Recently I was in Peru teaching on my book, Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women in Building Healthy Cultures. I talked a lot about the home. Near the end of the week, a woman approached with a surprising observation. She felt I had mostly been talking about doing dishes, sweeping floors, and changing diapers. I was a little shocked. Notwithstanding her perception, that was not what I was saying.
The world’s “vision” of mothering is built on the mechanics of housekeeping, not the glory of homemaking. The Bible envisions the powerful assignment of making of a home (consider, for example, Proverbs 31). Both sexist and feminist cultures have lost sight of this glorious calling, replacing it with merely taking care of a house. Sexists promote, and feminists decry, the picture of a woman barefoot and pregnant, a slave to her mate imprisoned in her house.
But a house is not a home. The family, especially the woman, makes a house into a home.
This is one reason I make the distinction between housekeeping and homemaking. Housekeeping comprises a set of tasks often dreary yet important: cooking, doing dishes, mopping the floor, changing diapers, doing the laundry, etc. Homemaking is the art of turning a house into a home. A housekeeper maintains a structure and a schedule. A homemaker transforms four walls into a place where children can be nourished, a husband can find rest, a family can flourish, and friends can gather.
Of course, making a home entails caring for a home, but at the heart of homemaking is a vision, a picture of a desired future. The wife and mother is the queen of the home, the empress of the forest, the nurturer of nations. In an almost metaphysical way, the home she builds creates the space in her family’s minds and hearts to flourish, to grow, to reach their full potential.
A homemaker transforms four walls into a place where children can be nourished, a husband can find rest, a family can flourish, and friends can gather.
The late Edith Schaeffer comes to mind. Edith, who with her husband Dr. Francis Schaeffer co-founded L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland, wrote about the importance of a meal:
There is no occasion when meals should become totally unimportant. Meals can be very small indeed, very inexpensive, short times taken in the midst of a big push of work, but they should always be more than just food. Relaxation, communication, and a measure of beauty and pleasure should be part of even the shortest of meal breaks.
In our 20s, my wife Marilyn and I lived in the same Swiss village as the Schaeffers. We learned from Edith the art of homemaking. For the Schaeffers, a meal was not simply about food, it was also about community and wonderful discussions. We learned the difference between consuming food and enjoying a meal together. It’s one of the differences between housekeeping and homemaking.
I have been blessed to be married to Marilyn since 1966. She has the vision, and has developed the ability, to convert our abodes into homes. When people walk through our door, they immediately feel at home. Typically, they take off their shoes and quickly have their legs stretched out on the couch. Recently, a young man who stayed in our home used the word magical to express the ambience Marilyn had created.
A home is that magical space where people may flourish. It is the place where children gain their voices to express themselves and grow their wings to soar. It is the place where children have the opportunity to development into the next generation of citizens and leaders of nations. The family is the bedrock of a nation, and a home is where nations are founded and nurtured.
A home is that magical space where people may flourish.
The home is to be a safe, loving environment where children and parents discuss new ideas around the table, enjoy humor, and develop charm and grace. It is to be a place where they grow in wisdom and character, where they can express their frustrations with a school bully or describe how they might have defended a classmate, where they can relate their favorite part of a book, or ask about current events.
Recently, I was meeting with a group of young people in Brazil. During our conversation, more than one reflected “we are the fatherless generation.” My heart was broken, and I was confused. I knew they had both a mother and a father at home. From my experience, fatherlessness meant being raised by a single mother. But this is not what these kids were describing. They had both parents, but their parents were never there. They were too busy with work and their own lives. Many young people never have a meal around the table as a family. The food is prepared and everyone fills a plate and scatters to eat in front of a TV, computer, etc. Housekeeping entails fixing a meal and cleaning up afterward. Homemaking creates a space for the family to commune together. It entails preparing and serving a meal as nutritious and beautiful as the family’s economic situation will allow, and fashioning an atmosphere where the family can engage together around the events of the day, and dream together about the future.
In most cultures in the West, we are swimming against the current when we speak like this. Almost all the pressures of society weigh against this view of womanhood. In my book, Nurturing the Nations, I relate the story of Ann Crittenden as an example.
It was at a Washington, D.C. cocktail party when someone asked, “What do you do?” I replied that I was a new mother, and they promptly vanished. … But the moment of truth came a few years after I had resigned from the New York Times, in order to have more time for my infant son. I ran into someone who asked, “Didn’t you used to be Ann Crittenden?”
When someone catches God’s vision of the power of a mother, when she sees the powerful influence of a woman in her home, she is equipped to embrace such a profound assignment. How can we show women, and men, this vision for the tremendous opportunity that women and mothers have to shape the destiny of their community and nations? This is the task before me. And I have chosen to do this by exposing the writings of a maternal feminist, Lydia Sigourney.
– Darrow Miller
 Darrow Miller, Nurturing the Nations, (IVP Books: 2012), p 245.