DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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2 February 2015

House work

… it has become too easy in our time to assume that childrearing, housekeeping, and caregiving, along with all the varieties of manual work, are somehow undignified and unworthy. And we have attempted to lighten and improve them by means of gadgets and institutions. But I would argue that these are the most basic and the most noble vocations. How can we live, or how can we live for very long, as a people if we don’t take care of the children, keep house, and give care to all things needing care? I think the hierarchy that places work done away from home above work done at home is utterly phony. 
Conversions with Wendell Berry, University Press of Mississippi 2007.

If I had to choose only one author to read for the rest of my life, it would be Wendell Berry. He is not afraid to speak the truth, no matter how unpopular it may be. I try to follow his example. His books inspire me to be a better woman, wife, mother, grandmother, writer and yes, housekeeper. He reminds me of the fine tradition I'm part of and why it's so important to humanity. 
And despite what I just wrote, I do "get it". I understand why housework is seen as dull and boring. I thought that myself when I worked outside the home and before I slowed down and changed how I looked at the world. House work interrupted what I wanted to do. It didn't occur to me that the work of my home was something that was capable of giving satisfaction and pride. Over the years, housekeeping has gone from being a full time occupation, a job that women took pride in, to being a something that's supported by appliances, short cuts, life hacks and convenience foods. Now, instead of being creative work that changes with the seasons and is different in every home, the housework of convenience and technology is monotonous and uninvolving. It's work we either put off or try to get through as fast as possible.
Whether you work full time in your home or full time away from the home, housework never ends. There will always be something you can do in your home and it's up to you to end your daily housework when it suits you. I wrote about that in my book and it's still as true today as it ever was. I think you have to have a fundamental change in mindset to understand what housework is, the importance it plays in life and that without it, we don't amount to much.
I feel very comfortable now in my role as homemaker. I also feel comfortable being a working author. One doesn't cancel out the other, they're both important to me; both contribute substantially to my happiness and how I view the world, both require intelligence and creativity. We are all capable of doing more than one job, much more. I think those who feel trapped by housework and those who just don't do it, have not made their homes into the places they need them to be. I found that when I thought about my home, when I changed things around to better suit how I work, when I took control and started working how I wanted to work, when I understood that house work is a creative process, it got better and easier, and I was happier. Making my house a home is a work in progress where there'll always be something to do, something to change, plans to make and something to look forward to. And that is the difference. If your home is part of your life plan, when it stops being just a place for clothes and sleeping. It becomes part of a inventive process that makes your life better, so it's just common sense to do the work to make sure it continues.
Housework is done by women and men now, and by some children. It's not as narrowly defined as it was before - women's work. So why is it still seen by so many as dull and tedious. Why don't we understand that if we want to live in a clean, comfortable home, serve healthy food, send our students and workers off every day to learn and earn, or be one of the workers or students who goes out well fed, clean and happy, that we have to work to make it happen. Nothing will ever be handed to us on a platter with a card that says, you deserve this. So never underestimate the power of house work. It makes everything else possible.

62 comments:

  1. YESSSS!!! :) Amen to that, Rhonda! xx

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  2. Bravo! Thank you and Amen!
    Blessings and a big hug,

    Jeanneke.

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  3. My house is still "recovering" from years spent working outside the home. Little by little bit though, I am decluttering, cleaning, reorganising and polishing and nothing brings me greater pleasure because I appreciate so much the time I have to do that now. I try to do it slowly and mindfully so that when I'm finished, I can look with pride upon my work.

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  4. Thank you for writing this post. For years I thought I was 'old fashioned', I have always believed the effort you put in at home can go a long way to having a much happier and contented life. This is such a great post as the school/work year commences. My 16 year old daughter said to me last week "Mum, I love how you keep our home clean and the way you decorate, I love your cooking too'! I will never forget those thoughtful words as I felt really appreciated. I learn a lot from your blog. Thanks Rhonda very much. Ann

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  5. When I read Wendell Berry’s quote I said “Amen to that”. I agree that home-caring is a fine tradition, and yes the work can be repetitive but so can professional work. I remember reading a quote about our day jobs being a type of 9 to 5 dying. And Thoreau wrote “Most men would feel insulted if it were proposed to employ them in throwing stones over a wall, and then in throwing them back, merely that they might earn their wages. But many are no more worthily employed now.” And with that cheering thought I will add that today is my first day back at work in just over a year, following a year of medical treatment last year.

    Rhonda, inspired by Arnold Bennett, I try to view my home-making as my hobby, something I do by choice because I find it worthwhile and enjoyable. When I find myself frustrated with housework I try and stop myself and ask myself “do I really hate what I am doing” and the answer is no, and I consciously find that feeling of enjoying what I am doing knowing I am building up my home by my efforts. (Actually I am usually more frustrated by my slowness than with the tasks themselves.)

    Arnold Bennett wrote "A little knowledge of the science of the home can foster naught but material felicity, which is generally the foundation of all other felicities". As you wrote it does make everything else possible.

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  6. Thank you so much for reminding us all why we do what we do - we are care givers! It can be easy to forget just how valuable our work is! Beautifully put x

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  7. Home is where our lives take place. Really the outside work supports the home and used to. It is only now that home is supposed to support the career. I can still see Dad in one of Mum's apron's waving me off to school as he stayed home to look after her when she was sick. Mum used to tell about her uncle coming over from NZ to look after the family when her mother was in hospital once. He was a good cook and used to prepare all the school lunches as well as his brother-in-law's lunch for work. I suspect that in working class homes a lot of men did a lot more than we now understand.

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    1. Wow, I had never thought of things this way - thanks for sharing this bit of history and putting words to a feeling/longing I've held since becoming a full-time homemaker.
      -Jaime

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  8. When I read your book, and read the line "Housework never ends"...and the ensuing chapter, I had a massive "aha" moment. I had never considered it that way before, and it was almost like I suddenly had permission to take a break...seems crazy that I thought any differently, but I did, and women do. I certainly didn't work non-stop, but the cloud of all the work still yet to be done just lifted when I read that...it was exactly what I needed to know at that point in time. Very wise words indeed.

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    1. I appreciate your comments. I have felt like I need to keep busy all the time, but have started to give myself "permission" to take some breaks without feeling guilty :) Thanks for reminding us.

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  9. I soak in your housework and homemaker posts Rhonda. I come back to read them again and again.

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  10. Thank you Rhonda for this post. It came at the perfect time for me this morning. The last day of my holidays before going back to work, this morning I was up making school lunches, prepping food for the week, making beds, putting washing on, washing up all before 7:30 and feeling resentlful. Then I sat down with a coffee after putting my children on the school bus feeling silly for whinging about my super important role. So thank you, I'm sure my day from now will only get better as my mindset has now changed :)

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  11. What an inspiring post for a new week. Thank you :)

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  12. It seems to me that the stigma of housework comes from the time when it was considered to be all women were capable of doing. This just became worse as gadgets and convenience sucked all the skill out of the work; unskilled labor performed by workers not capable of doing anything else - sounds attractive, doesn't it. Now that those of us working at home are putting the skills back into the job and proving the value of having someone take care of the home, budget, family, etc., my hope is that the perception will continue to change. I am educated and have done the 9 -5 routine and let me tell you, being CEO of my home, family and urban homestead is the most rewarding, challenging work I have ever done.

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    1. Thank you Sue You put it beautifully. You're right there is nothing attractive about the job description 'unskilled labor performed by workers not capable of doing anything else' but 'CEO of my home, family and urban homestead' sounds brilliant!

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  13. Great post and I also remember that quote from your book that housework never ends. I do small chores daily instead of one full day dong the whole house. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane

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  14. brilliant post & just when needed too. i find i put my work around the house off, it will be there tomorrow, i prefer to go out & mow or garden or at the moment i'm tackling a bit of sewing, even though i look around & see that my house needs a clean i just can't bring myself to do it & i always say 'it will be there tomorrow' i don't sweat it anymore, doesn't get me down as much as it used to & i will slowly come around & get it done. after reading your post this morning i actually feel like sweeping the floor...
    thanx rhonda

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  15. Only yesterday we had a family discussion about what household task people found the least enjoyable- I couldn't agree with anyone's suggestion.

    Sweeping is meditative, folding the washing contemplative, cleaning the kitchen and bathroom to a shine is mighty satisfactory, I love cooking for my family (90% of the time!), gardening is reflective and an achievement when we eat what we grow, vaccuming and dusting leaves me feeling renewed and ready to enjoy a relaxing time in the house.

    I think the only thing I don't enjoy is replacing the doona cover, it always leaves my arms tired! But then again the feel of clean sheets is so lovely it overrides that tiredness very quickly!

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  16. Rhonda, you have made my day!!!! This post is so important!!!! Thank you so much. I'm loving your books too. xxoo

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  17. Very encouraging! Thanks for sharing this. I will look up this writer as well.

    Blessings,
    Amy jo

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  18. Hi Rhonda,

    what a superb opening quote, i will be copying it into my quote book (of inspirations) tonight. By the way, there are a couple of gems of yours in there too!

    You've picked beautiful photos that really sum up why we keep house - your dishes drying on the sink tell me that good food has been enjoyed and cups of tea have been shared. Surely it was worth the effort.

    I spent the Christmas break streamlining and reorganising my home, and what a huge difference it has made now that I am back at work and it is full-on. After a couple of weeks back at work the house is still clean and tidy and I was able to have 3 lots of guests on the weekend, including a spontaneous overnight visitor. Pots of tea and homemade biscuits were shared, dinner was cooked and we talked into the wee hours. None of that would have been possible in a dirty house with a bare cupboard and empty veggie patch. So hooray for housework!

    have a wonderful day all, Madeleine.x

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  19. So well put and encouraging. ~ Elaine

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  20. I've been a homemaker my entire marriage of 35 years raising 3 boys. I worked for 7 years part time when two were older teenagers and one was 22. My husband came to me and asked me to quit and to return to full time homemaking. He said our lives ran more smoothly and he was happier with me at home. Friends and my and his co workers did not understand. I was thrilled to return to running the home and caring for my husband and boys full time. This is where I feel most appreciated and needed..that was 7 years ago..the nest is emptier..just the two of us and the youngest son for awhile longer. I still am thrilled. I take great pride and comfort in my home.

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  21. For you Rhonda....

    http://juliemaloney.blogspot.com.au/2015/02/being-wife-mother-and-homemaker-as.html

    xxoo Julie

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    1. Thanks Julie. There's no going back now.

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  22. Rhonda, you wrote "House work interrupted what I wanted to do." For me it was always the opposite. Paid work interrupted what I wanted to do, all my working life. I only worked to pay the bills, never because I wanted to be out of my house for eight hours a day, five days a week. The hours I spent at a desk, wishing I didn't have to be there, are now a faint memory since I retired. I LOVE LOVE LOVE! looking after our home :-)

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  23. I am so ashamed that I am not like any of you. I am so unorganised in the home washing piling up waiting to be ironed the living room is the only tidy room in the house. I long to be organised and have peace in my mind. I am a nurse working long twelve and half hour shifts mainly nights with the odd day thrown in here and there, most of my days off are usually sleep days from the night work. My husband left me two and half years ago, signed the house to me and so I have the pressure of having to pay for this now, I have ten years left to pay the mortgage and he left me with so much debt stupidly taken out in my name but mainly used to rescue us from his gambling addiction etc. I have two boys at home 20 and 24, the youngest is helpful but the eldest is like a whirlwind around the home leaving a trail of mess behind him. I long to be able to get up early, tidy the home, cook and care for the home, but instead because of my work situation I am exhausted constantly even when I have a few days off. Some days I just cant get up until dinner time and most of the time cant sleep until two or three in the morning. I really need some words of advice to help me make some order in my life and home like you all have.x

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    1. Hi Sharon, the last thing I would want in anyone who reads here is to feel shame. I have a little bit of advice, seeing as you asked for it. The most important being to go to your doctor and say what you said here. I'm not silly enough to suggest you have one thing or the other without knowing you but I think a doctor will be able to help. The second is to suggest that your sons are not boys and if they're living in your home they have a responsibility to do some of the housework, whether they want to or not. And lastly, this small thing may help in a practical way. Make a list of jobs that need doing that would take about 15 minutes or could be broken up into 15 minute slots. When you come home from work, decide what job you're going to do and work on it for 15 minutes, you'll be surprised how much you can do in 15 minutes. Doing this every day, especially when you come home and know you only have that 15 minute burst to get through, may get you back on track.

      But please, go to your doctor and see what comes of that. Take care, love. xx

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    2. Great answer Rhonda. And I do wish to offer a bit of encouragement to Sharon: You are already a very decent mother and a success. Depression can cloud our abilities to see things clearly and to have the energy to do things we know we should do. Breaking up your tasks in manageable bits is a great suggestion and with each accomplishment you will feel satisfaction, which encourages more. Of course you are tired; a full time nurse and mother has a lot to do! But think that you are successful because you ARE handling it; some days will be better than others (don't we all know that one!) and with each passing month you are getting closer to your home ideals and paying off that mortgage. Cheers to you and keep up the good work. And yes, as an ex- mental health nurse, I encourage you to do what you need to to get better under a doctor's care. You have had a life change; and need help with it. Kudos to you, Sharon. You will do fine!

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    3. Sharon, I second everything Rhonda says. Is there anyway you can get off the night shift and do days? Do you still have call? I know that can be very draining as well.
      I would also suggest, make sure you have a spot tidy just for you to sit down after a long day and have a drink. Whether it is a cocktail or a hot chocolate, take a second to get off your feet and not worry. Dishes, laundry, it can wait. Put on a favorite music station so your mind can unclutter and take care of you. Let your mind unclutter. Even if it is just to think about a book you once read or want to read, make it something that will let you escape and unwind.
      Your boys are grown and while I am glad the youngest helps out, the oldest needs to get it together or get out on his own. Cooking a meal or doing laundry is a way to pitch in and they should do so at their ages. Best of luck to you and get some rest when you can. Hugs,

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  24. I love your homemaking posts, Rhonda :)
    They make me want to get off the computer and make my home beautiful.

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  25. I think that ALL work has become demonised by our current society and is seen as something to be avoided at all costs. Paid work has one redeeming feature and that obviously is the money (without which our modern consumerist world falls apart).

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  26. I can't thank you enough for this post and for the compassionate and powerful way you write about the importance of house work.
    -Jaime

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  27. Thank you for inspiring words Rhonda. I struggle with big health problems in my everyday and housework is a physical struggle and proceeds slowly. Like a tortoise: steady and slow does it. Norwegian society is all about money and career and being busy. l don't think anyone would DARE to call themselves a homemaker, sadly. Reading your blog has opened my eyes to the profound importance of homemaking and also, how profoundly important it was for me growing up. I have a wonderful husband who helps out around the house and always praises my every effort at home. We are a great team. Wish you a lovely week, and thank you again for so much inspiration. Pam

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  28. A thoughtful and uplifting post Rhonda, and also thanks for the reminder to read Wendell Berry whom I have been meaning to read for a while now. As he is so prolific I am not sure where to start....any guidance as to which would be a starting point? Many thanks...

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    1. Sarah, his topic pool is quite varied so I suggest you google 'wendell berry amazon' and it will bring up a list and descriptions of his books. I started with Bringing it to the Table and The Unsettling of America because my interest is farming and home.

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    2. thanks Rhonda, I like the sound of 'Bringing it to the table',...........

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  29. Beautifully put and inspirational! Just what this recently new stay at home mom and homemaker needed to read with her morning coffee to get the week started off right.

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  30. Great post, I smiled as I read it. I know that I am far more content in my life as a homemaker than I ever was when I was in paid employment but I also remember the struggle of trying to get everything done in the house after a day at work and feeling that I was never quite up to managing the expectations. Now I have the time to enjoy housework and see the sense and purpose of it far more clearly, not to mention the satisfaction it brings. It's a change of mindset, definitely.
    Michelle

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  31. Hi Rhonda, thanks for another inspiring post. I really struggle to love housework but I have to say since I started reading your blog and changing how I approach housework it's been easier. For me it's been about realising I don't have to finish the housework as it's not a job you can finish as well as making and using my own cleaning products. The more I think about it the more ridiculous it seems that home making has become such unregarded work and I think that we must all take some responsibility for not treating work in the house with the same respect as we have treated work outside the house. For centuries keeping a clean and healthy house, preparing nourishing meals and raising children have been the cornerstones of almost every society; providing people with safe and healthy environments in which to live. How did we manage to forget that and devalue those skill so much? I'm not an advocate of housekeeping and child raising being the only role acceptable for women to have - I think every women should be able to pursue a career outside of the house but I certainly don't think we should denigrate women who chose work inside the home as their career. Perhaps if we took Home Economics out of the 'easy options/low expectations' category in schools and put it in the 'essential to know' we might begin to appreciate the skills of basic chemistry, time management; budgeting; sewing; basic home repairs and food science that go into this work. If we begin to understand housekeeping is a ‘proper’ job we may come to appreciate our own skills more and find more satisfaction in doing it.

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  32. Thank you for your advice Rhonda, the 15 minute task sounds like a good idea, I never thought of that. I have already been to the doctors and have been taking antidepressant tablets since my husband left although I have reduced what I am taking. My problem is more to do with the number of hours working and working nights which is affecting my life. I love your posts on here and you inspire me, I just need the energy to do them. I am going to draw up a list of small jobs to be done and go from there. Thankyou, God Bless x

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    1. Good for you Sharon. I admire your courage.
      kate

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  33. I lost my job over two years ago and haven't found anything that approaches the salary I lost as I am only working a few part time jobs now. I was very bitter about that and wondered how my hubby and I were going to make it. The biggest shock was how I was going to fill my days with all the extra time I had now that I wasn't working outside the home. There was one day in particular where I had everything done by 10:00 in the morning and wondered what I could for the rest of the day. With a lot of prayers, help and encouragement from family and friends, I am doing fine. I reworked my budget after taking an early retirement, I found time to do better meal planning and cooking from scratch, I put my heart and soul into gardening, and I found out that I am immensely happier now. Housework does not seem overwhelming and rushed to get it done before another long work week. I found that I enjoy cooking and baking and do not feel guilty if I am up and running by the early morning hours. I have tried so many different things around the home now that I am not constantly rushed for time. I have always taken pride in my home and feel immensely rewarded in a smoothly run home.

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  34. Excellent post, Rhonda. The part that really got my attention was the line: "I think those who feel trapped by housework and those who just don't do it, have not made their homes into the places they need them to be." That really sums it up, in my estimation. It was thoughtful and rang true. I know plenty of women who have a place to live, and really, that is about it. They have not really made them their homes.

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  35. Here! Here! Since I "returned home to work" almost a hear ago I've gained new appreciation for the work that my mother and those who came before her put into making our house a home. For too many years, while I was busy in the corporate world, my house was just the place we lived. Someone else cleaned it, I eschewed the time I had to put into preparing meals, and I thoughtlessly spent money on things we didn't need. How much more fulfilling this simple life is!

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  36. This is the most powerful post I have ever read. You go girl! I love to clean and make my environment comfortable. I really loved it when my husband was alive, but I still do it with love for me. I thought, at one time, I did it for others, but now I know I was included in the mix. When our son was four he was receiving chemotherapy. I scrubbed the surfaces down every day (even the floors) with Physohix to kill germs so he didn't get sick because of a low white cell count. He never did get sick in all of the years his counts were low. I did it as a service of love. Maybe that's the secret, to make it a service of love. These days I experiment in the kitchen and come up with healthy foods. I just made yogurt and am excited at how well it turned out. The thing is there is very little effort needed to make it at home yet the benefits are high. Now I make bread, jam, yogurt, and freeze my garden veggies. Soon there will be lemons, olives, strawberries, and more blackberries. Life is good!

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    1. Aw, bless you Angie! I think you are so right - a "service of love." Thank you for sharing this.
      -Jaime

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  37. Dear dear Rhonda.. I think this is my favourite post that I have read on your blog.. smile.. All so very true and applicable to every woman who tries to keep her home.. It just seems to make it so easy and satisfying when you look at it as a creative process.. Thank you. xo

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  38. thank you for this post Rohnda, I have to say that I come from a different perspective than a lot of these comments.i have been struggling with being home in recent weeks. I have not much other choice right now than to be at home, one of my children is autistic and is often sick or has a lot of appointments etc. I love my home, but sometimes I feel stuck. Sometimes I feel like I am not moving forward with my life. Because what I do isn't valued in society it wouldn't have occurred to any of the people around me to give me the advice that you give in this post. It gives me so much happiness to make things and it gives me a lot of pleasure to be creative with my home duties, but when your work isn't valued it's easy to think there should be more, that you need to be more or that you should be doing more (because what yousre doing somehow isn't important). Thank you for reminding me that what I do here is important, what I do here is amazing and can be whatever I want it to be and that is valuable. xx

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    1. Knowing your own value is more important than what others think or say to you, Mamie. Keep valuing your homemaker's role and hold your head high. I wanted to let you know that I value what you're doing. Caring for children with disabilities is difficult. Caring for anyone who is ill is difficult and carers rarely get acknowledged for the work they do. You're lucky in that you love working in your home, so keep up the good work, take breaks whenever you can, take care of your own health and pat yourself on the back every so often. xx

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  39. This is my story about being a home maker. I pay myself 70K a year to be a homemaker and educate our children. Because it was a story too big for the comments section. I have included a link to the full story. Thank you Rhonda
    https://fatnotfabulousandforty.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/get-back-in-the-kitchen-2/

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  40. It has taken me a long time to realise that housework/homemaking never ends. My breaks had gotten longer and longer as I didn't want to do any work on the house. You have helped me to realise that breaks are ok and an important part of my work.

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  41. I simply cannot wait until I can be back in my home full time. So much depends on how we will revamp our lifestyle so we can live with a budget that is 1/3 less during the 8 months of works so the 4 months of non-work can still be done. (My husband's job as a heavy equipment operator does not work once the ground is frozen). Getting him to agree to not eat out so much or just to stop that nickel and dime spending, has been the hardest thing so far. I am working full time right now so making meals has not been a priority in the past but since we came back from winter holiday I am trying to stay on top of it and definitely not complain! Thank you for your lovely blog. I enjoy it so much! As a 50+ year old mom and grandma I am still learning. Your blog encourages me to do this as well.

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  42. Thanks for this post Rhonda, I have really enjoyed listening to everyone's stories and comments.
    It has taken me a long time to realise the power of my home and being a homemaker in making me happy. I have always been a home body and there were clues but it just took a while to join the dots. I remember many years ago when I first started working full time after I finished studying, when winter came around I really resented leaving in the dark and returning home in the dark. It just seemed so wrong. What was the point of going to work if I only saw my veggie garden at the weekend? Big Clue there. Especially when I voiced these thoughts and my colleagues thought I was nuts!
    kxx

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  43. The line your wrote "Housework is done by women and men now, and by some children." struck a chord with me as my 19 yr old son who is currently looking for paid employment is the one taking care of the bulk of the housework and home care whilst I'm out working. Although I hope for him to soon find paid work, so he can start making his own way in the world, I feel that this is an opportunity for him to learn to 'keep house'. Rather than being unemployed being seen as a negative, I see it as an opportunity for him to learn about running a home and this I am sure will benefit him in the long run.

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  44. I appreciated this a lot today.
    I had been really quite happy with practicing home skills (and I could sure stand to be a better cook) up until 11 months ago when my son was diagnosed with autism. My life devolved into endless appointments, groups, special trips out of the house and a crash course in neurodevelopmental psychology. I thought that there might have been some stabilization last fall just before we found that baby #4 was coming. I'm just now emerging from the sickness and fatigue for a few months before the baby is born. I'm looking around and floundering a bit as my routines never really recovered and there is so much that needs doing that it is hard to pick anywhere to start. Educating myself and interacting more with people outside my home can lead to that sense that the mundane things that I do here mean nothing compared to meeting the extra challenges that our life now includes.
    It's good to have that reminder that making and keeping the home--especially contrasting that terminology with just housekeeping--is creative too and gives that backbone of peace and stability that we need to get up and face each day.

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    1. Take it slow, Sildah and do a little bit more each day. Your routines might need tweaking a bit with your extra work load, but I'm sure you're capable of doing that. Good luck, love. xx

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