A few months ago I had to register the birth of my forth baby. As with each child I was asked what my occupation was. For baby number 1 I chose "teacher" as my occupation, I didn't know at that point that I wouldn't be going back into teaching. I wasn't doing paid work when I registered babies 2 though 4 so had to choose another option. I had forgotten what the official choice was for a woman who was caring for her children full time, so I asked for "Full time mother " to be my recorded occupation. The registrar kindly informed me that that was the term usually reserved for single mothers and that married mothers like myself would normally be recorded as "House Wife". Now I take no issue with the term "House Wife" I don't find it especially offensive and have never considered it to have associations with ownership as some women do, I find it quite a homely term, it is simply that "house wife" doesn't really describe what I do.
I am not normally one for favouring the American version of words, but in this instance I find the term "home maker" much more helpful in describing my occupation, in fact I think it is a beautiful description of what women who do not receive income for their work at home actually do.
Not only is it a more accurate description of what I do in this phase of my life but it is also far more poetic and intentional. It's not just a practical description as words like carer or housekeeper or cook are, but it embodies and encompasses the overall goal that I am working towards. My purpose, what adds meaning to this phase of my life isn't just the meeting of children's needs, it isn't just the process of education or keeping a house tidy and clean, it is about creating a space within not just a building but a family that has meaning and purpose.
The bible alludes many times to us one day living in a heavenly home with God, for example:
"For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands." (2 Corinthians 5:1)
"My Father's house has many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" (John 14:2)
"Yes we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord"(2 Corinthians 5:8)
The Bible also describes what this home in heaven is going to be like, it says:
"My people will abide in a peaceful dwelling-places, in secure homes and in undisturbed places of rest." (Isaiah 32:18)
So it seems to me, seeing that we pray "your kingdom come" in the Lord's prayer we should be trying to make something a bit like heaven in our homes now. To me this seems places of peace, places where we are accepted, places to feel safe and places to rest and recuperate. They should be places that contrast with the world, where we can be unhurried, taste the sweetness of life and not feel pressure to confirm to the worldly ways of appearance, attitudes, materialism and busyness.
The world lies to us and tells us that a home is about fancy wallpaper, fashionable furniture and accessories, and the latest electronics. It tells us a home is a thing to be bought. Now I have no doubt that heaven will be beautiful and it is therefore not wrong to want to make our homes a beautiful place to be, in fact I think that is a good thing. God has given most of us the desire to create beauty in our lives and this reflects his character. But this is not the only thing that makes a house a home.
Sally Clarkson says:
"Everyday in each inch of space, each rhythm of time, each practice of love, we have the chance to join God in coming home, in living so that we make a home of this broken and beautiful world all over again. Love is enfleshed in the meals we make, the rooms we fill, the space in which we live and breathe and have our being."
A home is a place where family grows and is nurtured and cared for, it is a place to feel safe and a place to be yourself. It should be a place of light that contrasts with the darkness of the world. it should be a place where we get to enjoy the best things in life; good and nourishing food and drinks, an abundance of good books that inspire, encourage, excite and comfort. There should be comfortable places to sit together and enjoy each others company, there should be music and a pleasant atmosphere.
To the world my life as a home maker may seem like one of servitude, housework and self sacrifice. Many would say that when I gave up paid work I gave up meaning, I lost myself. But to me, the work I am doing here is more important that any of the paid work I have ever done, because I am shaping life for my family. I am creating joy, comfort and peace for the most important people in my life.
This is what I am trying to create for my family. Am I achieving this all the time? heck no! I wish I was. But it is what I am working towards and it is my goal, and I hope that as I work towards it, even though I know I will never create a home as good as the heavenly one which is to come, I am at least creating a little glimpse of it in my own little patch on earth.
The fact that I can never make a true heaven on earth of our home encourages us to always have our eyes on God. C.S Lewis says:
"The settled happiness and security which we all desire. God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home."
I hope that in this life I am creating in our home a "pleasant inn" in which to rest on our journey through life. So I am choosing the embrace the name "home maker" in my life and use it to inspire me to create a special place for my family.