Home. For some it’s the embodiment of contentment, productivity, and joy. For others it’s a prison, or at least just boring. For those of us who have made the choice to be deliberately at home, our view of home shapes our day to day universe, and makes the difference between loving our work and being weary of it.
This past weekend I had a conversation with new mother. She shared that after several hours at home with her baby, she felt like a zombie. This is a common refrain, and one that I wanted to understand better, so I asked her if she was used to being at home before her baby was born. Did she think that it was being with the baby that made her feel like a zombie, or was it being at home? She said that actually, for her, the parenting part was much easier than she had expected. It was still her life. She was just bringing her baby along with her. But the being at home part, that was hard.
And then she said something that turned all the lights on for me. She said that she and her husband had been talking about home and ideas of home. For her, growing up, home had been a place where she could never get anything done, where the TV was always on, distracting her; home was a place to get away from. But for her husband, growing up in a large homeschooling family, among acres of woods, home was a place to go to do things, where there were always relationships, conversations and interactions, cozy corners for private thoughts or reading; home was a place to get away to.
I realized that women who complain that there’s nothing to do at home, that it’s boring or stultifying, mind numbing to be “stuck” there all day, probably feel that way in large part because they live in a home where it’s all true. Their view of home has created a culture in their home where there really isn’t much to do.
As the “Mom’s Taxi” generation grows up and takes up the mantle of motherhood, many will need to be remaking their idea of home. A lot of us were almost never at home, or were only there to regroup between activities: school all day, then music lessons, sports practice, club meetings, dance classes. It’s no wonder women who grew up like that think there’s nothing to do at home. If home is merely the place you go at the end of the day to sleep, then it’s a little like bed. I’d feel like a zombie, too, if I spent my whole day in bed.
Many, many ladies have rattled off lists of all the things there are to do at home: gourmet cooking, sewing, crocheting, painting, flower arranging, gardening, scrapbooking, researching, writing, learning foreign languages, and on, and on. This is not to mention the equally long list of things there are to do with your children if you have them: teaching, reading, playing games, doing crafts, taking nature walks, etc. But I wonder if this brainstorming, and “hobby hunting” might be the second step in the process of learning to be happy and productive at home.
The first step has to be the vision, the view of home as engineered society, private utopia, the one little corner of the planet where the culture is entirely up to you and your husband. The culture of the home will reflect the ideas of the people who live there, and no one’s ideas influence the culture more strongly than the wife and mother’s. If you struggle with being at home, or even if you don’t, it might be time to sit down and ask yourself what your ideas about home are and then what your ideals for life are. How can you create a home that is exactly what you and your family most need? How can you turn your ideals into a cultural blueprint? What should life in your home look like, and how can you make it happen?
Do you want a home full of peacefulness or bustling activity? Is it quiet or full of music or laughter? Who is there all day? Is it children, the elderly, neighbors, family? What do you want to learn about? What do you want to produce? If you find yourself wishing to be out of your home, what is it that you want to do? How could you make your home a center for that kind of work?
Everyone’s home is going to be a little different. I love study and writing, interacting with ideas. I’m creating a home where learning happens throughout the day for myself and my children. I shared with my cousin’s wife how when I had my first baby, I did hours of internet research while I nursed during the first year. She said she didn’t like the computer. She wanted to be with people. Someone like her could look at bringing more people into her home. Her home could be a place of encouragement, friendship evangelism, mentoring. Another friend of mine has a passion for working with her hands. She has a small pottery studio in her basement, and dreams of pottery parties, having other ladies over and sending them home with something they had made themselves. She has many craft times for her children and has stocked the home with the supplies she needs to help them be creative.
If you don’t like being at home, change your home. Make it a place you love to be. Your home doesn’t have to look anything like anyone else’s, particularly if that someone else’s home was something you grew up with and didn’t like. Home is exactly what you make it, so start with a vision, a culture that feeds your soul, and then implement it, let it shape every aspect of the home you’re making. One day, you may wake up and realize there’s no place else you’d rather be.