I used to teach piano. I taught from home and never worked more than 15 hours a week. It was never the main focus of my day and often it felt as though it was the 'something I had to' and not the 'something I wanted to do'. But, it gave me an easy answer to those questions. You know the ones..."Hi, nice to meet you, what do you do?", "Do you work?", Occupation: _______. And while I spent far more time raising my children and tending my home, I always answered, "I teach piano." It was as if I suddenly had value. People would discuss their own piano lessons, ask about lessons for children, ask about my education, etc. It's not that these people often knew anything about music, but they were willing to discuss it. When we brought TM home, my easy answer went away. Up until the fall of '05, my mother-in-law would come to play with the children while I taught. She made up fantastic imaginary games that would involve them all for hours. My children would ask what we were doing that day and would cheer if I were teaching. It meant Grandma was coming over. After her death, the general attitude about my teaching schedule noticably changed. No one cheered; more often groans were heard. It became increasingly more difficult to explain to the 2 year old that I couldn't pay attention to him because some other child was paying for my time. The money wasn't worth it anymore so I stopped teaching. It was also when I discovered that my new occupation was the ultimate conversation killer. Homemaking as an occupation has no value it seems. No one wants to discuss how I spend my day...they feel they already know and it's not worth their time.
Don't get me wrong, I'm very proud of what I do. I work hard at managing our home so that it is organized and pleasant. I want it to be a place where people are comfortable visiting and where we can practice hospitality. I enjoy raising my children, watching them learn and discover things, training them in the ways they should grow. It's just that since there is no monetary reward to all that I do, in the eyes of many, it is worthless. Or even worse is the outright surprise when someone who tends her home does something not home-related. Who knew she had the brains to do that!?! All this is a lead-up to the letter I felt compelled to send today:
Dear Mr. ______,
I was listening to your program yesterday morning while you were talking about the writer of the hymn, “I Need Thee Every Hour”. I feel the need to comment on your description of the hymn writer. More than once you described the hymn writer as being a “simple homemaker”. I realize that it is difficult to self-edit while hosting a radio show, and I was willing to overlook the statement the first time. But it was the third time you repeated this phrase that has caused me to write to you. Please think about everything this statement implies.
In today’s usage, the word ‘simple’ often has the connotation of not complex, and when used to describe a person, it also implies the idea of feeble minded. I’m sure this is not what you meant to imply, but I’m afraid it is how it came across. As a homemaker myself, I find that too often society portrays us in this light. The message is, “If you [the homemaker] had any intelligence or self-respect, you would be out working in the world and not merely staying home to wipe noses and scrub toilets.” We both know this is patently untrue, yet it is the message given out by the media every day.
Why should it be a point of amazement that a “simple homemaker” might write a hymn? Is hymn-writing so far out of the typical ability of a homemaker that it is more incredible than hymn-writing by a minister or doctor or ship’s captain? Would a hymn-writing missionary be described as a “simple missionary”?
In general, our culture denigrates everything related to homemaking and child-rearing, seeing these as menial tasks that ought to be outsourced whenever possible. God, on the other hand, calls us to home and family as areas of ministry that are every bit as challenging and valuable as more formally recognized or paid positions. I am grateful that WXXX often goes out of its way to support the calling of homemaking, but this support is also why I was particularly disturbed to hear an WXXX host falling into this same stereotype.
Thank you for your consideration,