Practice Makes Perfect: Homemakers are Made, not Born

Are homemakers made, or born? Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week I want to talk about  homemakers: practice, perfection and our tendency to compare with others.

Homemakers are made, not born! Stop comparing yourself to others!Last night I was cleaning up my kitchen while my 18-year-old practised piano. At one point I paused from my scrubbing, and just listened as her fingers danced across the keyboard playing a deliciously difficult piece.

I love moments like that.

Nine years ago, when she started piano, she did not sound very lovely. She would sit on the bench, her feet dangling over, as she tried to pick out the notes to This Old Man. It was cute, but it wasn’t beautiful.

Over the years she has spent countless hours perfecting her skill. And now she can sit down whenever she wants and play a song she heard on the radio. She’s had experience.

We instinctively understand that when it comes to instruments. We get it when it comes to most hobbies. We know it’s true of driving, too: you get better with time and effort. I don’t think, however, that we give enough credence to the idea that this phenomenon could also apply to other parts of life.

When my children were very small, Keith and I were invited over to dinner to the home of a couple who was then in their late forties. They served a wonderful meal with a beautiful centrepiece and a delicious dessert. Music was drifting in the background. The house was immaculately decorated. Our hostess made the meal look effortless.

The next day, when I looked around my living room to see the mismatched couches, and the toys scattered over the floor, and the distinct lack of dining room table (we ate in the kitchen and had allowed the children to take over the dining room for their craft projects), I felt like a failure. I couldn’t have hosted a dinner party even if I had wanted to. I wouldn’t know what to make. I wouldn’t know where to seat people. And my furniture was terrible.

Fast forward fourteen years, and life is very different. I can host a dinner party now, because I have a dining room table again. My 15-year-old makes great centrepieces. I can cook much better (though last year’s Christmas dinner was a disaster, but that’s another story). My house isn’t a mess.

And the reason is because I’ve had practice.

When I think back to that woman in her late forties who entertained us, I think she, too, had simply learned how to be a good homemaker. When she was in her late twenties, she had three boys under four. I’m sure her dining room table wasn’t huge and spotless. I’m sure her furniture didn’t all match, and toys likely littered every surface. But over the years they could slowly afford to buy better furniture. She had practice cooking. The toys were packed away. And life got easier.

We have a tendency to compare our abilities to keep a nice home, cook a good dinner, balance a chequebook, or manage investments to those of other, older people, like our parents. Perhaps it’s time to stop. Your mother’s home may have been quite a mess when her children were the age of your children, even if her home is spotless now. Your boss who is so careful with investments may only have learned to be that way because of mistakes and lost opportunities in his twenties. Your father’s ability to grow grass probably is not instinctual; he learned it over decades.

If you’re not there yet, relax.

Practice makes perfect–even for homemakers.

We don’t learn basic life skills overnight. It takes a while to get used to it. So let’s enjoy the journey, rather than always beating ourselves up for not having arrived yet.

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Comments

  1. We are where you were. With 4 little ones being home schooled, toys, crafts, school books, pens, penciles, rulers, bits of paper are everywhere. Our house is a disaster. We eat in the kitchen as well, because it’s not carpeted, which is good, because we have a juice spill at least once a day. And my wife gets the same feeling when we go to other people’s houses who are at different stages of life (or have completely different lives all together). She feels like she doesn’t measure up. I do my best to remind her that she is focused on different tasks at the moment. Our focus is not on keeping a perfect house and inviting people over. It’s on raising our children, teaching them and well, partially just getting through this super-dependent phase. Later we can focus on the other stuff, hopefully with the children’s help, or least without them undoing any cleaning we do seconds after it’s done.
    I can’t yet imagine the day that we won’t walk into a room to see a juice spill, water on the floor because the 3 year old wanted to wash dishes, or another puddle from the potty training toddler, or puddles of paint on the carpet and hand-prints on the walls because the three youngest children found the finger paints, or Lego’s everywhere, all the cushions taken off the couches, or all the blankets stripped off the bed to make a fort, or food in the basement where they aren’t supposed to eat, or play-dough in the carpet, or all 4 of them jumping on our bed or the youngest eating toothpaste, or the host of other situations we seem to run into on a daily if not hourly basis.
    Our life is a wonderful mess. I wouldn’t change it for anything. And I know someday we’ll look back and forget how hectic is was and only remember the joy in the house and laugh at the situations we find so frustrating now.
    Jay Dee – SexWithinMarriage.com recently posted…2013 Annual ReviewMy Profile

  2. Thanks so much for this! I needed this reminder. My kids are 5 and 7(almost 8) and I am 31, my house is in a constant state of disaster. Toys on the floors and school work everywhere. I am learning to be more diligent in teaching them to clean up after themselves and getting myself organized but it is a slow process. We run a summer camp and are living in the retreat center as we wait for fund raising to come through to build a house here at camp. Thus half of our stuff is in boxes and packed away and in sheds and it is easy to get frustrated when life feels messy or you can’t find things, but what a good reminder I desperately needed today to know that this is just for a season and practice will make perfect for me. Hand me down furniture and messes and life is crazy right now but it is only for a season. Thanks so much!

  3. Ps, camp’s website if you would like to see what we do is http://www.phoc.org. My husband is the director and we love where God has us!

  4. Thank you for this reminder! On the same topic, I have to remember to let go and still host people despite young kids with nap schedules and toys everywhere and still-growing hostess ing skills (last night I forgot to put a knife at my guest’s dinner plate and didn’t notice until the end – whoops!)

  5. This is a very encouraging post, Sheila.
    I think this is one reason why it is so important for experienced wives and mothers to mentor newlywed wives and new moms. At the same time, we can’t learn everything by example–we have to practice it on our own. I know I need to be better at letting go of my insecurities and practicing hospitality. Thanks for the reminder and the encouragement!
    Shannon recently posted…Creating a Home with a God-Honoring AuraMy Profile

  6. Thank you so much for this post. I love your blog and read it regularly, but this post brought tears to my eyes. I’m a 26-year-old mother of a 9 month old boy and every day it seems like I’ll never get it all together. When I think of more kids, I just think it’s only going to get worse. Thanks for the reminder that I have years ahead of me to get this right.

  7. I very much enjoyed your post and as a mother of 2 young children and a house full of thrift store furniture, I can relate. However, I do believe some women do have a more natural tendency to be good at homemaking than others. I’m not saying they don’t have to work at it, but that it just comes more naturally for them. It’s the same with lots of things. Take music for an example; many people are naturally good at music and then there are those who are not. Now, with work, both of them can learn to play music and play it well, but the person who is naturally more inclined to music will be able to play it more quickly than the one who solely has to rely on practice and music fundamentals. Does that make sense? I like to look at it as a talent that God has given some women. Just like he gives some people musical abilities, writing abilities, management abilities, etc. I’m not saying that we cannot learn those things, they just may not come as easily to us as they do to another person. I believe the same goes for being a homemaker.

  8. I enjoyed this post. It makes me take a step back to see the big picture. I have three children: 20, 5 ½, and 2 yrs. My home is always a work. I work FT, which includes commuting and coming home, there is always something to clean, put away, pickup, etc. My children are busy but I know they will not be little too long and I remind myself of this. This article helped me further realize the miracles, the blessings, and the three joys in my house and the other big baby (sshhh…my hubby) that make my life worth living. Thanks again, Raquel

  9. When I was growing up my mom wasn’t a good homemaker. She was a Bigwig at a company and wasn’t home much. The house work and cooking fell to my siblings and I, along with grandma. And you can only imagine how chaotic that was! :) I am going on 10 years of marriage and have finally learned the art of providing warm healthy cooked meals for my family, and all the other things that go into being a good homemaker. Though I still stumble a lot with this, I have learned that at the heart of it all isn’t perfectly matched decorations or spotless floors, but instead a willing heart to serve my family and The Lord in this way with love not obligation. With the right heart attitude and the willingness to learn we can be the wonderful homemakers God designed us to be! Great post! Thanks for the encouragement :)

  10. Oh boy do I have areas that need improvement – from the literal (cleaning schedules, etc.) to my attitude. I do need to focus more on the journey – these years as a young mama won’t come again – I don’t want to be striving for perfection and miss where God has me now.
    Nicole recently posted…Monthly Project PostsMy Profile

  11. We have been there, in the trenches, too. My boys are now 17, 15, and 12 and are at a point where they are VERY helpful and are learning to be good hosts :D But it’s taken a lot of years of practice. It’s taken a lot of years of plastic plates and cups before they could manage “the good stuff”! And it’s taken a lot of instruction on all kinds of things from how to clear dishes (*ahem* he wasn’t finished yet) to appropriate table conversation to things-you-need-to-excuse-yourself-and-take-care-of-somewhere-out-of-sight. (BOYS!) But we’ve grown together, as a family, to be better at hospitality.

    I love and agree with the encouragement in Sheila’s post – life has its season, yah? – yet I want to encourage us all to remember that hospitality and entertaining aren’t the same thing. I mean, they overlap, but hospitality doesn’t have to be fancy.

    My mom has been an inspiration to me for years. She can definitely put on a lovely dinner, like the woman in the post, but she personifies hospitality by making her guests welcome, whether they’re eating off of china or Chinet. (Paper plates, if you don’t have those where you live.) It was definitely a lot harder for me to do when the boys were all little. And I can definitely relate to the play-dough-juice-spill-muddy-feet-Lego-explosion! Oh my word, those were EXHAUSTING years!

    But you know what I remember? When new neighbors moved in across the street we invited them in to our messy house, one Sunday evening. (And I DON’T cook dinner on Sunday.) We cut up some apples, and had popcorn and blue kool-aid and whatever leftovers I could pull together. And we had a great time, and now – years later – our boys and theirs are fast friends.

    I know it’s hard when your kids are still little and the house looks like a yard-sale (well, mine did, anyway) but it’s so worth it to summon up the courage to have someone over anyway. Good luck :D

    Julie
    Julie recently posted…Yet In Thy Dark Streets Shineth… HeadlightsMy Profile

  12. Thank you. I needed this today. I have been very overwhelmed/discouraged by my homemaking skills recently (and worried about everything you mentioned…dining table, toys scattered, eating in kitchen, etc). It seems so easy for some of my friends, even though they are my same age. But I have to remember that they have been mothers and SAHMs longer than I have.

  13. Thank you all! It’s a word for the season.

  14. I have always loved that the Bible says “practice hospitality”.

    Practice. none of us are going to get it all perfect the first time – most of us are going to stumble and blunder and not be the ‘perfect hosts’ but we have to keep inviting people, and we have to keep practicing. :)

  15. I so needed to hear this… I am struggling in this area too. I was divorced due to my ex husband’s infidelity & had a 17 year old son. I met a wonderful man got married became a stepmom to a 4 year old, and then had a baby at 43. I had been used to a 17 year old and myself with a clean neat house and then bam, 2 more kiddos and a hubby makes 5. I had gone from an almost grown up season with one, to a mom of 3 and 2 little ones. I had never had multiple children and I had totally forgotten all the stuff that comes with little ones. Especially baby little ones. And now toddler stuff, and 9 year old stuff, then the oldest one moved out on his own, and has now come moved back home, so I have 21 year old stuff too..sigh.. guess what I am trying to say is I keep reminding myself how quickly the time goes by, and even with all this stuff..it’s just stuff.. enjoy the memories, you too will forget the messes… enjoy them now…life is precious :)

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