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Don’t Let Instagram Or HGTV Distort Your Picture Of A Life-Filled Home

Served up gorgeous images in magazines, on HGTV, and on Instagram, we can be caught in the trap of turning our houses into personal brands rather than into family-building homes.

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We’ve all seen those articles calculating what a mother would earn on the free market. No matter how high they estimate a wage for motherhood and homemaking, we all know it’s ridiculous.

There is no price we can put on late-night feedings, intense parenting conversations, or making a grocery trip both frugal management and a fun preschool field trip. Some people might pay a salary to nannies and personal chefs, but that is not the standard that determines a mother’s value.

In a society where schools and universities think their job is qualifying people for careers, it seems like being a stay-at-home mom is throwing any diploma or degree away. Many are still brave enough to do it. Many committed moms also have jobs, yet prioritize motherhood and homemaking and feel the feminist flak.

Why Martha Stewart Isn’t a Homemaking Model

After a schooling career that ignored the importance of home and family, it’s no wonder so many moms feel uncertain about their roles and unequipped for them. We look around for a manual so we can stop feeling like failures.

That’s why Martha Stewart was such big business. She tapped into the desire and longing for homes that were more than wayside refueling pits, serving up enough tips and lists and recipes to keep women coming so she could sell advertising to us — and she made a lot of money doing it.

But Stewart was building a brand, not a home. Presented with gorgeous image after gorgeous image in magazines, on HGTV, and on Instagram, we can be caught in that trap: trying to turn our houses into personal brands rather than domains for family-building.

When we copy the people making money off selling advertising to women, it’s no wonder we don’t become more successful homemakers — that’s never been the point. Their goal is to encourage women to buy more things. Advertising works by stirring discontent.

Woven into the tips and craft instructions, embedded in the gorgeous photography, are the seeds of discontent with real homes, where nothing ever turns out the way it does on a production set. Homes used and lived in by people being raised up into the next generation often don’t reflect the crafted aesthetic we’d prefer.

Homes Are a Tool for Building People

Unlike Stewart’s staged house, our homes are a different kind of stage: for the drama of real life. No one would pay money to see our little dramas acted out, but they’re meaningful nonetheless. While Stewart and other influencers use the home as a tool to build a business, we can use our homes as a tool to build people.

Building people is better for the economy than building businesses because people are a prerequisite. Without people, there is no business, no economy, no society. How can it be more fulfilling to build a business than a family?

In creating families, homes, and communities then, we mothers can be brilliant, strategic, and successful. Women are uniquely created to be nurturers and life-givers. If we focus our efforts on building up healthy, happy people, the world will feel the effects — even if it never knows why it happened or where the change started. The world needs more gospel in it, and every functioning Christian family is a mini gospel message, shining light into the darkness.

The Most Important Job in the World

Functioning families are so fundamental and vital to society that one-half of a married couple is devoted to cultivating them with all her creative and productive energy. The other half is devoted to providing for them and protecting them.

C.S. Lewis explains the power of women in his famous quote on homemaking: “I think I can understand that feeling about a housewife’s work being like that of Sisyphus (who was the stone rolling gentleman). But it is surely in reality the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, miners, cars, government etc. exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? As Dr. Johnson said, ‘To be happy at home is the end of all human endeavour.’”

Men can build houses or set up camps, but it takes a woman to have a home and a family. A man cannot do it alone. Homes are not just a pit stop, a personal hideout, or a place where everyone refuels before they go back out into the world where important work is done. They are tools for creating, serving, and raising people, and a woman’s power is, in part, in taking the resources available to her and making a home in which life’s most significant relationships thrive. Homes are worth pouring our lives into without a salary or benefits.

After all, a mother gets a richer reward than a paycheck — though the reward can be easily overlooked when we stew in discontent and envy after spending hours in front of disguised advertising each day.

As Lewis points out, the work that happens out in the world flows back to the home. Without healthy, happy homes to support, the work of the world finds no purpose or satisfaction.

Where to Find More Apt Role Models

Martha Stewart, HGTV, Instagram, and Pinterest are not our best sources of homemaking help, just as paychecks and good grades are not our best sources of fulfilling feedback.

Look around you in your real, in-person, local community. Where are the older moms who love their families? Seek them out. Ask them questions. Don’t be put off when their answers don’t match your expectations for how things are supposed to look and happen. Listen and learn wisdom.

Band together with other moms and swap tips, sharing a meal together in your average, everyday home life. Work together to teach your children how to share and speak kindly during play dates.

Motherhood is a business beyond wages. Investing our very selves into the work yields far greater returns than any job we may or may not take. Degree or not, paid work or not, a mother’s skills are put to their best use in the home, building people not brands.


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