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Home Making Mistake

Posted on 18 July 2010

Homemaking Primer for Jewish Homes- The Basics, some Advice, and then some Fun!

Homemaking Basics

In Judaism, most of our relationships on this earth are metaphorical for our relationship with G-d. The dwellings we have, the love that exists, the pleasures, everything is to help us better understand G-d.

Keeping your home isn’t just something that is important because Martha Stewart says so. It’s important because it is one of the teaching mechanisms that G-d put into place for many reasons; so we can understand a little more about Him, or get a glimpse into what it will be like to upkeep His house in the future (yes there is cooking and cleaning involved), or just for us to have a little world of our own.

Thus, your Jewish Homemaking Primer begins with that little introduction.

Now a glimpse into upkeeping your small world.

Your Home’s Foundation

If you asked me to tell you the foundation of Jewish homemaking standing on one foot, I would tell you about the quote from Ethics of the Fathers, “Upon three pillars does the world stand- on Torah, Work (Avodah), and Loving Kindness.”

I mentioned earlier that our homes are each individual little “worlds” to us. And what are the three pillars that our homes rest upon? Torah, Work, and Loving Kindness. Everything we bring into our home must stem from these 3 pillars for our homes to run successfully.

Torah- meaning, what are we living for and what are we living from? Are we just “moral” people? Or do we have a system that never fails? That’s what Torah is, a guidebook for keeping us on the straight and narrow. We don’t need any new laws or any bills or repeals. It’s all there and always has been.

Avodah-Work. There’s your homemaking primer right there! It’s all work! Laundry, cooking, shopping, cleaning, serving, inviting, decorating, renovating… And not just that. I believe work refers to anything that “goes against” our nature. If negative talk is what comes naturally to you, then what is your work? Talking positively. If writing meal plans is against your free spirited nature (ahem, ahem), what’s your avodah/work?

Not that you have to force yourself to do things you don’t want to do, because if you can pay someone to do these things then why not? But knowing that your hard homemaking efforts are considered work and putting in thought and effort into them merits great things in life.

Lovingkindness-how about how you treat your spouse/ kids/ family/ guests? Keep working on developing compassion for others. It’s not an inborn skill. You have to learn it. For people that just seem to have lovingkindess inside of them, see the article below. They don’t, they develop it. You can learn new techniques for developing compassion for others. My favorite is using Imago Relationships Therapy and I strongly recommend you use it with your spouse and your children. Check out my husband’s website for more info on it.

Homemaking comes from these three pillars. What are we striving for anyhow? Why do we work so hard to mold our children and do the laundry and have dinner on the table? What’s the point? We know the point and that is why we work so hard.

I’m not normally so “Jewish” quoting Torah sources, but when I thought about giving you a Primer on Homemaking, I asked myself, “I can’t jump into organizing and cleaning when the foundation has to be addressed!” Plus, throughout the entire website you will get plenty of details on how to actually do the work and ESPECIALLY in The Perfectly Organized Ebook Collection!

Homemaking Advice

Don’t do this! (consider this Girlfriend advice)

It is so easy to feel bad about our homemaking efforts. “Look at so and so, she is always put together, house is always neat, children are impeccably dressed, and erev Shabbos is calm and collected.” Sound familiar?

I think comparing ourselves to other women (a.k.a, jealousy) is a problem for a lot of us. What happens when we do compare ourselves to other women who seem to manage the home perfectly? We get stuck.

Has that ever happened to you? You get motivated to improve something about how you manage the home or yourself, and then hear of or see another woman doing the same thing but better. For example, say you want to improve your grocery shopping habits. You organize yourself with a list and feel proud of yourself. You share your gratification with another woman who says, “Oh, I don’t do it like that. I have a color coded list organized according to the aisles of the supermarket and it works great for me.”

You have two choices. Sometimes you may feel genuinely grateful, “Oh. I can really use this tidbit of information and incorporate it into my own home. Thanks.” Other times it only brings out feelings of inferiority.

Feeling inferior does not usually have the positive effect on people that it could. You know, the good kind of jealousy. The kind that inspires us to change and improve. “Wow, she never speaks lashon harah! I wish I could be like that!” For many of us, it inspires a feeling of inadequacy squelching whatever motivation to change that could have arisen. “She never speaks lashon harah. I feel so bad that I do. I’ll never be like that. She is a much better person. I am so bad.”

The negative reaction that results from feelings of inferiority and inadequacy does not just stop there. It continues to go in a downward cycle leading to stagnation and stuckness.

Think of it. Because the woman who came up with the grocery list saw that her friend had an even better way of doing it, one that was “much more organized” than hers, she figured, “Why bother!” and stopped even trying to improve her grocery shopping.

Grocery shopping of course is a small example. You can see how potentially damaging comparing ourselves to others can be. What if the example was not grocery shopping? What if it was something related to the way we treat our husbands or our kids and the way we run our home?

Our family needs us women to be the Kohen gadol of our Bais Hamikdash. We are the keepers of our home and what a holy position to be in.

We cannot afford to compare our organizing and homemaking abilities to the next woman. We cannot afford to stop wanting to improve ourselves as mothers and wives and daughters of Israel.

Comparing ourselves to other Jewish women will risk our jobs. The desire to be ourselves will be subservient to the desire to be someone else.

What can we do? It is so natural to look at our neighbor with her 6 children of close ages toddling behind her and wonder, “How does she do it?” (I’m not saying you shouldn’t have parenting resources or people you ask for advice. It is important to have valid and valuable parenting resources out there. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s what you do with the resource that counts. If you feel guilty that you have not been parenting that way, you’ll stagnate.

I believe there are two answers. Yes, it is natural to look at someone else and wonder how she does it. And there is nothing wrong with that amazement. It becomes a problem when it leads to a self defeatist mentality.

If only there was a way we could act like we were on a fact finding mission. Pretend you are a reporter or interviewer or a data collector. Go on a fact finding mission. Find out what works for someone else. And then end your mission. Do not bring the results of your fact finding mission into your mind. Collect and assemble the data. And then do to it what you would do to any piece of paper, clutter or information. Delete it, Delegate it, or Delay it. There is nothing emotional about the 3 Ds.

The second response to how to look at someone else and understand how she manages her home without feeling less about you is to really know yourself. You need to know what you like, do not like, how you work best and how you do not. Your learning styles, decorating preferences, etc.

Get to know yourself. How do you work best? What do you love to do? Not, what does she love to do? Not, what color paint did she pick out?

Here’s an exercise. Think about how you want to parent. There are women who always talk in a whisper to their kids making sure they never raise their voices. Everything is done quietly and controlled.

Other women might be more loud. More animated with their kids. Are they less loving?

Which way is right? Whichever way feels right.

For the quiet woman, your routine feels great; the kids are not afraid of “raised voices”, no wonder you stick to it!

You know what works for you.

On the other hand, some of you more energetic types feel suffocated and bored by that approach. You are boisterous. And you love being that way.

Do you see how it does not help to compare yourself to the quiet woman who always talks in a whisper? That feels stifling. And it is not you.

Yes, perhaps you do want to work on not raising your voice so much, and having a more controlled response to the spontaneity of having kids.

How can you do that?

Put your detective hat on (not your emotional hat) and go on a fact finding mission. Collect the data and decide what to do with it.

And appreciate yourself for the very important role you are playing. We’re not perfect yet recognizing your efforts and continuing to educate yourself, instead of feeling negative and stuck, is the way to improve.

And relax and have fun with yourself!

Homemaking Fun

Whatever you do around the house, make it fun for yourself by listening to great music. One of the fun CDs I listen to is called Rechnitzer Rejects. Here’s a song that I love for all of you Balabustas out there!

There’s a small part in the song that involves a little humor about “goyim”- it really is irrelevant and I never even pay attention to that part, just in case some of you think it is strange 🙂

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