When I was a young girl, my sister and I spent hours doing the stereotypical little girl thing – playing house with our dolls. We were unconcerned with stereotypes, feminism, and equal opportunity for women. We simply loved our dolls, dressing them, feeding them and playing the role of mom.
We attempted to include our extremely uncooperative younger brothers, but they refused to play the role of husband and we had to settle for them being an annoying, slobbering, panting dog that got underfoot and truly didn’t add to our homemaking experience.
My sister and I never discussed our goals or future. We both went on to college, I became a teacher and she an engineer. But in the end, we found ourselves making a career of the one thing that came naturally to us both, homemaker.
Big Shoes To Fill
I come from a long line of homemakers who relished the job, made it look easy and left me some big shoes to fill. Once Caleb came along and I gave up teaching to stay at home, I had visions of following in their footsteps and being little Suzy homemaker, a domestic force to be reckoned with.
The ‘mom’ thing came pretty natural to me once I overcame those first months of postpartum depression and believing my life as I knew it was ruined. I settled into my new role and obviously loved it enough to eventually add four more little fellows to the Brandsma band.
But in my mind, a homemaker was like my mom, my grandma, my aunts; someone who sewed and mended, cooked and baked, canned and preserved, cleaned and tidied. And so, I endeavoured to take my place among the homemaking greats.
But I learned very quickly that my ancestors were a hard act to follow.
Rule # 1 – Grow most of what you eat in your own garden. Darn, my first road block. My green thumb had turned black; right about the time I was done sucking it 40 years ago.
Rule # 2 – In order to save money, learn to sew. The ladies in my family, made their own moccasins and sewed their own bathing suits for goodness sake. Bathing suits! So, I bought a sewing machine and made ‘cute’ little outfits, using Caleb as my less than impressed live manikin. Second road block—Caleb couldn’t say much, but if looks could kill….
Rule # 3 – Can and preserve your own wares. Steve, coming from an equally homemaking proficient lineage, kindly offered to help. Having bought the apples, peaches and cherries that I had no hope of growing, we worked together as a newly married couple, canning and preserving the night away. The glow on my face, partly due to standing over that hot stove for hours, came from the knowledge that I was keeping up the standard of home cooking that my husband was accustomed to. Road block # 3—canned fruit that explodes out of their jars and tastes more like fermented wine really isn’t meant to be eaten, even when topped with generous amounts of ice cream.
Rule # 4 – If at first you don’t succeed, try again. 4th road block—some people are beyond hope. Despite the countless times my mom has patiently taught and retaught me, when left on my own devices, the jars refuse to seal. My boys are forced to eat mountains of sweet jam mingled with my salty tears of frustration before it spoils.
Rule # 5 – Don’t buy it if you can make it. That includes bread, crackers, pasta, pizza crust… Sheesh, these ladies I’m related to don’t give a girl a break. Not only do they mix and knead the bread dough, no joke, they grind the wheat to make the flour to make the bread dough. And so, in an effort to fit in, I bought the wheat grinder and the wheat and jumped in with gusto. Road block # 5—bread making is a science and I’m no scientist. If you run out of time to bake the bread, putting it in the fridge to wait till later isn’t your best bet.
Yeast waits for no man (or woman)!
Into My Own Hands
After 22 years of trying, I’ve raised the white flag. There have been successes along the way, but I’ve had to discover my own way to make a home.
I make a delicious monster cookie for my boys to pack in their lunch. I make a mean spaghetti out of the jar for those nights when I’m cooking on a time crunch. I’d say most of my meals are from scratch even if the ingredients are bought at the store. I can’t sew them an outfit, but I can hot glue cow ears to a headband and turn them into the cutest cow ever for their school play. I can juggle guitar lessons, soccer practice, doctor appointments, youth group, hockey games and countless other things and still manage to keep my kids fed and the house liveable.
Now that my youngest is in school full time I’ve had to adjust to this idea of homemaker all over again. Is it a badge I can wear with honour as my mom and grandma did before me, even if I do it differently than they did? Absolutely!
And so, I’m going to put my name up on that list of homemaking giants. A few of the genes passed down from my ancestors may have skipped my generation, but enough squeaked through that I’m crowning myself, “Krista—homemaker,” a domestic force to be reckoned with!