The sun rising in the Lord’s heavens— the beauty of a good wife in her well-ordered home. Sirach 26:16
The home – that marvelous word because of all it expresses of sweetness, affection, intimacy, and charm. I want to make my home a center of light, fine and generous ideas, and deep feeling; to make it loved by Felix and by many young people, upon whom it might exercise an enlivening influence. Elisabeth Leseur
I can still recall my mother writing it on the form in the blank space labeled “Occupation.” I was a child and we were in the waiting room before my annual visit with the family doctor.
“Isn’t she embarrassed?” I thought. While growing up during the 1990s and 2000s, I had learned to view that word with a healthy level of skepticism, and even some disdain. Though it was my own beloved mother who bore it, the label made me cringe.
Later, as a young professional, I encountered the word again. A coworker, Emily, also in her twenties, had brought homemade cookies to share with our engineering office that day (the nerve!). I vividly remember the scornful response of the female administrative assistant: “Well, aren’t you a little Susie Homemaker!”
Thankfully, by this point, I had learned to question some of the ideas about homemaking that I’d learned in my youth. Still, I wondered how this term could conjure so much aversion in these varied situations.
In my frequent musings since, I have concluded that this word, homemaker, has simply fallen out of fashion. These days, a woman seems more likely to describe herself in terms of her motherhood (e.g., “stay-at-home mom” or “working mom”) than in other ways, such as wife or homemaker. While seemingly innocuous, I see a huge problem with the new approach. It implies that the tasks of motherhood are the most significant to a woman’s identity. It also suggests that the tasks of the home are relevant only to mothers, and not to women in general.
I beg to differ.
Here, I do not intend to weigh in on whether women belong in the workplace, or in what capacity (as Pope St. John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Letter Muleris Dignitatem, women are called to contribute their time and talent in many unique and varied ways). However, I do wish to challenge the widespread misconception that women should only embrace our God-given calling to care for our homes and families when we become physical mothers.
In my own life, learning to embrace my role as homemaker as a rich component of my vocation as wife (and regardless of my professional status), has been a tremendous source of healing from infertility. For instance, though I am sadly unable to incorporate what she taught me of physical motherhood, I find many ways to live out my own mother’s beautiful example and traditions in homemaking. I rejoice in this gift!
Whether through simple tasks like setting out fresh flowers on our kitchen tables, or by hosting a neighbor for tea, as women, we are called to care for our homes and the people around us. We are uniquely able to do so – to spread beauty and joy to others, and even for ourselves, and to know God’s love in the little ways we make our homes beautiful, tidy, and well-ordered.
I am convinced that embracing this calling is particularly important for wives who experience infertility. Though we may often feel that we have “missed out” on many aspects of femininity, the truth is that our identity of wife is our primary vocation in our lives as married women (physical motherhood, if we are blessed with it, is an extension of this primary vocation).
So, let’s embrace our wifely calling to care for our homes, whatever it may look like in our season of life. Perhaps we will discover how to excel at cooking for two (leftovers can freeze!), invite our neighbors for a meal, decorate with the colors of the current liturgical season, learn to sew or knit, or grow vegetables in a backyard garden. May God heal us as we embrace our role as wives and homemakers, and by doing so may we become motherly influences on those hearts that most need our loving care.
Allie Kleineck has been married to her husband James since 2016 and writes from Central Texas.