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The Art of Homemaking

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Homemaking is majoring in family relationships.

The word “homemaker” is often considered passé. It brings about connotations of June Cleaver in the 1950s show Leave It to Beaver. Today’s mom at home is known as a “stay-at-home mom,” a “mother at home,” a “domestic engineer,” but rarely a “homemaker.” However, before we completely throw this word out, I think we need to consider how appropriate it really is. The word “homemaking” is a beautiful word. It describes “a person who makes a home.”

In Professionalizing Motherhood I quoted Holly Schurter, a mother of eight, on the concept of homemaking. I think her words bear repeating:

Cultivate the skills, not only of housekeeping, but of making a home for your family. As you know already, they are not always exactly the same. Housekeeping consists of the laundry, the dishes, the toilets, and floors that need to be scrubbed, but homemaking is something else…

Homemaking is the deliberate cultivation of beauty and productivity in family relationships. Homemaking is about helping your family feel loved and comforted. Homemaking is about celebrating each other, and about caring for each other, as well as for your friends and extended families and even the occasional stranger. Anyone can keep house. Not everyone bothers to make a home.

Homemaking happens when we fully understand the value of home in our lives. Homemaking happens when we intentionally make home a safe house, a trauma unit, a pep rally, a playground, a school and more. Somebody has to have the time and energy to bring those roles alive in a family’s life. Somebody has to make a house a home. Homemaking is majoring in family relationships.

I think Laura Ingalls Wilder captured it best when she said, “Just as a little thread of gold, running through a fabric, brightens the whole garment, so women’s work at home, while only the doing of little things, is just like the golden gleam of sunlight that runs through and brightens the whole fabric of civilization.”

Aromatherapy at Home

Some housekeeping tasks contribute toward making a house a home. For instance, have you ever considered how important smells are for a family? It’s amazing where your sense of smell can take you. One whiff of someone’s perfume can bring to mind a special friend who used to wear the same fragrance. The smell of cookies baking will take you back to when you were grade school age and sitting in your grandmother’s kitchen. Or the fragrance of fresh flowers can cause you to remember the first bouquet delivered to your door.

However, scents not only cause us to reminisce. Aromatherapy experts will tell you that certain smells aid in emotional wellness. For instance, lavender is supposed to ease anxiety, jasmine boosts confidence, and ginger fights fatigue. I don’t know that I completely buy into all the claims of aromatherapy, but as a mother I have come to understand what smells in our home mean to my family and friends. It’s really one aspect of the art of homemaking.

When the kids come home from school and smell cookies baking in the oven, they feel nurtured and cared for. No matter what challenges the school day brought, it fades at the smell of fresh-baked cookies.

When my husband comes home from work and dinner is cooking, he immediately feels that home is a safe place. A refuge. A place where he is cared for. Whatever stress was experienced at work begins to melt as he walks in and knows that food and comfort go hand in hand.

When a friend stops by and smells a pot of coffee brewing, she knows someone was anticipating her arrival. She feels welcome. There is relational warmth extended to her.

When my family comes home to the smell of Pledge or Lysol, they know someone has been caring for the home they live in. There’s something about the smell of cleaning products that says, “Everything’s okay at home.”

Our home is designed to be a place where we can relax, find comfort, feel safe and receive love. Smells can never substitute for quality conversation, physical affection or words of encouragement, but they can have a powerful effect on our emotions and sense of security in the family unit.

Several years ago I heard author and speaker Elise Arndt, a mother of five, share some of the things she had learned about homemaking. One of the things she talked about was aromatherapy for the family. She shared her secret of boiling an onion on the stove when she didn’t know what was for dinner. The smell of the onion soothed her and spoke volumes to the family because it said, “Dinner is cooking. Mom’s got it under control. Life is okay.” And it bought her time to figure out what to add to that onion to feed her family of six.

When I first heard her talk about spraying Pledge as an air freshener or boiling an onion, I thought it might be a bit deceitful. Then I thought about the fragrance of a burning “sugar cookie” candle or the smell of potpourri or melted wax chips. Many of us intentionally fill our home with the fragrance of our favorite candle or air freshener. Elise was simply creating her own scents to speak to the specific needs of her family.

One of the reasons I’m at home is to provide an environment my family wants to come home to. As best I can, I can create a welcoming, soothing atmosphere to speak love to my family. Personally, I really don’t know if peppermint improves concentration, but what I do know is that occasionally the smell of a boiling onion does wonders for my mind-set and has an incredible calming effect upon our home.

It also buys me time to figure out what’s for dinner …

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