Of course, one of the parts I liked best about Evan’s book was her conclusion in the chapter on Domesticity where she affirms calling for all women, whether in the home or outside of it.This is a huge struggle for women, Christian or not. Countless articles and books debate if, when and how women can “have it all” – by which everyone seems to mean being both a Domestic Diva with gorgeous children and a Career Woman heading for the C-suite. It all starts to get confusing and guilt-inducing. Everyone wonders if they’re ok.
- The women who can’t imagine giving up a career.
- The women who secretly wish they could just stay home instead of working (even with no kids!).
- The women who stay home with kids but can’t help wishing for a work environment.
- The women who love work and love their kids but aren’t sure they’re getting the balance right.
- The women who find fulfillment in staying home with children but wonder if that’s enough.
And on top of career and kids, we all have houses to clean and meals to cook. What should our attitudes about these things be? In the midst of these debates and wars, homemaking is either glorified as the ultimate womanly calling or reviled as a contributor to the suppression of women everywhere.
Much of the humour in A Year of Biblical Womanhood comes from Evan’s status as a novice when it comes to all things domestic. She freely admits that she hates cleaning. I nearly died laughing when she describes reading through Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook checklists:
“As it turns out, until I started this experiment pretty much everything on Martha’s ‘clean every day’ list I did about once a week, pretty much everything on Martha’s ‘clean every week’ list I did about once a month, pretty much everything on Martha’s ‘clean every month’ list I did about once a year, and pretty much everything on Martha’s ‘clean every season’ list I’d never done in my life. That’s right folks; I’d never vacuumed our refrigerator grille and coil. We lived in squalor after all.”
I got that same tome for my wedding and have rarely cracked it opened due to the enormous sense of panic that attacks me if I even glance at one of her checklists. I just don’t want to know how much I’m not doing!
But as Evans goes along with her experiment, she discovers she loves cooking and learns a lot about connecting with God in the day-to-day housework, not just in her writing or devotional time. She writes,
“As much as I hate to admit it, the sixteen hours I spent deep-cleaning my kitchen turned out to be some of the most valuable hours of the project. The task required creativity, problem solving, innovation, and resourcefulness, and it forced me to confront the ugly air of condescension that permeated my attitude toward homemaking.”
This chapter reminded me of one of my favourite books of the past year, Kathleen Norris’s The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women’s Work which I wrote about here. Norris has an amazing way of helping us meet with God in the midst of daily chores. Evans draws on Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God, which I also highly recommend. I read it in high school and remember experiencing both a huge sense of relief that “praying constantly” was something that could simply flow out of everything you were doing and at the same time feeling challenged to truly see God in my day-to-day circumstances.
Homemaking is a noble calling that we should honour, just not to the exclusion of all other callings for women. Evans concludes,
“If God is the God of all pots and pans, then He is also the God of all shovels and computers and paints and assembly lines and executive offices and classrooms. Peace and joy belong not to the woman who finds the right vocation, but to the woman who finds God in any vocation, who looks for the divine around every corner.”
This is such an important message for women as we constantly battle different expectations about work, family and home life. We don’t have to go somewhere else or be somebody else to live in the calling that God has for us. Our callings will probably wind in and out of our homes throughout the different seasons of our lives. The important thing is to meet God and follow him faithfully wherever we are currently placed.