Friday, August 17, 2007

Homemaking versus housekeeping

I find it very interesting that whenever the topic of being a "homemaker" comes up, we as women automatically think of some Martha Stewart type, who always has her home-baked bread coming out of the oven, has her home decorated fancifully for each season, and who seemingly effortlessly keeps her floors clean enough to serve dinner on them - without plates. This woman’s children also keep their hair combed (with matching hair bows), and they do their chores without complaint while she serves her third term as president of the PTA. Oh, and her husband supports her while she travels nationwide to speak to thousands on being a Godly woman.

We all know someone like that, or we think we know her, and we secretly hate her. She’s Mrs. Perfect. We would never want to invite her to our house, where we have junk drawers, kids’ toys trapped between the cushions of our sofas, and we serve frozen pizza to our children, who are lucky to find a clean shirt in the drawer, let alone something that matches. We won’t even discuss hair.

We measure ourselves by some impossible standard - the standard of perfection - and come up short every time. Why do we do this to ourselves?

I spent a good portion of my children’s preschool years trying to attain perfection with my home, and all I had to show for it was exhaustion and a serious case of the grumpies. I’ve come to this conclusion:
If good is the enemy of the best,” then I say that “perfect is the enemy of ‘good enough.’”
When you are truly living in your home, especially if that home includes children of any age, you are going to have to be satisfied with ‘good enough,’ or you will positively go insane. You can’t keep every fingerprint off your windows, every toy put away, every pair of scissors out of child’s reach. Unless you plan on living in a museum, at some point you have to “settle” on a reasonable ground for cleanliness and organization - the “good enough.”

Does this mean we shouldn’t try? Of course not.

Being able to find what you need, and knowing things are clean can contribute to the feeling of peacefulness - of being “home.“ But I would not wish for anyone to confuse housekeeping (planning, organizing and cleaning) with homemaking (loving, cherishing and teaching).

Housekeeping is one job of the homemaker, but it is not an end unto itself. A homemaker (who, by the way, does not necessarily have to be a stay-at-home mom - we are ALL homemakers) uses housekeeping skills, and can improve them over time, to further the higher purpose of showing love to her family.

Okay, and now I’m off to clean house - until it’s just good enough!


Julie@HighFive! said...

This is exactly what I needed to read. I'm taking a 5 min. break from attempting to get my house in some sort of order and I already feel like I'm going to have an anxiety attack. Remembering that 'good enough' is ok is incredibly freeing. It actually now seems do-able.


Sherri@NoiseOverload said...

I remember a Sunday school teacher once referring to these "perfect" people in our minds as phantoms.

Chris @ Come to the Table said...

I too struggled in my early years with thinking that a clean house meant perfection. What a waste of energy and missed opportunities to invite others over because I did not think my house was "good enough".

These have been great posts!

Lori - Queen of Dirty Laundry said...

Great post! I just have to remind myself that "good enough" does not mean junky. Sometimes when I give myself an inch, I take a mile. :>)

And since you mentioned hairbows, how do people get those things to stay in? I have three girls, and it's one of my biggest regrets that I can not get a beautiful hairbow to stay in longer than 5 minutes.

I mean, why do we have girls, if it's not to make them wear hairbows?

Julie said...

I think as I have "grown up" in my role as homemaker I have become the queen of "good enough".

I am a much happier person now.

Thanks for the great post.


Kate said...


I popped over here from somebody's blog and found a woman who is living my life. 5 kids from toddler (OY! Mine wears me out!) to almost teen. I like it here. It feels remarkably familiar.


Lisa said...

What a great post Katherine. Thank you for your calm words amidst all of my chaos! With 4 kids, my home is never perfect, especially these last few weeks of summer vacation. I found that I've wasted so many oppurtunities to welcome others into our home over the years because it wasn't good enough. It has taken me almost 9 years to realize that "good enough" is the best I can do right now! It was so nice to read everyone elses comments today and remember that I'm not alone. Sorry for the lengthy comment, maybe I need to devote my own post on the subject!

Margo said...

Bravo and thank you! Just what I needed to hear!

God has been whispering these simple words within my heart for some time now, but I'm just starting to grasp them..."Perfection is not an option. You do your best, and I'll do the rest." Thank you God!!

And thank you, Katherine!

Anonymous said...

Katherine I do love your posts. I used to be a crazy woman--picking up after the kids when they were little.

We then moved to SLC, Utah where all of my neighbors ALWAYS seemed to have impeccable houses. Always clean always picked up. They were very nice woman.

I can only say that my house had the lived in look and it was the house where ALL the kids played even when my kids weren't home.

I am reminded of our paster at church who always, ALWAYS says that we are all "whole perfect and complete". I have been teling myself that under my breath of late as my TEENS are on their own agenda.

Gosh they do try hard though I gotta give them that. Kitten was whining around the house all morning enough that Kevin and his sister Kaysea were getting annoyed.

Hey kids--Has anyone fed the cat? Oh yeah.

I muttered to myself We are all whole perfect and complete.

Gosh it sure got quiet the kids must have fed the cat.

Anonymous said...

To Queen of Dirty Laundry Re: Bows. My daughter when she was little loved to wear bows. I FINALLY made my own.

I would buy a nice bow and then ammend it. On the back side of the Bow I would glue clips that they used to use for pin curls back in the 50's.

You can find them in the grocery store or a target or Longs in the hair section. I don't truly know what they are called.

Sometimes they were used for curlers before what we have now. Hhope this helps.

fAiThFuL cHiCk said...

What a wonderful "Amen" to your post from yesterday. I am so glad you cleared that one up. I have to remind myself all of the time that my life and home don't have to look perfect for me to be a good wife and mom. Thanks for your kind words on my blog. Kindred spirits, indeed. Blessings...

Nicole said...

Thanks again...your posts are so what I need to hear when I need to hear it!! My mom was a perfectionist so it is very hard to feel like I am not doing a good job if I dont pass inspection! I desire to renew my mind in really being ok with good enough..the other causes so much stress. Praying to find the balance and for joy despite my circumstances.
Thank you!!

Sandi said...

Great post!

Susanne said...

We watched an episode of the Nanny last week where the woman was totally into the housekeeping end of it so much she literally ignored her preschool children until about 4 in the afternoon when she sat down to "play" with them, and then she didn't know how to play so off she went to clean some more. It was very sad.

I love your last few paragraphs where you define the difference between the two. May we all come to know the balance and attain to that higher purpose of loving our families.

Grafted Branch said...

I've lurked here before...long ago. It was nice. Clearly people like you.

What am I getting at?

I don't know your archives well enough to guess what is going on with you lately, but--WOW!--whatever it is, it is causing your writing as of late to be a tremendous blessing to me!

It's as if you're speaking from inside my head.'re the good, kind, compassionate voice that is too often drowned out by the loud, guilt-ridden, down-trodden, self-conscious, self-despising one.

Thank you, Katherine, and please keep writing!

Jen said...

Very well put. I enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely. Homemaking has to do with the making of a nest, a safe and soft spot for our families to land. It has little to do with anything you see in magazines. Excellent post.

Liberty said...

I am laughing so hard right now because when I first read this I thought you wrote, "kids trapped between the cushions of our sofas" instead of "kids’ toys trapped between the cushions of our sofas"! You see, that is exactly what has been happening at our house this past week. My boys have been trapping each other in the sofa cushions! :)

Beth said...

I love your sense of humor! I have 2 kids that have left the nest, the one left is the one that is testing me the MOST! The best saying I ever heard about homemaking I repeat WEEKLY!
"Cleaning the house while the children are growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing!" no snow in my hot part of AZ..BUT you get the idea!

Beth said...

Oh! I forgot my 2nd favorite saying..I should make a sign for the wall

"My house was clean yesterday. Sorry you missed it"!

Anonymous said...

Did you write this for me? Cos it sure felt like you did. Tks!

Meg said...

Great post, very encouraging. There's nothing like the peaceful feeling of a clean house, but even better is the time spent with our family. God has given us quite a task, but certainly nothing we can't handle.

Beck said...

Wonderful post. EMbracing the idea of myself as a HOMEMAKER has been a transformative thing. Thanks for writing this!

Ladybug said...

Very well put! I stress too much about the housekeeping part. I need to relax more and realize it is good enough!

Borbe Bunch said...

Thanks for the great reminder of what matters in life...we have been entrusted with precious, eternal souls and we only have ONE chance to teach and train them!! A huge task, a huge blessing...Due to having four small children and a "go-go" schedule caring for a special needs child, God has taught me so much, grown me and continues to show me the MOST important thing that must be done each day...teaching the hearts of my children MUST come first, in the midst of tending to the home, involving them in running of the household has proven priceless...on the road to training them for their futures :)
Thanks again for are a blessing!
I so desire for my children to remember me being there for them, not providing a "perfect" looking home...

Karla Porter Archer said...

i just linked to this post and the preceding post on my blog. They are very well written and an awesome reminder.


Joy @ SAH Missionary said...

So true! Thank you for this post! It is so easy to get caught up in having everything just so!

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

Another fantastic post! I'm not the greatest housekeeper, I admit, and then I beat myself up for it at times. But you're right -- the important thing is making a home for our family. One where they are comfortable, secure, loved. And "good enough" housekeeping really is good enough.

And I love your quote -- "perfect is the enemy of good enough."

Mary@notbefore7 said...

Wow - I am finally able to type and SO LATE in the game here ! I do love this. It has been such a tough thing for me over the last few years - this whole "defining myself" as a homemaker, but as I embrace it more and more each day as God's plan, I find that I love it more and more! Thanks for this.

Jenn @ Knee-Deep in Munchkin Land said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I desperately needed this post this past week. You're giving all of us permission to stop holding ourselves to "too high of expectations". Thank you!