Thursday, February 07, 2008

It's What Moms & Grandmothers Used To Do

A week or so ago, I was thumbing through Sunday's paper when I found an article about people who had changed their careers later in life. One guy was retired military and now he was teaching high school. One couple had given up their high incomes as successful salespeople on opposite schedules and were now together all the time, driving a big rig for a living.

But the one that struck me was the lady who started her own yarn store. Apparently, the local Wal-Mart or Woolworth's didn't carry a huge selection of yarn, so she decided to open her own store. The store is growing so much that they have classes teaching a new generation to knit. "It's what moms and grandmothers used to do," the proprietor said. And this lady is capitalizing on it. Good for her; bad for us.

Why aren't we learning "homemaking" skills from our mothers and grandmothers anymore?

I have read several book over the last year imploring women to recognize and accept their appointed roles in the home. It has been eye-opening and inspiring to me because with all honesty, when I am on top on my game, being a stay-at-home-mom is boring.

This time last year, I told Brian that I wanted to go back to school and finish my degree because I felt my brain turning into mush. I was literally bored out of my mind. I couldn't imagine that's what God intended when He told wives to take care of their families. Of course, my going back to school was completely unreasonable. Other than brain stimulation, was there a practical purpose? I'm not planning on re-entering the work force once the girls start school. I don't need a degree for what I do. My pay rate isn't going to increase with a degree and I'm not going to move up the ladder any faster with a degree. As it is, I'm already at the top of my pay scale. So what would be the point?

Except personal satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment is a big deal. People need it. What to do?

Lucky for me, my good friend Jackie invited me to scrapbooking, even though I'd told her at least a thousand times that I didn't scrapbook and I didn't like it. I have to admit, I get very frustrated when I try new things because, for some strange reason, I expect it to be perfect the first time I do it. I don't know why. When it doesn't come out perfect, I'm stop because I'm "not good" at it. Then I complain to Brian that I'm not good at anything.

Scrapbooking was no exception. It took awhile to get the hang of using my paper cutter and cutting the paper. Had it been possible, I probably would have left in the middle of the "cutting phase". When I came home, I had 4 scrapbook pages that I had made all by myself. Of course, I didn't have any pictures to put on my pages, but I felt like I had accomplished something.

This was my first foray into "crafts" and since I wasn't a complete failure, it made me want to venture out and do other things, except I didn't know how and didn't know anyone to ask. I want to learn how to sew. So few women my age know how to sew. My grandmother sewed, but my mother doesn't. My mother embroiders, but I don't. Generation by generation we are letting our skills slip away.

Again, my sweet Jackie to the rescue. She got me started on sewing. She spent a whole evening showing me how to thread my machine and the first time I had to rethread it, I nearly went berserk. It took me several tries while reading the manual to finally get it right. Of course, I haven't actually sewed anything (I have been working on an apron for six months) but I have high hopes. I've taken a break from it for a while, but I'm about to get excited about it again. I have a goal: that each of my daughters and I will be able to make her wedding dress together.

In another example of someone benefitting from what moms and grandmothers used to do, next month, I am taking a beginning quilter's class. I was told that I didn't have to have any skills, just a machine, which I have, although in my defense, I can sew a straight line, according to Jackie. I am very excited and very grateful that my husband is so supportive of all my "endeavors".

In answer to my earlier question, I think that moms and grandmothers aren't teaching us the skills we need to make things beautiful because for whatever reason, we're not at home. Whether we're working or involved in so many activities they might as well be working, we're just not home. The time is just not there. The second reason that keeps us from learning those homemaking skills is that the basic needs of the house aren't met. The laundry isn't done, the grocery shopping isn't done, the floors aren't mopped or vacuumed, etc., etc. We are busy putting out one crisis after another with no plan or routine or schedule in place. I think these things are basic. We must learn how to take care of the basic needs of our homes before we can truly devote ourselves to making things beautiful with our homemaking skills.

There were times during my childhood when my mother did not work. At those times, she decorated cakes and had time to embroider. The house was clean and the laundry was done. When she was working, those "extra" things that made the house nice fell by the wayside because the basics of the house and family came first.

I plan to document my attempts of bettering my homemaking skills here in an effort to not only challenge myself so that my brain doesn't turn to mush, but to encourage others through my experiences . I want our home to be a beautiful place made all that much warmer and inviting from my efforts.


Unckle said...

Excellent - and so your brain won't turn to mush, keep writing. I really enjoy reading about your adventures.

I don't know how she did it all, but your grandmother not only sewed, but the laundry was done, folded, ironed, put away - the house was clean (you could lick the bathroom floor - if you wanted to) and until I was about 14 or 15 she cooked three times a day, planted flowers, took care of grandchildren, arranged for photographs, kept photographs in (old school) scrapbooks, baked cakes and let me lick the beaters. Sundays after church we took drives in the country or "went visiting". Whew, I'm tired of thinking of all the things she did.

Today life is different - do what you can and don't give up easily. Keep at it.

Keep writing.

Anonymous said...

I think you might be interested in the Grandmother's Hope Chest books if you don't already know about them. They are a series of books about a little girl named Lucie whose grandmother comes to live with her. They are written for moms who've never learned the homemaking skills of sewing and such and are for moms and daughters to learn these skills together. And the materials and patterns come with the book.

Here's a description from the first one:

In Volume One of Grandmother's Hope Chest, The Running Rooster, Lucie's Grandmother comes to live with Lucie's family. What is even more surprising to Lucie is the big wooden chest that Grandmother brings with her! Although Lucie is a little shy of her Grandmother, she is very curious about the chest too. As Grandmother and Lucie go through the chest together, Lucie is shown items that are very dear to Grandmother's heart and Lucie hears about the history and people behind each one.

While watching Grandmother embroider a pillowcase one day, Lucie asks if she can learn to sew too. Grandmother begins teaching Lucie three simple and basic handsewing stitches as Lucie recreates an item found in the hope chest.

Skills Taught in this Book: how to thread a needle, knot the thread, The Running Stitch, Overcasting Stitch, and Basting Stitch. A pretty potholder is the end result of Lucie's effort and patience - and it can be your reward as well.

The good thing about it is that you can buy the book with kit OR just the book OR just the kit. So since you have three girls, if you wanted you could buy the book with kit plus 2 extra kits and be done with it in case they stop production by the time Reagan is old enough. There are 3 books in the series with a new one about to come out.

Here is a link for the entire series:

I've had these on my wishlist for years. I'm so excited because the girls are getting these for their birthday this year. FINALLY. I don't know these skills either. I've been holding out for these books for ages. I hope this is something you might find interesting.

Also - I think you are on to something with your idea of journaling your efforts. This will be good for your girls to see, too. I think we are in an age where everything is really changing. Moms are in a very new and different time. This might seem crazy - but I think it will be an interesting historical perspective for your children and grandchildren to see how you managed your household in such a "wired" world. Times, as they say, are changing. It will be good and encouraging for your offspring to see how you did it.

As for how your grandmother and aunts and maybe even your mom "did it all," I have some thoughts on that, if you are interested.

For one, especially with our grandmothers - it was just a different environment completely. The phone wasn't ringing (at least not like it is today; no free long distance; no cell phones). The television didn't have 900 channels and the computer didn't interrupt. There wasn't the pressure of educating the children in quantum physics by age 4 or how would they make into Mother's Day Out if they didn't know their times tables?

Personally, I don't see Mamaw (8 kids) or Nanny (6 kids) with those particular worries. I see them putting the babies on a blanket on the floor, the preschoolers in the yard, and the bigger kids into the neighborhood, tieing the aprons around their waists and doing what needed to get done.

Also, back then - it's my impression that there was much more of the "village" mentality. I think moms and aunts and grandparents were much more involved than they are now.

Back then, it was by and large a foregone conclusion that if you were a woman, you were a stay-at-home mom. So there was none of this competition between working moms and stay-at-home moms. And again, there weren't the pressures to have your child educated or prodigized (is that a word?) by pre-K so there wasn't the pressure among moms there either.

I think we have become so competitive against each other as moms (as a whole) and as a result of that we have become critical of ourselves and our own worst critics. These days when a baby is born, so is this big burden of guilt and doubt. Am I doing enough? Am I doing it right? Should I be doing more? Should I be doing it like her? Should I be doing less? We are always questioning ourselves.

I don't think our grandmas had those pressures. I think they were more concerned with putting food on the table and the sheets on the line. Sure, they had pressures and concerns. I don't mean to romanticize the good ol' days. I just think they were too busy being moms and wives to feel guilty about whether they were "doing it right." Does that make sense?

I think we could take a note from their page for sure, but I don't think it necessarily has to be that we need to sew more and plant more tomatoes (although those are two personal goals of mine!)

I think the better lesson we could take from them is to do the best with what you have and to rely on God for the rest. Worry less, laugh more.

Let's face it - we really do have so many, many more distractions these days. It really IS hard because there's Lost and Heroes on tv and because there's e-mail and somebody called on the phone and you have to go to the grocery store more often because the milk man doesn't deliver and we don't grow and can all our own produce.

Okay, so I kid about Lost and Heroes - I could *probably* live without those if I tried hard. ;)

My whole point of this very long ramble is that I think we are much too hard on ourselves these days for not knowing how to sew and quilt and mend. I'm not at all saying you are, Georgia. I just see a trend among my friends and women in general, especially stay-at-home-moms. We think we should be DOING so much more.

And I just really disagree. I think we should be keeping our homes nice and tidy for our families, yes. I think everybody ought to have clean clothes available to them, yes. But more than that, I truly believe that everybody in the family needs a mommy and a wife who is unburdened by guilt and worry over what she's doing wrong or not doing enough of - a mommy that has time to play and giggle with the kids or put together a puzzle or go walk around the block. Or learn to sew or plant tomatoes.

I guess I'm trying to say that we SHOULD learn to sew and quilt and plant gardens - but not because we feel we have to because that's what women are *supposed* to do but because it truly makes us happy to feel the dirt under our fingernails and the sun on our face to plant that garden.

Because in the end, I believe our greatest ministry in this time is to our husbands and children. And do we want them to remember us as happy mommies who sent out all the mending or anxious, tired, grumpy mommies who always did all the mending? A generalization, but hopefully you get the picture. Sewing is sewing, but happy homes are happy homes.

That said, I really want to learn to sew. ;)

This is not at all to contradict your point of view - definitely not. Just another point of view - another way of looking at it.

I am truly sorry for the long ramble. I started this post in the bed (on the laptop) trying to get the girls to sleep - and now they are asleep. I'm afraid to get up for fear they would wake up. So I have just sort of kept writing since I don't have anything else I feel like looking at online and i have such an interest in your topic. As you can see, it's something I've put a lot of thought into. ;)

Thanks for indulging my obnoxious ramblings.



Georgia said...

I am definitely interested in the books. Thank you for sharing the link.

In regard to sharing my journey with my girls, I'm not quite sure that I want my children to have written verification of my ineptness. I guess what I'm really worried about is that they won't be interested in how I got from Point A to Point B. Although, it has been quite a journey. My husband (and others that know me well) know that I had no interest in being a housewife or stay-at-home mom. The workforce needed me! There were scores of executives who needed my administrative talents. Why in the world would I want to stay home and do the laundry? So, even in my life, times have changed.

Moving on...

Yes, our mothers and grandmothers had it different, and some would argue, better. They certainly had to work harder to put food on the table without Pampered Chef. But somewhere along the line we have to accept responsibility for mismanaging our time, talents and resources. I think the wives of today are plenty busy, but it sure ain't at home and for their own families.

Families are being neglected while wives and mothers are "ministering" to others. I can personally speak of taking meals to other families while our family ate out. Or all the times I prepared Brian's favorite meal to take to another family and we ate leftovers. Let my meaning be clear: I love getting meals when I have a baby. We didn't get any when we had Reagan. However, I think priorites need to be reviewed when we're putting more effort into other families than we do our own. Of course, maybe I'm the only person who does that.

So obviously, I am becoming increasingly more aware of my own busyness and how it affects my family as a whole.

My feelings on this have nothing to do with competition with other mothers, although I agree that could certainly influence others. I really don't need to be in competition with others because I am my own worst critic. It's not that I am trying to live up some ridiculously unattainable set of standards. It seems like it's the next step.

I know how I felt when I made scrapbook pages for the first time. The very next day,, I went out and bought my very first hot glue gun, a tote bag and some ribbon. I hot glued that ribbon on that bag and you would have thought I was Martha Stewart the way I was bursting with pride.

Scrapbooking became the way last winter to keep my brain from turning into mush. I was so bored with it all. I felt like a hamster in a wheel. Of course, it only works when the basic needs of the house are looked after. Today would not be a good day to do anything extra. I'm doing all I can do to stay alive. The kitchen is still a mess from lunch and the calls to me....

briansbrainsblog said...


Makes me wonder how "Unck" went from licking the bathroom floor to the Level 4 containment Sarah has to go through when she comes home.

Anonymous said...

You said:

"Families are being neglected while wives and mothers are "ministering" to others."


I completley agree. Moms (especially stay-at-home-moms) are always expected to perform this dog and pony show of making costumes for the pageant, baking 83lemon bars for the bake sale, hauling 12 girls to soccer every Wednesday, bringing meals to a dozen shut-ins, teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, decorating the sanctuary once a month and alternating once a month in the nursery.

Who has time to cook a meal let alone look at your husband when you pass him in the hall when you're doing all that?

It doesn't look as though the rest of the world (including the church) is going to back off on the performance angle any time soon, so moms have to learn our balance.

We moms have got to learn that NO is a good word - and that our first ministry is to our husbands and kids. I completely believe that.

I didn't mean that you (or anyone in particular) are competitive with other mothers. I just think that our society of moms has become very competitive as a whole - and as a result of that, we as moms have all become our own worst critics. I don't know one single mom who does not say that she is her own worst critic. But when I talk to women from my grandmother's generation, they didn't feel that way. And I really do feel that the difference is our competition-driven society today.


Georgia said...

And then you said:

It doesn't look as though the rest of the world (including the church) is going to back off on the performance angle any time soon, so moms have to learn our balance.

I agree and would like to add something to that: especially the church.

The church is supposed to be the place where women and mothers can be encouraged and have the biblical model presented to them. It would be helpful is some of the older women would actually take some of the younger women in hand and show them the things that our grandmothers knew, as per Titus 2. Of course, it would also be helpful if the younger women were interested in hearing that message.

On the other hand, I don't think the church is supposed to be putting the squeeze on people in order to get them to perform in the newest evangelism fad, which is what leads women to the dog and pony show. (I loved that.)

Christian women are some of the busiest people I know...and it's all for the glory of God. But is it? What about their neglected families? The Bible is very clear about where women's priorities are supposed to be.

I don't think that church leadership is aware of all the things that these young (and I mean that to say women that have young children at home) mothers have to do. At least that's what I'm telling myself. Because the other option is...they plain don't care. They want their programs implemented and they don't care how it gets done. If those women stopped doing everything on your list (which is not out of the realm of possibility), the church would probably have to shut its doors.

I don't think it's competitiveness that drives us to overcompensate at church. It's guilt. Guilt that we're not serving the Lord, if we don't work in the nursery or if we don't teach Awana or whatever the program of the week happens to be. And I personally, dismiss that completely out of hand. And it's unfortunate that the church as a whole feels the need lay a guilt trip on people in order to get them to serve.

But hey, they do it...because it works.

Anonymous said...

It would be very nice if the church were the place to implement Titus 2. I would love to see some grandmothers teaching my daughters and I some of these home skills - think sewing circle or the like. The problem? No time.

(I define young same as you. Young = moms with young kids.) The young moms are too busy performing and conforming to what you rightly called the latest envangelism fads. I do NOT think that being so busy is for the glory of God. I don't think that we are supposed to be running ourselves so ragged. What do we have leftover for our husbands and children? They are not supposed to get our scraps.

I don't mean to argue with you (I promise) - but I still think the guilt and competitiveness are all tied up together. I don't think it's an intentional competitiveness necessarily. I think it's that inner critic. We may not be competing with anyone else even, but I really do feel we are competing with ourselves at the very least. "Am I being the best Christian I can be?" I have a theory that I believe is backed by Scripture. There is no such thing as being the "best Christian you can be." There is nothing we can do or not do that will ever improve or decrease - one bit - God's love for us. There is no amount of church service that will cause God to be more pleased with us. And yet we compete within ourselves - or sometimes unknowingly with others - to glorify God the best; and if we don't, we feel guilty. And if we don't feel guilty on our own - we can be sure that someone will come along sooner or later to do that job for us.

As for the church leadership being aware, well, I tend to disagree. I suppose that differs from church to church; however, on the whole, wise leaders have to be aware of this trend. I believe that we must move away from such program-driven churches and get back to basics. Simplify. Love God, love your neighbor. Worship together. Care for one another. Do we know the person's name that's sitting next to us in the pew? How are they doing? Isn't that more important than having a motorcycle ministry? Not that I'm against a motorcycle ministry - but that comes later, after everything else is working. Let's make sure we have the resources to care for everyone in our congregation and get all our basic needs met before we start getting all complicated on ourselves. Simple. Basic.

I do believe the church leadership (as a whole) is aware that we're doing it wrong but feels like we have to keep our programs going, so we keep plugging along.

Personally, I believe that the evangelical church is dying for this reason and others. If you take the Southern Baptist Church, for example, and look at the annual reports, it's very sad. The number of churches closing. The membership numbers that keep dwindling, dwindling. The numbers of baptisms are not where the leaders want them to be - not by a long shot. And those numbers keep dropping. And yet - the SBC spends so much of its time arguing over mundane non-issues instead of addressing real-life issues that affect real-life people. It makes me very sad to look at the evangelical, fundamental church today.

We have become a very arrogant church. Instead of representing a humble, loving Christ, we represent an in-your-face, my-way-or-the-highway dictator-God. We are more worried about whether the kid next door has read Harry Potter than what the kid's name is or what his character is.

I have truly come to understand why a non-Christian would look at us and say, "I want to become part of that world...why?" I believe that must change. We must change. We need a little kindness. Not compromise. God didn't ask for compromise, but he did ask us to love our neighbor - and he even gave us the example of the Samaritan man. The different man. The one that nobody wanted anything to do with. And the one that approached the different man? He was the one that got it right.

I'm not speaking this to you, Georgia. Just in general. I'm speaking it to myself as well. I think we are all guilty and we are all innocent. And as usual, I've drifted from the original topic anyway.

Bringing it back to topic...I think the church knows that we are wearing each other out - but like you said - it works, so we keep doing it. The problem is that it only works in the short term. And the other problem is that it is not biblical. And it does not glorify God. We have to stop doing church in a way that doesn't glorify God. I don't have the answer. I don't think the seeker-church or the mega-church is the answer. The Emergent Church is DEFINITELY not the answer (they believe that a changing culture can call for a changing Gospel; not that simple but pretty much). There is a very conservative branch of the emerging church that I think might be doing it right, but I don't know for sure. Only God knows. I guess time will tell. The problem is that the term "emerging church" pretty much encapsulates everybody who has left the evangelical church and is worshipping God a little differently. So "emerging" can mean anything. So when I say "emerging," I do mean only some of the very conservative.

Blah...I've drifted again.

Oh, and I haven't done my blog thingies yet.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I messed up the Good Samaritan story. ;) My great excuse? Sorry, don't have one.

The sad part is that this is my girls' favorite Bible story and I read it to them ALL the time from their Bible storybook. They call it "The Man With the Bo-Bos."

So I should know the story already.

No excuse. Just wanted to acknowledge that I saw that I messed it up, but I really *do* know how the story goes.

Georgia said...

But see, that's the thing. The church is the place to implement Titus 2. No other place makes sense. But the young moms aren't the only ones who don't have the time. Many of the grandmothers have other thing they'd rather be doing as well.

In November after we moved here, a whole Bible study period was spent with one of the older women of the church going over the basics of a standard Thanksgiving dinner. She covered everything from cooking the turkey to making pumpkin pie (including giblet gravy). Then we got to ask questions.

I would like to see one of the senior adult women start a class to cover homemaking skills. You could go to the class and learn how to make an apple pie (I can't do anything that requires being rolled out.) or how to make rolls from scratch or how to quilt, crochet or sew.

Maybe the reason that nothing like that has ever happened is because the older ladies don't think that the youngers ones want to learn and the younger ones don't think the older ones want to teach them. What a shame.

I think church leadership has been remiss in aligning their priorities. Everything else aside, it's not their responsibility to make sure that we read our Bibles to find out what we're supposed to be doing in the first place.

It's sad though, that women have to fight against what we feel we've been called by God to do (and to be frank, it's acutally spelled out in the Bible) and what we feel guilted into doing. The really sad part is that we're fighting against the one institution that should be equipping us to do it.

Anonymous said...

On one hand it is sad that these skills are lost but at least women are trying to reclaim them even if its means taking a store class with their daughter rather than sitting in grandma's living room.
I wish I knew how to sew or at least mend. So much waste comes from that one skill being lost.

Shanon said...

I'm thinking that becoming an "unchurch lady" is the way to go. I can say no when I need to say no, and tell people that I don't have all my ducks in a row and my house is a wreck and I have not read my Bible in 3 days because I have mismanaged everything including my time. Thanks for asking. I refuse to smile and be gracious and serve until I fall over unless God asks it of me, not the church. And I'm working on not feeling guilty about that, really. :D

Georgia said...

I am all about being real. I think most people would say that about me. Well, people who know me, anyway. I just don't see the point of pretending that life is a bed of roses. It's not. Maybe that's the answer to the guilt and competitiveness...let's stop pretending that we live in TV Land where our children mind us and we want to come home from working all day to cook a gourmet meal and do 2 hours of laundry and 3 hours of homework. Let's stop pretending that we didn't have a knock-down drag-out fight in the car on the way to church and you really don't want to be sitting by your husband right now anyway.

I think being honest with one another and sharing insight and love would be a huge start in alleviating some of the ugliness on the inside. You know...the hurt that comes from thinking everyone else has it together and you must be stupid or inept or something because it's just not working out the way the brochure said it would be. Except, really, it's just life. Or It is completely possible that I'm the only one.

In fact, I'm wondering what part of my life I actually have "together". But I am committed to moving forward. I want to be a better wife and mother. I am charged with taking care of the home and there are mnay days that I really wish I were doing something else. (I feel certain that I were back working in an office, I could go to the bathroom by myself.) I got some good advice from a woman advocating homemaking skills and family life. If you don't like to do something (like cook), better your skills. Make it better, make it more beautiful. Of course the same-old, same-old is going to get boring.

This is how I keep my brain from turning to mush. I'm just trying to move forward and be something that I can be proud of, too.

shanon said...

That is wonderful. And so true of all of us. We all wonder why SHE looks like it's all together, and why WE can't get it that way too. What is wrong with me that I can't even get my kitchen floor swept once a week when Susie Perfect has a sparkly clean house and is bringing lemon squares to her bible study that she wrote herself. If Susie were real, she'd tell you that she cleans her house when she is frustrated by her workaholic husband, and it keeps her from killing him. The lemon squares are from the bakery down the street and put on her platter five seconds before bible study, and the study "she" wrote was stolen completely off the internet. It only looks perfect. If you get beyond the surface, she is just as twisted as the rest of us. And that is OK!!!! We have got to stop holding ourselves up against each other for measurement and start holding each other up, period. Stepping down of the soapbox now, thank you for providing it. :D