Housekeeping: the stuff you have to do to keep people alive and healthy
Homemaking: the kid-raising, relationship-building stuff you do so that someday your family will love each other
Here's why we have to get it right--we get them mixed up all the time. If we think they're talking about housekeeping when we hear that homemaking is the best job in the world, that homemaking's rewards make it worthwhile, that homemaking is the most important role we'll ever take on, etc., we'll be disappointed. And we'll make ourselves crazy.
I once read an article by Anna Quindlen where she complained that she couldn't stay at home all day because she knew that doing nothing but worrying about defrosting freezers would make her crazy. This doesn't mean I don't understand the isolation and unfulfillment stay-at-home moms sometimes feel. And I'm a writer, too, so I get the importance of having outside interests. What I didn't like was the implication that staying at home means nothing but housekeeping. It feels like that sometimes when I'm drowning in laundry, but homemaking goes deeper.
I hate messes, I truly do, but I need to step back from the piles of dust sometimes in order to say to myself, "What am I trying to accomplish here? Have a perfect house or raise some children?" I didn't quit my job in order to iron clothes. I could do that anywhere (and get paid for it, too). I quit my job because I knew I didn't want to be apart from them while they were little (although sanity breaks still come in handy).
This homemaking stuff--being a mama, I mean--goes on for quite awhile. Sometimes it seems like the housework goes on forever, too. Housekeeping is part of the job description because outsourcing it would be difficult. I'm home more, so I do more. Plus, to be honest, I care more. I don't have a built-in dust filter like a man does. But it's only part of what I do. I also kiss knees, pull pasta out of kids' noses, take kids to the park, and break up the kids' fights.
The housekeeping is not what makes my family what it is.
I am not the best housekeeper in the world. I kill plants, I rarely dust, and I hate cooking. I like crafty stuff, but I just don't have time to make crafts a priority. The bathrooms are, honestly, gross. But I'm still a great homemaker because I do a good job taking care of my children. I want to be there for the baby smiles and the funny dinner comments. I'm lucky because I get to do that, and because I even get to do a little work on the side.
And one day, my kids will stop fighting with each other.