Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Woman At Home: A Cottage Industry

A Cottage Industry
A woman at home is, whether she knows it or not, running a small business.  It is her responsibility to see that the machine called Home is run smoothly and efficiently, within a budgeted amount of money, overseeing a multitude of areas, delegating responsibilities, meeting the welfare of those within.  In short, this task is not unlike any other business.
I learned as much about homemaking from the books on how to run a business as I did from the housekeeping manuals, cookbooks, and such that I chose at the library.  The Bible also refers to the Proverbs 31 woman as a woman with a head for business as well as homemaking.  "She makes linen garments and sells them."   "She considers a field and buys it....and plants a vineyard out of her earnings."  "She sees that her trading is profitable..."  I remember as well that S.H.E. was an acronym for Sidetracked Home Executives, a phrase coined by two women who turned their business acumen to their homes' organizational and cleaning needs.  This was the basis of Fly Lady's success!  Indeed, home is run as a business.

Inventory Control.  I began to grasp this when I worked in a position where it was necessary for me to order supplies for our company.  Past experience had taught me that we were going to use certain products time and time again, others only on an as needed basis.  I thought it far more economical to stock up on the always needed items when on sale, getting the best possible price for the most used items.  Using my method the company noticed a decrease in operational costs.  It occurred to me while I was doing this job that the same theory put into practice at home, could be a huge bonus.  Unfortunately while working I had little time to devote to the pursuit of the best sales for home goods.  Thankfully that all changed when I became a stay at home mom.

My family has grown accustomed to having a never ending supply of personal care products and foods on hands.  Granted sometimes the stock varies from brand to brand, but I have the satisfaction of knowing that each item is bought at the least cost to us, that we have an ample supply to last us several weeks, and sometimes months and we seldom experience an outage of any non-perishable product.

The same principle is applied to clothing and other items, such as school and office supplies.

Housekeeping, Maintenance and Repair.   A clean and neat home is important to the well being of those within.  Show me an ill kept home with clutter abounding and I'm willing to bet you'll find a home where the individuals within suffer from some neglect as well, if nothing more than a lack of discipline and a failure to learn responsibility.
No business worth it's salt can get by without a proper maintenance and repair man.  In my home, these tasks are delegated to those most suited to the task.  I am a whiz at repairing clothing and  certain small household appliances.  Chance is far better with some mechanized items and a variety of home and furniture repairs.  In the past, we found one son had a strong inclination for electronics and a daughter had a gentle but firm veterinary manner that the animals respected and trusted.  Our youngest son has a real love and knowledge of mechanics that has helped us do repairs on the vehicles while Kay excelled in computer and technological problem solving. 

Chance and I have picked up those skills we could learn on our own (or by watching the children as they worked) and we have no problem hiring out those tasks that are beyond our skill level.  Even if no particular skill is to be had in any of these areas, a maintenance manager would see that the proper agencies were called to make these repairs and do all within their ability to maintain each piece of clothing, equipment and furnishings in top condition.

Maintenance also speaks of being a good steward to things of the home.  Noticing that a hem is beginning to fray, keeping a record of service for the car or lawnmower, making note on the calendar to change a filter or clean a fan at the beginning of the month will insure trouble is prevented at a later time.

Essentially that is also what housekeeping is about: maintaining the items within the home.  Floors that are routinely vacuumed, swept or mopped are going to last far longer than those which never are cleaned.  Dust removed from surfaces will keep appliances (that means TVs and computers, too) from overheating.  A bit of baking soda and vinegar down the drains, followed by hot water is going to keep pipes clog free and restore the natural ph of a septic system.

Health, Nutrition, and Welfare.  A homemaker generally finds herself playing doctor, nurse, psychologist and social services director at some point in her homemaking life.  A homemaker begins her job by providing sound basic nutrition to maintain optimum health.  Experience eventually teaches her which ailments require the skill of a professional and which might be handled at home using natural or over the counter remedies.
She oversees the general good mental health of each family member and is cheerleader, motivational coach, disciplinarian or confidant as is needed.

Fiscal Management.  A  homemaker should know within a few dollars the amount of money required to run her 'industry' each month and be able to responsibly manage that budgeted amount.  The smaller the budget the more difficult the task...yet a homemaker with experience often can manage as well in times of too little money as she does in more prosperous times.  I've met few who even in the most difficult times didn't manage some small savings that counted as bonus amounts towards items the family might not have afforded otherwise.
Creativity Director.   A few women assure me they haven't a creative bone in their bodies...Let me assure you whether you have a knack for decorating or crafts or not, any woman who manages to put meals on the table 7 days a week while operating under a budget, who gets a family up, dressed and out the door on a daily basis, who manages to pull together a party or entertainment for a family member on next to no budget a day or two before the event...that woman is creative!     A few are even more blessed and able to furnish a home from milk crates and street side finds or make a gourmet meal from basic pantry ingredients or dress their entire family using an old blanket and three flat sheets.
It's amazing how creative any of us can be when necessity demands it!  Without a lot of money at our disposal in the early days of our newly formed large family, we still managed to do something special at least once a month and often twice a month when we had all the children together.  It cost little or nothing to make sugar cookies and let them decorate them at Christmas or for other holidays.  We often visited parks and museums that cost only a minor entrance fee and packed picnic lunches.  Those days are still recalled fondly by our children and did much to foster the feeling of being part of a family unit.

Continuing Education Department.  Some women are called to homeschool their children.  Some are content to rely on a standard school system, but provide additional opportunities for learning at home.  Most homemakers learn new skills all throughout their lives, so that a woman who didn't know how to sew or can or garden, may acquire those skills as she matures.  I've taught my own children how to cook, how to craft, how to shop for clothing on a budget, how to drive.  I've imparted a love of reading and writing to all of them, as well as a desire to create a peaceful and secure home life for their own families.

Allowing our children to take on part of homemaking (aka chores) or in caring for younger ones we also taught them the meaning of responsibility.  It was sometimes necessary, when a child showed an interest in a certain area, to learn the subject ourselves, or at least enough about it to be informed and aware of what that interest constituted.  Kay learned a good deal about camping courtesy the fun her brother made of a mock camp set up one year.  Granny taught me the names of various weeds and plants, birds, trees and crops that I had a working knowledge of these things to pass on to my children. 

Children are sponges and they learn all sorts of things.  Adults can adopt the childlike curiosity and wonder and learn many things themselves. And in continuing to show an interest in learning new skills or studying new subjects we instill that lifelong love of learning in our children.

All homemakers teach their families certain skills if by no other means than imitation.  It is wise to be aware of what we are providing in the way of continuing education opportunities as our children grow.

C.F.O:  This is a term Chance has taken to using of late when we're out in public stores making purchases.  He unloads the groceries and then steps aside.  "Let me introduce you to the CFO of our home," he'll say.  It never fails to earn him a smile from the clerk behind the counter, but it's certainly made me aware of the awesome responsibility of managing the household portion of our account. 

The Chief Financial Officer is the one who signs the checks, approves budgets and monitors spending...Sounds like a job that requires attention to detail, care, integrity and good common sense doesn't it?  Once upon a time I wasn't very good at this task and that wasn't such a very long time ago at all.  I routinely robbed Peter to pay Paul, hid spending, and avoided the obvious facts.  We were spending more than we made.  It was a real wake-up call to my husband the day he discovered my deceits.  It was a bigger wake up call to me when he looked me in the eye and said "Here's the checkbook.  Let's start again on this and you figure out how to make it work.  Ask me when you have a question, but learn to manage the money wisely!" 

Humbling?  Oh my gracious yes!  Was my husband dumping all the responsibility for our home finances into my lap?  He was not.  He handles a good portion of the responsibility himself, but he made me very aware that I couldn't bury my head in the sand either, nor could I do whatever I pleased as I pleased and hoped the piper didn't show up to play anytime soon.  And he did me a great deal of good in making me take responsibility for a portion of the money that comes into our home and use it to run our household.

Today I proudly accept the title of C.F.O. of Household accounts and I do the job rather well.  I still have a hiccup now and then, but when I see a problem arising I go straight to the Chief Executive Officer and let him know and we work out a solution together.  That's as it should be.

So you see...Home is indeed a cottage industry.  Perhaps some of us find a way to make a living from our home, and turn a profit.  Perhaps it's merely managing a bit of savings each month from the money required to run the home, but it's a business nonetheless. 

1 comment:

Kim @ Him, Him Me said...

Thank you for this post. It has helped put a few things into perspective for me. I am in the middle of reading all your posts on this blog and have although you are in the USA and I'm in the UK, I am finding some good advice here.