me through a homemaking book—cooking, cleaning, sewing. We had quite the operation going. But it didn’t inspire me to start my own bakery…or even keep my room tidy. What has inspired me is specific goals, specific responsibilities and checklists with a snazzy Sharpie. Girls like me are likely to view their jobs or projects as nonintegral and rather vague without concrete expectations. And for us who don’t take immediate pleasure in “homemaking things,” checklists give that necessary satisfaction of a job well done.

3. Now About Those Unscheduleable Responsibilities

Though the neater women in the family cannot comprehend this, I am honestly oblivious to messiness. It concerns me when I lose a $300 gift card in my sloppy desk (don’t ask), but still, there’s a Type B streak in me that deactivates the panic button permanently where chaotic living rooms are concerned. It’s not laziness—I’ll pick things up—it’s honest-to-goodness ignorance. Nor am I entirely aware of when it’s close to suppertime or when the laundry stops or when the baby needs her diaper changed, until she sits on my head.

It’s frustrating to be expected to work like the full-time mother/homemaker when I am full-time Me, especially when I’m willing and able to help. My mother knows this. So she asks. It trains the slow faculties to be aware of their family’s needs. I appreciate when my mom asks me to help her out instead of assuming I’m in top homemaking condition like she is. It takes pressure off me to be second mom while pushing me toward responsibility.

4. Speaking of Asking…

Nothing beats mother/daughter time on the job. It gives off a certain giddiness that puts folding laundry on par with movies and popcorn. Special Mom Time is the Big Factor for motivating me. When my mom asks me to help out with the promise of discussing something interesting…you’d be amazed how many chores get done!

5. Follow the Leader

You know the days. Everything falls apart, every child is screaming, everyone under ten has been in time out at least once, it’s 4:57 PM, and there’s still a stack of history books to read aloud. No one blames you if you lock yourself in the bathroom for a fleeting moment of vocal despair.

Non-homemakers see homemaking as a perpetual bad day: “Why on earth would you want to stay home? I wouldn’t—not with my kids!” And that’s an easy stigma to pass on to watching daughters.

But there’s a way to combat it: making the most of those good days. I’ll wake up one Saturday morning to find a chore list printed on the white board and my mother in an apron, shaking a can of Pledge. With her cheerful and competent portrayal of homemaking, I’m actually excited to spend my weekend cleaning.

6. Exciting, Meet Helpful

I teach preschool. Every weekday morning, the two kiddoes and their teacher go flying downstairs shrieking, “Preschool! Preschool!” We read books, make cat crackers, and scribble. Later my mother discovered that because the two youngest get one-on-one attention (during homeschool read-aloud time, to boot), they aren’t so clingy and troublesome.

I walked on air. Bailey: Home Helper. And I actually liked  the job.

Every girl has special gifts, talents and interests that make her uniquely her—and all can be harnessed to lighten parents’ loads, bless siblings and keep the house from falling apart. My mom gives me specific jobs that cater to my interests—creating birthday cards, grading Spanish worksheets, whatever.

7. One-of-a-Kind Daughters

In the quest to raise homemakers, my mother never let her expectations interfere with who we were as individuals. She loves me despite the fact I choose to write on Saturday instead of bake lemon cake or major in Christian studies rather than be a college-aged stay-at-home daughter. And that has made all the difference in how I view homemaking. It isn’t an oppressive thing I “have to do” to fit in and gain approval—it’s a natural extension of me, a unique girl whose quirky interests can still benefit the home.

My mother has taught me to sew and has driven me to speech contests. She’s required I cook spaghetti for dinner and write book reviews. She’s talked with me about her love for homemaking and we’ve hashed out politics—often in the same conversation. Because she takes an avid, personal interest in me and my projects, I try out hers.

She praises me for any homemaking skill I accomplish. She praises me for any non-homemaking skill I achieve. Ironically, in her concern for the things not related to homemaking—things that impact me—she has given me the greatest motivation: to make home out of pure love. Like she does.

Bailey

Bailey is a seventeen-year-old homeschooler in love with anything literary or theological. The second oldest of nine children, she finds joy in romping with her younger siblings, scribbling in her ever-expanding notebook and trying her hand at the home arts.

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{ 13 comments }

abba12 November 22, 2011

YES, THIS!!! This is a wonderful post, thank you

BushMaid November 22, 2011

This was awesome! Most encouraging and motivating. Thankyou! 😀

Veronica November 22, 2011

Bailey, I love this post! 🙂 Yes, I am a full-time mom and homemaker…but, if given the option, I would often prefer to have my nose in a book or commentary, rather than sew, or craft, or cook. 🙂 And, while I do love creating a home for my family, my own “natural bent” is not towards the domestic… So, my schedules and checklists – and yes, even the snazzy Sharpie – have become my best friends…and certainly help keep our home from turning into total chaos! 🙂 And, as my own daughter grows, I pray that I will train her not simply to cook and clean, but to love her home – and to use the unique interests, gifts, and personality that God has given her to do so.

Beth Werner Lee November 22, 2011

Bailey, how wonderful! How well you write, and I was thinking, you automatically punctuate like others automatically clean. Inspiring article for me on two levels. First my own similarity to you, personality wise. But we didn’t have a big family (I have only a big brother) and my mom didn’t homeschool; she taught Special Ed. She could do everything fast: teach, organize for the next day at school, make dinner, clean up, and sew in the evenings. Whipped through housekeeping on Saturday mornings, and she was always fun. I suppose she taught me things, but never did it become fast or automatic. So as I hear about your mother I imagine myself re-mothered. Thank her for me? Many of the things you listed I have learned about myself but late. In my thirties I had my one child, and began to love cleaning for the baby’s sake. I am so glad for your writing, your example of how godly principles can be worked out in people with different strengths. By the way, my husband is a theologian teaching at Westmont college and he reads all the time, but he is willing to help clean if I ask him to! (There’s lots of us out there.) Thanking God for you, Bailey. Keep writing!

Beth Werner Lee November 22, 2011

Sorry, I forgot Second: your mom’s example encourages me to study my daughter, who is different from me (of course) and sets herself to learn things she sees modeled for her. (A huge challenge to me both to model well and to be ready to explain or teach when asked!)

Laura November 22, 2011

Man, I hope I can raise daughters like you! Even if they’re not 100% INTO homemaking, that’s fine with me. I just want them to learn the basics and do what it takes to care for their family and home. There’s so much about homemaking that isn’t totally essential, and I can let that go. But I do want them to create a happy home in their own way, whatever works for them.

his.talmidat November 22, 2011

I loved this, thank you! It is a good perspective to have as I go about my day. Praying my girls (5, 3, 9 mths) will benefit from your sharing!

Jami November 22, 2011

What a wonderful article today Bailey! Thank you, your words are always so encouraging. My sister’s and I often cannot find friends who share a love of homemaking and see it as vital for our families. It’s always so encouraging to see other young women like you! My one sister is 17 right now too and she is having a really hard time finding like minded friends. Thanks for the encouragement today! 🙂

Ruth November 22, 2011

Oh my!!! Reading this was like taking myself back in time about fourteen years….. I was (am:) that girl. I am so thankful that my mother dealt with me in much the same way and allowed me to pursue my interests which in turn made me much more receptive to her “home-ec” instruction. While I am still no June Cleaver in the kitchen I can’t say either that home management is all doldrums for me. I actually enjoy it, and enjoy teaching my two daughters that it can be rewarding as well.
Everyone is an original – enjoy it!
Great Post.
Ruth H.

Sarah November 23, 2011

I LOOOVE point #3!!!!! Your mom is wonderful and amazing to be able to realize that you’re willing to help, and you just need asking. It certainly speaks to me, as a mom…

Sarah November 23, 2011

And point #6… it honestly brings tears to my eyes to think that I may *possibly*, one day, have this sort of working relationship with my daughters.

Sarah November 23, 2011

Sorry- writing comments as I read… 🙂
This was very well-written, and I appreciated reading it! God bless you, Bailey, in whatever He calls you to do!

Angela November 23, 2011

Thank you for this Bailey. You have made several points I had not considered before, and definitely things to keep in mind as I raise my own daughters. Many blessings, Angela

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