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If My Grandma Could Do It

Before I got married, I had the impression that homemaking would be fairly easy. I was thoroughly convinced that it was the best job for me, and I was expecting an idyllic life. People worried that I’d be bored. “It doesn’t take all day to clean an apartment,” they warned, but I was confident. I had such plans for the wonderful ways I would use all my “extra” time. I had just graduated from college where I’d felt very successful and capable, and I couldn’t wait to conquer my next sphere.

Imagine my horror when I discovered that I stank at homemaking! I could not figure out how to keep the bathroom clean, the dishes from overflowing the sink, the mail from piling up on the floor, the carpet vacuumed, the laundry put away, and decent food cooked–all at the same time. And when and how was I going to “decorate” and make things beautiful? I had no system, no experience. This “easy” job was killing me!

It’s been nearly eight years now, and I’ve learned an awful lot. I definitely don’t “stink” anymore. But I’ve still got plenty yet to master. I keep fighting along, striving towards the goal of making a wonderful home for my family. And I remember that other women have gone before me, others who didn’t have the equivalent of a Ph.D. in home economics when they started out. One of them in particular I knew very well. She was my grandmother.

By the time I knew her, my Grandma was the queen of an elegant, beautifully run home. Her table, piled high with delicious food (always everything you wanted on your birthday) and sparkling with crystal and china laid down over lace, was my introduction to the intrigues of etiquette. (“You mean all those forks are for me? What do I do with so many?”) Every corner of her house was rich with color: flowers, photographs, heirlooms, little treasures from friends (Grandma had a lot of friends), and then there were the candy dishes, and cookie trays, well stocked for the grandchildren. Nothing ever seemed overdone, only full of depth and artistry. I was in awe. I still remember the creamy satin bedspread, the shining dark wood of her highly polished tables, her mother’s petit point chair, dusty rose afghans, towels, pillows, all the colors in harmony flowing from room to room. It was actually a tiny house, but I never knew it until I was nearly grown up. She had worked such wonders in her crowded space that all I felt was air and light.

My grandmother did everything, too, and with such perfection that any one of her talents would have been remarkable, yet she had mastered them all: cooking, sewing, flower arranging, cake decorating, a multitude of crafts (Grandma loved her hot glue gun!). She even made ordinary things into works of art. Every package she wrapped was a masterpiece of coordinating ribbons and handmade bows. She dressed herself in beautiful clothes, every inch of fabric carefully pressed, every shade exactly right for her skin.

My grandma was Superwoman.

But now, here’s where it gets encouraging. When my grandma got married, she couldn’t do a thing. Her mother had always done everything and never let her help. Grandma had to check out a book from the library to learn how to make the bed. She had barely cooked before, and her story of the first time she made rice went something like this: “I looked at that little cup and thought of my great, big husband, and I said, ‘No way! I’m putting in the whole bag!’ I had rice in every pot in my kitchen.” And then there was the time she tried to make pudding from scratch, and she burned it. So she tried again. And she burned it. So she tried yet again. And she burned it.

So many women today feel handicapped by their lack of training. They turn their hearts toward home, only to discover that their hands are so inexperienced that all they produce is failure. Or perhaps, they don’t even know where to start. They’ve never made a homemaking schedule before, cleaned an oven, or cooked from scratch. They hear of women like my Grandma finally became, and they think, “These people are aliens. I can’t even make a cake let alone decorate one.” But if a woman who started out her homemaking career not knowing how to make a bed can do it, then so can we.

Every one of us can follow in my grandma’s footsteps. I believe that all it takes is knowing what you want, being willing to seek out the information you need, and then allowing yourself to fail until you get it right. That’s the hard part, the failures. It’s easy to forget sometimes that homemaking is a skill just like any other. It is neither innate nor automatic. It takes practice and trial and error (usually a lot more error than any of us would like!). We may have to burn our puddings three times in a row before we learn how to make them. But it’s worth it. I’ve seen the end result of sticking to it for years.

If my Grandma could do it, then so can I. So can you.

16 comments to If My Grandma Could Do It

  • How cool is that?!? Is that your mom’s mom or your dad’s? Great descriptions of her and totally empowering thoughts! Way to be. I grew up with lots of homemaking instruction but little organizational systematizing so I THOUGHT I was all prepared and fell flat on my face too, much like you. I’m starting to feel like I’m finally getting it too. This post was fab. I read it outloud to A.

    A says…”Loved the post. It was heartfelt and beautifully written.”

  • Mrs. Parunak

    That was my dad’s mom. Thanks for your encouraging words!

  • Hi Andrea,

    I’m one of Kathi’s friends. I write a blog on organizing. I started as a homemaking spazz (like Grandma), and I’m still trying to improve! Enjoyed your thoughts and encouragement. Also, I breastfed my five children, with the last one weaning at 2 1/2 years. I’m not a LL leader, but I have enjoyed some of their help over the years also. I seemed to always have too much milk! If I had a pump, that helped to manage the supply. I guess everyone is different in how their bodies respond the the demands of feeding. I don’t think I took any special herbs or did anything fancy except eat and drink a lot and sleep a lot.

    Lord bless you, Jena

  • Mrs. Parunak

    Hi Jena,

    Thanks for stopping by! I ran over to your site, too, and it’s great–lots of good information!

  • Wow. I am struggling greatly with figuring out how to be the homemaker Mr. P. wants me to be, and this post was light in my day. Thank you!

  • Wow! what a great story I truly do feel inspired by your story.

    http://www.adlynmorrison.blogspot.com/

  • Marquise Johnson

    Your grandma sounds like she had great intelligence, perseverance, and resourcefulness — it’s too bad she lived in an era when only your family, and not the world, could benefit from her talents. Just think what she could have been with the opportunities afforded to women today. We may have been deprived of a researcher, a benevolent politician, a Nobel prize winner…. Men hardly confine their considerable talents to tablecloths and banana bread.

  • Tamsin

    I loved this article (found the link at LAF) – especially since I’m worrying a little about how well I’ll keep our home when I get married in 10 weeks :)

    Ms. Johnson (above comment): it’s such a shame you feel that way. I could list many counter-debates & reasonings, but will say just this: why should the incredibly precious family of the author’s grandmother be less worthy of her efforts than the world at large?

    God Bless,
    Tamsin.

  • Michelle

    What a lovely encouraging article!

    Tamsin, I agree with you. My mum works while my dad stays at home, and we have a beautiful house and garden, and my dad has always been there for my brother and I. Why should we lose him to a senior management position?

  • Deborah

    Your words are such an encouragement to me…and I’m a GRANDMA! I have worked outside the home for many years, but have a heart-tug to be at home, caring for my husband and being available to my grandchildren and their moms. I DO feel totally inadequate in the role of homemaker, but I also know that this is the role God made me for. I’m praying diligently that we can move in the next year to be closer to our grandchildren. Then I will have opportunity to stay at home and learn all the things you said your Grandma was. With God’s help I know He will make me into that kind of woman.
    Thanks again for your story and the encouraging words to those of us who struggle.

  • Alexandra

    I got married at 20 and my mother says she regrets not showing me things I needed to know…she didn’t expect me to be off and married quite so soon. (15th anniversary in August!)

    I’m not the neatest person in the world, far from it, but I’m getting better. As far as dishes…you can do them every day and stay on top of them…or you can let them pile up and spend your days fretting over it. I also have a laundry schedule and try to stick to it…so I don’t have Mount Washmore in the bathroom.

    I’m glad to be a housewife…I can make better meals for my family instead of poison in a box.

  • Sara

    What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing the encouragement of your Grandmother’s life (and your own!)

    I too hope to have grandchildren that remember eating on Nana’s beautiful table. For the time being, I’d like to have enough bibs clean for the baby!!

    Thank you again for sharing your journey. God Bless.

    Sara

  • Janet

    WOW That was really encouraging. I have been marrid for 10 years and I still fall very short on occasions. I can do more than before and this article is just what I needed to hear to keep on trying. Thanks

  • Livi

    Really encouraging! Thank you.

    I am 20 years old and i want to be a homemaker when i marry. I was brought up by a VERY feminist mother and i often worry that i don’t know enough about keeping a house to be successful at it (as i was never taught by my mother).

    This has given me encouragement to keep trying!

    By the way…do you have any advice for making peace with a feminist mother who has a very different concept of what a women’s role is from what i do?

  • Mrs. Parunak

    Livi,

    That’s am excellent question! I think it deserves a post. Lord willing, I should have one up in a few days. I hope it will give you some ideas.

  • Cristina

    Great post, maybe you could post your schedule? Or others could? Would love to see how others get it done.

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