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.
We children all had chores – with the amount of work needed to run a household of fourteen people, there was no other option. Besides, my parents believed work was good for children. I don’t mean that we had chores like essentially every other American child does, I mean we had CHORES. For a while, I did all the laundry for the family, and at another time I did all the cooking. Children were given chores starting when they could walk, and they were expected to do their chores each morning before breakfast, or they were not allowed to eat. I actually did not mind having chores one little bit. I had a lot of work to do, of course, but I loved the sense of accomplishment when I completed it.
Chores were 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 seen 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 was especially close to one specific little sister. She was born at the moment I became a teenager, and it was almost like she was my own baby. When she was hurt or upset, she would come to me rather than to my mother. I saw this same pattern play out again several years later when one of my middle sisters, who was about six at the time, practically adopted the newest baby, getting her dressed in the morning, feeding her, carrying her around, and putting her down for naps. This sort of attachment was encouraged.
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 in (homeschool) high school, 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.