My mom packed a lunch for me daily for nearly my entire school career. The only school lunches I would eat were spaghetti and corn dogs (obviously before the whole healthy school lunch kick).
Mom had—has—this remarkable, nearly electronic memory containing what food each of my three sisters, my father, and I loved and loathed. Lunch contents varied throughout the year, from Jif with honey to Carl Buddig cold cuts neatly sandwiched and sealed in baggies.
An old school friend recently referenced the encouraging messages Mom folded within my lunches. “I do that for my kids now.”
From still-warm August mornings when school felt like a fresh sheet of loose-leaf, or the frigid dawns of February, I grasped a lunch in my little fingers.
And when I think about homemaking, this is what I think of: How nice it is to have someone love you and care for you. Because in all the carrots and celery sticks she chopped, she was doing more than cutting vegetables. She was tending to my life, a careful gardener.
Somewhere in the battle over domesticity—what it means if we’re given a Crock Pot for Christmas, and making sure each partner is equally vacuuming—we lose the arterial throb behind homemaking.
No matter what gender provides or receives, homemaking provides intangible resources through tangible care. Homemaking wraps us tenderly even when we’re not at home. Through our senses, homemaking shores us up with the message, “You are loved. Your experience at home matters.”
And through that nurture, homemaking offers a sensory parallel to who God is.
The first homemaker: for body and soul
One night after staying at my mom’s, where she ate waffles for breakfast and watched Clifford and Curious George, my daughter asked, “Can I wake up at Grandma’s?”
Heaven has to be a little like waking up in your favorite place in the world, with someone you love waiting to hug you, your favorite breakfast ready with your own special plate and fork.
God intentionally stitched our souls to physical bodies—a no-brainer when you consider the effects of healthy or unhealthy rest, food, hormones, or exercise on our souls. His creation of the universe was a cosmic act of hospitality: fruit trees, lush rivers, a world in which to mete out our dreams.
And this homemaking stretches throughout Scripture, to the God who creates a heavenly home, a prepared place (see John 14:3). It’s more than just a good meal. It’s a comprehensively peaceful, nurturing place for our souls.
But God’s domesticity extends within and beyond our physical places:
- preparing a table in the presence of enemies (Psalm 23:5), as our defender, our creator of peace, our provider of food (spiritual, literal, and otherwise).
- sweeping a house for a lost coin (Luke 15:8-10)—a metaphor of God’s salvation and pursuit of us.
- leading us to green pastures and still waters (Psalm 23).
- breaking bread for thousands upon thousands (Matthew 14:13-21).
- leaving His own home to make a home here (John 1:14).
God associates domestic tasks with both physical relief and soul-tending.
This means “relationships” and “spiritual health” count on my homemaking to-do lists. It means my mom anger becomes a homemaking priority, as well as how I speak to my husband. Because I could make Pinterest-perfect beef bourguignon and a homemade artisan loaf—and totally miss nurturing my family. “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife” (Proverbs 17:1).
Homemaking tends to both body and soul—and in that, reflects God.
Where to start when homemaking feels overwhelming
God doesn’t decree I make a home every hour of my day. But what I know of Him suggests all those (occasionally mundane) hours after work (or stuffing a laundry load in between virtual meetings) are worth it. And it means my husband’s a homemaker, too.
Jesus, Abraham, and Jacob were among the great cooks of the Bible, along with Martha and Sarah, so chefs of either gender are in good company. And when we expand “homemaking” to the care of the soul, none of us is exempt. We’re all told to “teach [God’s ways] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7).
1. Start with prioritizing care for your soul so you can “feed [His] sheep” (John 21:17).
Find time with God that roots you in His Word and fills your soul. Maybe at first it doubles with a workout routine that blows wind in your sails (a podcast sermon or the Psalms during Pilates, with reflection and prayer in your cool down). Or maybe it’s with a latte, a foot soak, and a leather-bound journal. Either way, work up to a robust routine where your soul finds a home with God.
Then make sure to grab time for a shower and to put on real clothes so you feel like more than someone else’s wet wipe. Self-care may even mean taking a nap so you don’t parent with a single-centimeter fuse all day. (Jesus took naps.)
2. Hit the jobs that make your whole day feel neater/more in control.
For me, this is a made bed and no dishes in the sink. Presto. I start to own the mess rather than the other way around. Popping in a load of laundry takes me five minutes, but then I also hear two appliances running at once (dishwasher, washer), which makes me feel like a boss.
Make an A list (priority tasks) and a B list (Gosh, it would be nice if the minivan wasn’t carpeted in Goldfish). Try to do one A list task every day. When you’ve got more time, energy, or help, do a few more from one list or the other.
Housekeeping websites have free, comprehensive schedules that work for any lifestyle—or start forming your own based on household rhythms. I know my bathrooms need to be cleaned every other day, and I do two loads of laundry every other day. I work out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
3. Mentally wire your tasks with pleasure.
For me, folding laundry isn’t bad, so I don’t mind doing it while I watch a show at the end of the day. Or perhaps you give your kids some screen time during the witching hour of dinner prep. Crack open a can of seltzer, make a plate of cheese and almonds, and crank up Spotify so dinner isn’t a chore.
4. Set a timer.
In five minutes, how much can everyone clean up? (If you have three kids and you’re the only parent helping, that’s still 20 minutes spent on a room!)
5. Ask for help.
Have that talk with your spouse about splitting up tasks (not when you’re angry). Train your kids to do age-appropriate responsibilities. Hand them a kid-sized broom when you’re sweeping or a spray bottle of kid-safe cleanser. We all make our home a happy, ordered, beautiful place that gives us life. This is not “one parent modeled serving me all my life.”
I made reusable index cards with clip art to remind kids the steps of chores, and then checked their work. We used sticker charts, rewards, the whole nine yards. But now, they know how to clean a bathroom. (Mostly.)
Everyone helps with cleaning up dinner. Or perhaps one of you watches the kids in the bath while cleaning the bathroom.
6. Work smarter, not harder.
Use free grocery pickup, and arrange as many errands as you can around that while the kids aren’t melting down for naps. (Tip: I dictate my running grocery list into my phone.) Use the time out to connect with them and talk through your errands, rather than mesmerizing them with a device. Maybe good behavior results in a snack they only get once a week.
Know what you’re going to cook by, say, 2 p.m. every day—and not something you need a trip to the store to accomplish. (I prefer unloading the dishwasher and prepping dinner while my kids ready for school in the morning, but that’s me.)
7. Prioritize wisely.
Making cookies for your daughter’s class might not mean near as much as curling up on her bed to hear about her day. Creating a home is more important than keeping a house.
So this might mean my microwave remains scuzzy a few more minutes so I can look my son in the eye when he arrives home from school.
Homemaking shapes a spiritual foundation
Years after my school days, I expressed to my mom concerns about a way I essentially wasn’t sure if God would show up or care for us.
“Remember all those school lunches I packed?” she asked. Senses clambered to mind of sliced spring strawberries, of warm soup in a cafeteria of frosted windows. “You never had to come down wringing your hands. ‘Oh, no! Are you going to pack my lunch?’”
All those years in brown paper bags and mini-coolers, my mom was writing God’s provision on my brain. Homemaking, you see, matters.
New to being a Christ follower and wondering what that means for your family? Read, “A Christian Home: Where Do I Start?”
Copyright © 2021 Janel Breitenstein. All rights reserved.
Janel Breitenstein is an author, freelance writer, speaker, and frequent contributor for FamilyLife, including Passport2Identity®, Art of Parenting®, and regular articles. After five and a half years in East Africa, her family of six has returned to Colorado, where they continue to work on behalf of the poor with Engineering Ministries International. Her book, Permanent Markers: Spiritual Life Skills to Write On Your Kids’ Hearts (Harvest House), releases October 2021. You can find her—“The Awkward Mom”—having uncomfortable, important conversations at JanelBreitenstein.com, and on Instagram @janelbreit.