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.