Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker – Part 8

After going through the fourfold nature of the home, let’s go back to the role and experience of the homemaker within that structure. (pp. 21-24)

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All human activity takes place within a certain tension. This arises between the ideal — a career ideal, a life ideal, or a religious ideal — and the impossibility of living up to it.

Animals don’t have this tension, as their pursuits of food, procreation, and other activity encapsulate their whole existence. But human beings have cognition, and the ability to form mental pictures, and thus we can formulate ideals beyond what is apparent to our senses.

This of course leads to conflict, because ideals are so often unattainable. For homemakers, the old ideals of perfection need to be changed to meet the needs of the modern person. In particular, the homemaker must be able to freely accept the ideal and choose to strive for it. No longer are these social structures given from on high.

Unlike with other efforts, where one might train or be educated in order to pursue a goal, in homemaking we must find our own way. “The homemaking career is a question of self-education. Self-education is a sign of modern humanity.” So we can look at the homemaker as a representative of the modern form of self-development.

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Rhythm

How can the homemaker form the household? One of the most obvious structures in daily life is time. We can roughly divide our time in three: work, sleep, and free time. The person who goes out of the home to work experiences this quite clearly, but the homemaker may not have such a clear division between work and free time. But the homemaker is right in the thick of this structure, as the work in the home allows the other members of the family or household to have free time.

Of primary help to the homemaker in working with the structure of time is rhythm. We find ourselves within the rhythms of nature, but we must work to find our own human rhythms.

Families naturally have daily rhythms, of work, school, and meals. Weekly rhythms are supported by society with customary times set aside for work, school, and religious observance. Over the course of the year, religious and cultural festivals mark the passage of time in a rhythmic way, and bring refreshment to everyday life.

The key for the homemaker is to emphasize these rhythms in a conscious way, so that the family is not bogged down in monotony. “It is one of the greatest secrets of life: to form the course of events so that time neither presses nor depresses but becomes a source of strength and inspiration.” It can be as simple as a quiet moment with a cup of coffee, or the security for the young child of having the same bedtime routine each evening. These consciously emphasized rhythms are a source of joy.

Working with rhythm in a conscious way becomes a source of of strength for the homemaker, both inwardly as a path of development and outwardly in structuring the home. When we know that certain things will happen at a certain time, we are freed from the effort of constant decision making, and we have built up inner strength in the ability to look over the day or week and enact a plan.

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Next time: cultural life and the household.

Manfred Schmidt-Brabant, The Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker, Temple Lodge, 1996.

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12 Comments

Filed under Anthroposophy, Books, Deep Thoughts, Homemaking

12 responses to “Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker – Part 8

  1. Eve

    Interesting. What solution does he offer for that impossible tension between the ideal and the “impossibility of living up to it”? And every homemaker has to develop her own vision? How individuated!

  2. Eve: Thank you for pointing out that I didn’t make that clear! If we consciously accept an ideal that is valid for us individually, then it will not be impossible for us to live up to. In other words, if we can look at our situation and decide on a course of action, most likely it is attainable. Or if not, we can individually adjust our ideals, unlike those given from on high or culturally imposed, which are not individualized and therefore not necessarily attainable.

    So the difference is between the external ideal and the internal. I might feel that tension if I look at Architectural Digest and then at my own home, because I am applying an external and unrealistic ideal to my situation. But if I start by looking at my home, and then creating my own ideal — I want the kitchen clean each night before bedtime, I want only what is pleasing and useful in my home, etc. — then that ideal is more likely to be realistic and attainable, because it came from me.

  3. This is why I’m in such conflict right now….it’s all family, no work. no rhythm. I love the holidays, but I’m looking forward to the easy rhythms of January.

  4. Conflict, rhythm, I am in utter chaos all the time. I am new here but I like very much what I have seen. This has given me lots to think about. I plan to visit frequently.
    Thank you.

  5. Mon

    What stood out for me was, “We find ourselves within the rhythms of nature, but we must work to find our own human rhythms.”

    I think I know what he’s saying, like a social rhythm. However, for me, I feel that our tensions come from the nature disconnection. We ARE nature, there is no such thing as nature and human rhythm, they are one. Aligning with nature’s rhythms brings balance.

  6. I like what the book said about self education being a sign of modern humanity. One of my foremost goals in educating my kids is to awaken their curiosity so that self education will be a way of life for them.

  7. Sarah: I’m struggling with that too — as a freelancer, I don’t get “vacation days”! So when my kids are out of school for holidays, I have to figure out how to fit in the work anyway.

    SpiritualGal: Welcome! It is a constant struggle against chaos, especially this time of year it seems.

    Mon: Well, yes. We can’t escape from natural rhythms–we breathe, we sleep, the sun rises and sets. But human consciousness, at least in anthroposophy, is seen as something a bit beyond nature, so to speak. The natural world is simply one with its rhythms, embedded in them. Humans have free will! So while we are still subject to natural rhythms, we can choose to follow them to a greater or lesser extent — we can turn on the lights in the dark nights of winter — and we can create our own rhythms that do not necessarily correspond to anything in nature, like cultural and religious holidays. (Yes, I know that many of those probably are rooted in ancient observances more closely tied to nature, but most people today, for example, choose to celebrate Independence Day in the US not as a midsummer fire festival, but as a cultural/historical festival.)

    But, to not totally disagree with you, we have indeed built up a false dichotomy to a certain degree between humanity and nature, spirit and matter. Steiner might say that our task is to transform matter through the spirit — through consciousness. All matter is imbued with spirit, but we just can’t see it with our day-to-day vision. But we can transform that perception through our own efforts. So even if you choose to align yourself solely with natural rhythms, that is still a conscious decision.

  8. I love reading these. I realize I think about it throughout the day…Always interesting!

  9. Nana

    I think it is important to create your own ideals and not succumb to those imposed by others. The CEO of DO also needs to remember the ideals of other family members. When you were still living at home your room was a disaster! And now your step Dad’s home office is an even greater disaster! Rather than harp about cleaning up the mess, I just shut the door.
    I personally consider the houses featured in Architectural Digest (and I’ve probably read only about 6 issues in my entire life!) and many other “lifestyle” magazines represent houses, not necessarily homes.

  10. I like the idea of finding one’s own ideal … and having an ideal, as far as the rhythms and creation of a home. I see so many people just giving up on the idea of home creation, because they can’t live up to someone else’s ideal.

  11. mamawork

    I have this book, and read it when I was pregnant. And since I have been reading a plethora of other books and forums as I create my parenting philosophy and I guess find my ideals. I *love* the idea of finding your own ideals and not just accepting someone elses ideals. That is where I am right now.

    Thank you

  12. Bucky

    Love this book and the interesting commentary here. I find some of the ideas very insightful! I have found being a homemaker ( I was a high powered business women) delightful and love the serenity that rhythm, and uncluttered space bring in our lives as a family. Every task I meet with joy and live to my ideals of what I should be doing on a day to day basis rather than someone eles’s

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