Tuesday, December 16, 2008

week 6 day 2 -- Caring for the people in our home

Good morning!

With the holidays rapidly approaching, we're going to switch gears for a few days. Every good program in home economics discusses family relationships, child development, and other topics related to taking care of people. In our course, we want to remember that the reason we do all that we do is for the people in our home and, even more importantly, if we are Christians, we do it as if working for the Lord, too. We never want to get so busy managing our households that we neglect the emotional and spiritual needs of the people who live in them!

Likewise, the holidays are a time that should be focused on faith and family. However, it's so easy to get caught up in business and commercialism and forget why we do what we do. Again, we don't want to get so caught up in holiday preparations that we forget just to relax and enjoy our loved ones.

Along these same lines, the last few days of holiday preparations is probably not the best time to tackle that huge craft project you've been wanting to get to or to embark on a thorough re-organization and cleaning of our homes. We have enough to do cooking and cleaning and going to fun events and embracing time with friends and family and, perhaps, traveling. Likewise, you need the surfaces in your home to stay in at least outward order so that people can function during this busy time. Closets that are halfway organized or a quilt top that's out to be quilted can take up valuable space.

That's not to say that if you have a few moments to sit down with small craft project or to neaten up a drawer that you shouldn't take it. I, myself, like to have something like needlework going so that I can do it when we travel or during the lull that seems to come to our house between Christmas and New Year's.

If you can manage large projects during the holidays and you really want to do them, that's fine. For most of us, however, keeping to our basic, everyday household routines during this next week or two so that we can concentrate on friends and family is a good plan. January's a great time to move on to deep housecleaning and big household projects.

So, let's take a few days right now to focus on the subject, "Caring for People."

The women of the eighteen hundreds and early 1900's, by and large, had a lot of experience caring for people. Many spent their lives on farms or in small towns, and many never traveled very far from home. Even single women often lived in a relatives home and helped with the housekeeping. Dorothy Canfield Fisher wrote a poignant story, "The Bedquilt", about an elderly woman who had spent her entire life as an under-appreciated helper in her brother's home, but who had one marvelous day in which a quilt she designed and sewed won first place at a county fair.

Both men and women tended to live more home-centered lives. More lived on farms or owned small mom-and-pop businesses near their homes. Even many who owned little shops or restaurants lived in an apartment right above or in rooms in back of their place of work. Women were able to interact with their children throughout the day. Even when children went to school, school terms were shorter and were based on the agricultural calendar. Of course, some children went to boardings schools, and, in these cases, the child was not in the home as much.

Prior to World Wars I and II, more people were born at home than are today. More people rode out illnesses at home. More women were happy making home and family their career. More people spent their golden years being cared for in a child's home rather than in a retirement or nursing home. More people died at home.

In those days before mid-twentieth century medical advances, illness that we think nothing of were serious business. We don't appreciate today that many people died of the childhood diseases that used to be common in the days before vaccinations. Before antibiotics, a cold could turn into deadly pneumonia, strep throat could lead to scarlet fever and rheumatic fever and to damaged kidneys and hearts. Even a sinus infection could kill. During epidemics of polio and other diseases, women in towns were forced to keep their children indoors and isolated from possible infection. Of course, there were hospitals for people to go to. Still, doctors often made house calls and consigned their patients to rest in their own beds. For many diseases, the little medical help they could offer was as easily administered at home as in a hospital. So, most women took care of a sick person in their home at some point.

On a happier note, many women assisted doctors in bringing children into the world. Families tended to be large, and children had ample opportunities to learn about caring for babies. Parents trained their children to assume responsibilities on the farm or in the family business, and children came into adult life with preparation for home life. They saw how their parents interacted with each other, and they saw how their parents interacted with their children. They absorbed their parents' values.

Then, as now, women organized family celebrations, community events, and church socials. Churches and individuals were the front line in charity work, and many women directly took care of the poor, ill, and bereaved within their communities. These events provided even more opportunities for women to learn about tending to people's needs.

The exceptions to this home-as-an-important center of human life were to be found in certain sections of large cities and among those who labored in the factories. Factory work could take both a father and mother away from the home for long, long hours in a day, and even many of the children spent long days working in a factory.

In the mid-twentieth century, home-life was still important, but it changed in nature. Many people moved from small towns and farms to suburbs and large cities. Men worked white collar and blue collar jobs that took them out of the home each day. Eventually, more women took jobs outside of the home.

Medical advances hugely improved the quality and length of life for most people. It took much of the fear out of childbirth and eradicated or nearly eradicated many potentially deadly diseases. At the same time, however, people became somewhat more removed from three natural processes of life: birth, aging, and death. Additionally and ironically, as childbirth became safer and infant mortality delicned, people began to greatly limit the size of their families. In a rural culture, a large family was seen as an asset. As our culture shifted more towards urban life and suburban life, smaller families were seen as being less burdensome and, thus, became the new ideal.

In the last part of the twentieth century and continuing to today, people have begun to re-think the move way from home life. With the advent of the Internet, people are finding ways to work from home again. Many have gone back to farms or homesteading. Many home school. Some are looking for big city neighborhoods that offer support to families.

We are actually in a great position as women now to learn how to create loving homes for our family members. We can take the best from the past and the best from modern life and blend it into a wonderful family life. We can learn what our foremothers knew about taking care of people in the home, and we can add to it what we now know. And, of course, we can turn to the ageless truths of God's word to find our best guidance for loving our families.

In the next few days, we'll talk specifically about how to care for the people in our lives.

For your homemaking notebook: If you are married: What preparation did you have for marriage and family life before you got married? What values did you learn from your parents? What did you see in your parents that you really appreciate? Are there things that you would do differently than your parents? Have you ever written your parents a thank-you letter telling them how much they mean to you? Writing such a letter could mean more to your parents than you know. Even if you had a difficult relationship with your parents, you likely saw something positive in them. For you, writing a letter can be healing for both you and your parents. If you were raised or influenced by someone else beside your parents -- such as a grandmother or a foster family -- write a letter of appreciation to whomever your parental examples were.

If you are not married yet hope to be someday, what preparation are you receiving for marriage and parenting? What can you learn now that will help you make a home one day, whether you ever marry or not?

For Your Book of Days:

What do you love most about your family life? Name something special about each of the people in your family. If possible, glue a photo of each one in your book of days.

Jot down what you resources you enjoy from modern life and jot down what things you appreciate from the past. What is your dream for blending these into a happy home life now?

For the holidays:

Five ways to be a giver of cheer:

1) Pray about your expectations and release them to the Lord. Be open to whatever happens during your holidays. (My disposal broke at Thanksgiving, requiring us to bail out buckets of nasty looking stuff. But, still, we had fun!)
2) Don't fret if family issues surface. Sometimes, holiday get togethers reveal things that need to be resolved. Do what you can to bring peace to the situation.
3) Greet and have a smile for everyone you meet everywhere you go. I read an article in Reader's Digest about a man who resolved to greet everyone he met for a month. People tend to greet each other more during the holidays, so it's a good time to get started. If you are shopping in a store, remember that the clerks are working long holiday hours, are dealing with a hectic public, and are tired. They will appreciate a cheerful smile and a patient attitude. Don't forget to give your family members warm greetings as they come and go, as well.
4) Keep a gratefulness list in your Book of Days. Add two things to it every day through the holiday season.
5) Listen, listen, listen!! This is a great time to really listen to the people in your family -- both immediate and extended. Listen to what they are saying with their mouths and notice what they are saying with their expressions.

Happy Homemaking!


Blessed With 4 said...

Great post! Thank you so much for this course.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks! I'm so glad you're following along with me.