Potatos, Dental Floss, and other Reasons I Should Probably Take Homekeeping Courses

I have a confession to make: the first time I tried to make a baked potato, I microwaved it. Which is bad enough (hello, rubbery starch), but it gets better. I had no idea what the process or logistics of it were, so I had to look it up in a cookbook. Yes: I looked up “how to make a baked potato” in a cookbook – that just seems sad. But wait: it gets *even* better. Whenever I ate a baked potato prepared by mom, it was wrapped with aluminum foil: why, I did not know, but I knew it was a critical element to baked potatoes. So I wrapped my baked potato. And placed it in the microwave. And hit the ‘start’ button. No: the microwave did not explode, and potato guts were not dashed around the kitchen. But the potato didn’t cook – at – all. That’s when I had an inkling I might need to brush up on some culinary skills.

This event took place when I was 24. Yes: 24. [Insert sighing and shaking of heads by those older and wiser than me, or insert sympathetic shrugs from folks who might’ve done something similar – I know y’all have got my back.]

I now know better. And I even have a few cooking tricks up my sleeve thanks to watching countless hours of the Food Network and reading cooking magazines while breastfeeding my oldest son. But it’s only come with time, and I’m nearing my third decade. I’ve been married almost five years, and finances haven’t felt functional until the last year or so. Painting and decorating the house? Done — only in my head (and oh my, it’s pretty: you should visit sometime). And let’s just say that my sewing skills are fairly MacGyveresque thanks to my teacher: my engineer father (did you know that dental floss is three times stronger than regular string? And as a bonus it gives your clothes a minty, or cinnamony, smell).

It’s not that I haven’t had opportunities to learn these “homemaking skills”; it’s that as a high schooler and college student (when they were readily available), I fled from them like I flee from things labeled “hazardous materials”, ‘toxic”, “black eyed peas”, “contains msg”, “country music’s top album”, and “Mr. Bean” (bleck: he’s oogy). My mama probably wanted to teach me the tricks she learned to make the house functional, but I was too busy working at youth camps, dying my hair with Kool-Aid, and watching ‘Animaniacs’ with my friends after school (hello: Peter Pan complex). And now I’m married. And have kids. And am still calling my mama because “Judah needs a halloween costume, and unless you help, he’s going to be MacGyver’s side-kick, aka a giant ball of duct tape.”

So I’ve been hearing rumblings about Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary offering a B.A. in Humanities with a concentration in homemaking. My initial response was a roll o’the eyes: ah, Southern Baptists – thanks for adding fuel to the fire so now more women will be coming to Northwest Emerging Women Leaders events because they’ve been squashdicated in their own denomination.

But then the other day, in the midst of my Halloween conundrum (seriously: I’m not paying $20 for a costume for Abel to wear for ten minutes and then poop on), I thought, “Hmmm: I bet it’s nice to sew, to know what to do with a sewing machine.” And I read a friend’s post about how she orders her day: vacuuming one day, dusting another – what a novel idea! I tend to do those things as part of my aerobic “Oh my gosh people are coming over and the house is a mess and I’m so not a hostess and just a general AAAAAHHHHHH” flurry of preparing for visitors. And let me tell ya: my fam LOVES it when I do this! Cause oh, I’m just a ball of light and graciousness, muttering around the house while wiping everything down with either a Chlorox wipe or Swiffer cloth (see, I don’t even know how to clean. Someone save my kids: Jason knew what he was getting into when he saw my apartment before we got married. Let’s just say I had lived there for two years, and my bed was an air mattress and my bookshelves were liquor boxes: if you’re kind, you’ll just call me eco-friendly :)).

You know: it might be nice to take those classes.

Now, I’m not saying that all women should take courses. And I’m not saying the woman’s place is only in the home. [I also don’t dig the fact that guys can’t take these classes, but that’s a whole other post.] But it seems that today these elements that were passed down from generation to generation just aren’t being passed; either we don’t see the relevance, or we don’t care, or we’re too busy to form relationships with those who could teach us.

As I’ve become friends with women at Bible Fellowship, I’ve been able to share with them my feeble attempts at knitting (which, I just found out last year that I’ve been doing it backwards – hurrah for self-teaching). My dinner swap group has shared recipes and tricks to make food look like Ina Garten came to whip up something “delicious and elegant and so savory for Jeffrey” (lucky Jeffrey). And Flylady: your system may be overly ambitious for this writing/lit/religion/history major, but at least I can glean more doable systems from your readers who submit their comments. And yes: my sink is shiny.

The views shared by the woman in this article struck a chord with me: she spoke sense and reason into the whole “homemaking course” situation. Plus, she seems like one who knows how to make a baked potato in the microwave without short-circuiting the house.

3 thoughts on “Potatos, Dental Floss, and other Reasons I Should Probably Take Homekeeping Courses

  1. Abbie Budd

    Oh my dear friend, I fear we may have been separated at birth…*sigh* What have we put our mothers through?? 🙂
    And just a side note: there is NOTHING wrong with those good old clorox wipes-they are an absolute staple in our house. Dust rags? Not so much. Clorox wilpes in every room of our house? Yes please! hahaha

  2. Robin M.

    I took my homekeeping courses through 4-H as a pre-teen. This could be the saving grace for your kids. When my mother, the college educated daughter of domestic servants, got married, she didn’t know how to do any of those basic things, except sewing. She swore that her children wouldn’t be so burdened. So we learned.

    However, just because I know HOW doesn’t mean I actually care. The Flylady lost me at “wear shoes in the house.” But I did learn from her the trick that it doesn’t matter what kind of soap you use in the toilet – better to use less toxic stuff more often. Well, duh. Why didn’t I think of that?

    At my husband’s elite Eastern university, it is a graduation requirement that everyone must pass a swimming test. (Apparently a student drowned a hundred years ago and the school decided that a Princeton man should know how to swim.) So they offer remedial classes for anyone who can’t at least show rudimentary skills. Can you imagine if every college required students to show at least rudimentary cleaning, cooking, and mechanical repair skills?

    Much of our educational system is still set up for the youth of an agricultural society, a hundred years out of date.

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