Whoever coined the phrase “home is where the heart is” obviously couldn’t foresee life in the 21st century. Wherever our hearts are, they are certainly not at home. Home is the place of last resort, a purely utilitarian structure like our cars, our microwaves, or our cell phones. It keeps us warm at night. It is the place we sleep since it is still fairly unacceptable to spend the night at our desks or on the street corner. Whatever home is, it definitely doesn’t hold a central place in our hearts, minds, and thoughts. It serves merely as a pit stop on our way to more important things.
Home is where we stay when we have nothing better to do. Until quite recently, I wouldn’t have thought this true, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Maybe it’s because I am something of a homebody that it wasn’t clear to me how few people there are who share my affinity for the place where we spend time with our families, share meals, and unwind at the end of the day.
But in recent years I’ve noted the stunned and sympathy-filled silence of friends or family when I say that my car hasn’t left the driveway for two days. There is the ever-present yet subtle implication that being at home is void of intellectual stimulation, that homemaking is boring and repetitive. That I need to get out and do…something. Today, as I watched the supermarket cashier running my items one after the other over the price scanner, I thought, however routine my days may be, they are never as boring and repetitive as that. It certainly doesn’t require a PhD to scan, recite total, and hand over change and a receipt. Over and over and over again. Unlike days gone by, cashiers don’t even need to exercise the basic math skills required to calculate the change! Technology has made a mundane occupation even more so.
I have nothing against cashiers. In fact, I was a cashier once, which is why I can fully appreciate the drudgery of the job. I also realize that few of the people who work this type of job do so for the thrill that it provides. My point is that despite the images the media present of the glamorous career woman, for most women work is anything but glamorous. When we teach our daughters to believe that abandoning the blessings of home and family will pay big dividends, we err greatly.
I am a firm believer in women keeping the home, but I also fully support women earning an income. This is not a post railing against working women. I just feel it best if this is done from home when possible. I’ve done it, though it wasn’t easy. It was work. I am hoping to be able to do it again when I get a firm grasp on my time management skills. It was work that I was able to do with my children alongside me rather than in the care of strangers whom I wouldn’t trust with treasure far less valuable. It saddens me when I hear women say that they “could never” handle being at home. As if running to and fro, away from everyone that we hold dear will provide a fulfillment that can’t be found by loving, serving and spending time with the children that have come from our own flesh.
We often impart the message to our children, albeit subtly, that home and family time are boring and to be avoided. Even among believers, this is the dominant thought. We impart it by allowing their schedules to be stretched thin with all types of extracurricular activities. This is can be particularly problematic if children are enrolled in school, and must return home after such a long day to tackle homework. I have been confronted, directly and indirectly on numerous occasions because we kept a very tight rein on extracurricular activities. It was a recent conversation with a friend that was the inspiration for this post, in fact.
We were discussing extracurriculars and my friend said to me that her child would never be happy coming home directly after school every day to “do nothing.” I felt like I’d been sucker punched. I’m fairly secure, but not completely beyond being made to feel uncomfortable when surrounded by those whose views are different from my own. Because I trust my friend, I didn’t automatically assume her words were meant as a slam against the way we raise our children. My internal reaction was more about my own insecurities than anything she said. After I was able to be alone with my thoughts, and consider fully the implications of what was said, I was able to settle my heart on this: I believe, as I always have, that the approach we have chosen is the best approach.
My girls don’t come home at the end of the day to “do nothing.” They help me cook dinner, they play with their younger siblings, and they tell me about their day; they read books, get their homework done early, and yes, watch the occasional television program. In short, they come home and engage in the life of our family. That is far from doing nothing. Is it any wonder that women and men alike are constantly looking for the next adventure or exciting activity to feel fulfilled? That so few women view being a mother and homemaker as a rewarding and valid life’s work? We have trained ourselves to view being at home, with those who love and care for us, as boring. We place the least value on the things that matter most and the highest priority on the things that matter least. Heaven help us.
This is not a tirade against extracurricular activities. My girls are involved in activities. I think there is some value to them, when we are balanced. Truthfully, our limiting their number of activities is as much about my sanity as it is about guarding our family time. I think not allowing my car to become a defacto taxi cab is sufficient reason for limiting activities. Thanks to a momentary discomfort, I am more convinced than ever before that more time at home is the best thing for my children, and, dare I say it? Probably for yours, too.