One of the defining qualities of beautiful girlhood is a love for home and hospitality. A young girl watches her mother and looks forward to the day when she, too, will have a family. While other girls are driven by wanderlust, the hospitable girl finds true contentment at home.
I loved being at home, and I never wanted to be anywhere else. My home was my father’s castle, and I loved it. While some of my siblings sometimes chaffed at not being allowed to go out and do things with their friends like other children, it never bothered me one bit. I would have rather stayed home anyway.
Because my parents believed work was good for children and because there was so much work to be done in our large household, we children had a lot of chores. In fact, in my family children were given chores starting when they could walk. I actually did not mind having chores one little bit, even if it meant doing all the laundry for the family, or all the cooking. I had a lot of work to do, of course, but I loved the sense of accomplishment when I completed it.
Chores were frequently segregated by gender. The girls cleaned bathrooms, did laundry, cooked, and cleaned around the house while the boys mowed, cleared brush, fed the animals, and saw to the upkeep of the outdoors. We all worked, but girls did girl chores and boys did boy chores. Within this schema, indoor chores and those involving the upkeep of the house were generally seek as the girls’ natural responsibility.
Caring for the younger children also fell to the girls, and this happened often. My mother had a lot on her plate, teaching high school, middle school, elementary school, and preschool while constantly nursing babies, and she needed my sisters and I to help out. And we did. I remember doing school in my bedroom with little sisters or brothers playing on the floor, or dropping everything to help make lunch or put a little one to bed. In addition, while we never had a permanent buddy system, I have to admit that I did play favorites, and some of my siblings would come to me if they were hurt rather than to my mother.
In addition to learning to care for children, I also learned how to run a house. When it came time for me to study economics, my parents found a course that taught home economics, including things like balancing a checkbook and creating a budget. I learned from my mother how to shop for a large family, how to find clothes on a small budget, and how to make ends meet. As I watched my mother running the household, I was inwardly preparing myself to do the same. I am very much an organizer and a manager, and I could not wait to practice these talents in a home of my own.
My parents entertained a lot, most frequently hosting other large homeschool families. My mother became something of a mentor to other homeschool mothers, and my father was always eager to help others. Before entertaining, we cleaned the house from top to bottom and then cooked lots of wonderful food. I loved participating in this process, enjoying both the business of preparation and the anticipation of time spent with friends.
My dad was also a strong believer in service to those in need, and we took meals to other families, helped out with yardwork, and watched other families’ children when they were in a pinch. My dad was the sort of man who never says no when he sees someone who needs help, and I watched and took notes.
My parents also had a Bible study that met at our house, and we would cook and clean in preparation each week. We children loved the event, because it meant we got to see our friends, feast upon snacks, and spend the evening playing while the adults met together. In all of these ways, hospitality was very important to my parents.
This emphasis on the home and service actually led me to question the idea that I should attend college. I loved my life at home and I loved helping my mother. Why, I wondered, did I need to go to college when this life, here at home, was all I was meant to lead? College would not give me any additional homemaking skills, after all. Yet the expectation of college was so strong that I rarely gave voice to these questions and doubts, and instead focused on learning to keep house while at home and looked forward to the day that I would keep a house of my own.
Looking back, I think we children had too many chores and responsibilities. While I never had a problem with the amount of work I was expected to do, some of my siblings did. While I understand the necessity of spreading out the work in a large family, my sisters and I were turned into mini-mothers as we cooked and cleaned. In addition, while my mother tried her hardest, it was impossible for her to give each of us a lot of personal attention, and we older children often found ourselves raising our younger siblings. I’m all for siblings spending time together, but I think there is something important about the bond between mother and child and I do not think older daughters should be expected to raise their little siblings.