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)
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.
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.
Next time: cultural life and the household.
Manfred Schmidt-Brabant, The Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker, Temple Lodge, 1996.