She watches over the affairs of her household -- Proverbs 31:27
Keeping house can be a very mundane activity. It is certainly repetitive, and the kinds of work that it involves are varied enough that few people enjoy all of them equally. But at the very same time, housekeeping is about practicing sacred disciplines and creating sacred space, for the sake of Christ as we encounter him in our fellow household members and in neighbors, strangers, and guests. -- Margaret Kim Peterson
In this preface, Margaret Kim Peterson tells about three experiences she had that led to the writing of this book.
1. Talking to two friends who worked full time outside the home and finding that they had a deep longing to keep house, to have time and margin to do household tasks without trying to fit them into the corners of a busy life. That made her realize that the desire for a well kept house and time to nurture one's home and family ran deep in at least some women.
2. Going to a party where she (the author) found that people were astonished and somewhat disapproving that she "just" kept house and only worked part time, even though she didn't have children. That made her realize how discredited housekeeping had become in our modern age.
3. Being able to help a friend who gave birth to a child very disabled with Down Syndrome, who eventually died. Since her schedule wasn't as hopelessly crammed as that of most people around her, she was able to bring meals, help her friend get the basics done, and just be there for her and her baby daughter. That made her realize that "keeping house" extends beyond the boundaries of the home and into the community; it incorporates hospitality and kindness to friends and neighbors.
Because of these experiences, she started wondering whether the Bible had anything to say about keeping house, and her research and thinking resulted in the book.
While reading I started thinking about what experiences of my own made me interested in reading this book in the first place. Unlike the author, I don't really naturally enjoy housekeeping -- I like it sometimes, but at other times I find it a burden. And I don't necessarily feel like it's enough to keep me busy, at least not when I don't have babies or lesson plans to occupy my time as well.
I think I have a hard time with household duties because they are menial and don't pay. My default way of thinking is that it is a lot of work with very little tangible return. It is repetitious and it has to be done again and again.
But when she mentioned that she had studied Scripture and history to find out what it had to say about housework, it pulled me in because it showed she wasn't going to just take for granted that housekeeping was proper women's work -- she was going to dig in and make a case for its dignity and value.
And I know my attitude towards keeping house is not quite right, so I read the book hoping it would help me see things in a better light.
And when she said that she doesn't thinking of cleaning as synonymous with housekeeping -- that to her, keeping house has more to do with providing a home for her loved ones than having a spotless chandelier or whatever, that opened up a new perspective to me. I always thought housekeeping was basically house cleaning, but here she was saying that keeping house was like being the lady of the household, not so much the scullery maid that has all the dirtiest jobs to do. That made me think. Is there something to "keeping house" that's not necessarily identical to just being an immaculate house-cleaner? Maybe there's hope after all ;-).
Finally, I'm blogging about it because I've found that blogging about my housework helps me think about it more positively. In fact, most of the most substantial improvements I've made in the house have come about because I've blogged through it. Seems that writing and taking pictures gives me that tangible feedback and sense of accomplishment that I usually don't experience.
Discussion (optional -- use if you like or just follow your own rabbit trail, by commenting or a link to your blog post)
- What about you? If you've read the book, why did you pick it up?
- Have past experiences of yours affected how you look at "keeping house"?
- What do you hope to get out of the book during this reading?
- What kind of thing do you hope to change about how you do things now?
As for me, I'm hoping to upgrade my kitchen skills -- I'm in a cooking rut recently.
I also hope to be more proactive about hospitality. Something I'm praying about.
I'd love to hear any thoughts or comments.