Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Housewives' Mistakes...

A friend pointed me to this article, originally printed in 1886, and recently reprinted on Brocante Home .  I thought it was so encouraging and inspiring both to new homemakers and seasoned homemakers that I wanted to share it with you here. I ought to read this every month or more.  Enjoy!

“Oh dear, will it never end? Day after day, always the same ceaseless, changeless work! It is just perfect drudgery, that it is and nothing else!”
The speaker sinks into a chair and her hands drop languidly down. Now, we just want to sit by her side and have a little chat.
“Drudgery, did you say? Why do you call it by that name?”
“There are reasons enough why, and I will give you plenty, if you like.”
Forthwith she gives us six reasons, each one of which we label MISTAKE.

“It is the same thing over and over again.”
That was the first reason given: but repetition and drudgery are not synonymous. We are constantly doing the same thing over and over again, yet never dream of using that designation. We talk, and laugh, and sing; we sleep and rise, and rise and sleep; all things around us repeat themselves with the same unerring round, suns rise and set, moons wax and wane, seasons come and go, and come again, but the idea of “weary drudgeries” being descriptive thereof would be counted ludicrous. This repetition is part of the symmetry of our lives; without it all would be confusion. With what fear should we regard our work but for this repetition! If this be drudgery, then the whole our life – every life – is drudgery, and God’s own particular work the same for He is ever repeating His acts.

“So many things that we have to do are not really necessary.”
Yes, flowers are not really necessary, nor are pictures, music, song; yet who would be without them? And if you only do the work which is necessary in a house, for the mere existence of its inmates, you bring about the very thing you are trying to avoid. It would be perfect drudgery then, to work to such an end. It is the little bright touches, the extras, the delicacies, that lift our work up from such a base state of things and make life enjoyable.

“Ours is work that tires one so.”
What kind of work is there that does not tire? All honest work is fatiguing; idleness tires also; but true noble workers possess a secret that makes them rise above the bodily efforts of their toil, and always makes them able to endure without complaint until rested. The secret is this: They put their hearts into their work, the consequence being they are inspired workers.

“There is no inspiration in housework.”
If that is true, then the work is sure to drag, and become truly, drudgery. “No inspiration in it!” Then the artist has none, for we housewives can draw living pictures; then the poet has none, for we can produce heavenly harmonies; then the statesman has none, for our home can be a little realm and we it’s ruler and lawgiver; then the preacher has none, for it is possible to preach hourly, silent sermons. “No inspiration!” When you sweep a room can you not think how God sweeps the world with His wind? When lighting a fire, of the fire on His altar? When washing, of His cleansing? When cooking, of God’s bread? When nursing of Gods everlasting arms? When dusting, of the spotless life? “No inspiration!” When heaven is likened to a home which the Lord is getting ready for us? No inspiration? It is a libel to be flung back upon any who utters it!

“So little good is accomplished by my work.”
If even there is a “little” good accomplished, it has redeemed it from the charge of drudgery. Be thankful for the little, and the thankfulness will be as dew and sunlight, causing it to increase. But is it a little thing to make one bright spot in the world, whither husband and children turn ever with glad hearts, like the mariner to the cheerful signals from the lighthouse, that shoot across miles of foaming seas to him with welcome message? Is it a little thing to make that home so calm and beautiful and restful that the children learn from it what heaven must be like? Is it a little thing to so prepare a haven of rest that through its beneficent influences upon its inmates they are strengthened to meet and conquer the difficulties of the outside world? Oh the good we housewives can do is not little, but great!

“There is such a multiplicity of little things to be done.”
Of course there are, but not necessarily unimportant. Little things are at the foundation of all great things. Our work as a whole is great, but is made up for the most part of little duties, and fortunately so, or we might get oppressed with the extent of what we had to do. Therefore the number of little things, rather than being the cause of drudgery is helpful to us.
We remember once visiting a noted ruin, and at the first view our hearts sank, and we exclaimed, “It’s a perfect disappointment. Nothing but a dull blank wall with a little ivy here and there.” “But come around this way,” said our friend “and take another view.” We obeyed and what a change! Gleams from the Western sky were tingeing everywhere with a golden light; the outlines of rooms could be traced by the remains of roofless walls, here and there ornamented by exquisite sculpture; and in the grass-grown aisles, where once the evening’s solemn chant had daily risen, merry children were at play.
We housewives often in the course of our work come up to bare unwitting prospects and we exclaim, “Oh, it’s perfect drudgery!” But stay, come round this way, view your work from another standpoint. Ah, what a change! Heavens light is upon it; sacred memories arise, glad songs are heard and we trace where high art has been at work. Best of all, our work need not be likened to a ruin, but a place filled with happy human souls. Don’t have one-sided views of your work, view it all round. Have a truly high idea of your work, and you will never commit the great mistake of thinking it drudgery.

By Charlotte Skinner, The Housewife, 1886


  1. This is lovely, Jody, and so true! Sometimes I do feel like housework is drudgery, but I think it's important, and I know a clean, sweet-smelling house filled with good things to eat makes me happy. The boys? Just as long as there are good things to eat ...


  2. What a fabulous post -may I quote this sometime on my blog?
    blessings x

  3. This reminds me of E. Schaeffer's "Hidden Art" a little. And I love the comment about a well kept beautiful home giving a glimpse of heaven to its residents - good stuff.

  4. Inspiring Jody - thanks.

    I've caught up on all your recent posts - and love your method of hanging wash in high winds - now if only I had a fence like that!! :)

  5. Thank you for sharing such true words!


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