Hello friends! It has been one busy month! I can proudly report that my husband has finished up his a-school, and gotten stationed, and that I am now with him at our new base in beautiful Bavaria! We got lucky, and I was able to make it over before our anniversary. Our beloved dog is staying with some family stateside for the time being, because you can’t fly animals when the temperature is too high (I did not know that until about a week and a half ago). Our furniture and all of our belongings are on their way over, but they’re currently somewhere on the Atlantic, and we won’t see them until mid-September at the earliest. Until then, we’re living in a big empty two-bedroom townhouse with a rented bed, rented couch, and rented dining room table/chairs.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. What does all this have to do with homemaking (since that is why most of you are here), and why should you care, right? Well, I’ve learned a lot about homemaking the last couple weeks as I do my best to turn an empty house into a welcoming home. That’s why I wanted to set the scene for you.
Now, if you’re thinking “how much work can there be to do in an empty house,” let me tell you, you’d be surprised. While the house is in great shape, there’s a lot of little detail cleaning that needs done, and the yard is completely overgrown. I spent an entire day just weeding the sidewalk so that you could walk to the front door without feeling like you were traipsing down a forest path! You’d also think that it should be easier to keep a house clean when you have two suitcases of belongings, but again…you’d be surprised at how quickly things get scattered everywhere and end up making clutter.
But! All is not lost. This has given me a great opportunity to figure out what I absolutely need in order to feel at home, as well at what’s most important to my husband in regards to feeling at home. Both of us talked about it, and we pinned it down to three fundamental things:
- Home-cooked meals
Each of these things can be expanded on as we get our furniture, and really just carried through to every aspect of homemaking. But for now, let’s talk about each of these three things, and what I mean by them.
Easily the biggest difference between a house and a home for the two of us is companionship. See, my husband had moved from the barracks over to our house before I got to the base. He spent about a month in the barracks with all the single soldiers because there wasn’t a residence ready and available for us. Once he got into the house though, he regularly would tell me over the phone that it didn’t feel like home, even though he was starting the process of settling in for the next three years.
Without someone to share it with, it simply wasn’t a home. It was four walls and a bed. A place he could come after work to shower, play some video games, sleep, and then do it all over again the next day. He might as well have still been in the barracks(which he described as glorified dorm rooms) or a hotel. Sure, he spent time with the guys from his unit, they’d go out together and grab meals together, but every night he was still coming home to an empty house, and empty room, and an empty feeling.
Even if you’re both busy working full time(trust me, because we did it for a year), and don’t ave time for all the other parts of homemaking, just being there for each other and making time and space for one another makes such a big difference. It’s the key behind a happy marriage and home.
So how am I establishing companionship now? Well, this is actually one of the simplest, but most overlooked parts of homemaking in my experience. Companionship is about actively making time for one another, and sharing experiences. It’s not as simple as just existing in the same space. Being a companion is about meeting each other’s needs, sharing goals, and being emotionally intimate.
I know my husband can’t tell me about his work, but I know it stresses him out, like any job would. So part of how I’m a good companion to my husband is to create an environment which can help reduce his stress hen he gets home. I may only have my cell phone to act as a stereo, but I put on his favorite music before he gets home. I have dinner ready or almost ready so that he has time to get changed and cleaned up, but he doesn’t feel like he needs to help with dinner, after all, he’s done enough all day long and it’s my turn to care for him. I prepare one of his favorite drinks when he gets home, and no, it’s not always alcoholic, though there’s nothing wrong with occasionally greeting your husband with a martini or a beer. After dinner I offer to give him a back massage. He carries a lot of tension in his shoulders, and it helps him relax when I can give him a massage.
We establish and share goals together. A big one is now that we’re both here at our new base, I want to find a congregation. We’ve been looking at what’s nearby and talking to other couples to find out about the local congregations. We’ve also taken the time to pray together before dinner each night. Additionally, my husband has asked me to put together a bucketlist of places to visit while we’re stationed in Germany, so that we can start planning for different trips.
Being emotionally intimate comes naturally when you open up your hearts and lives to one another. I see a lot of Christian bloggers advise men not to “vent” to their wives, or unload emotional baggage on them, but sharing the weight of each others emotions makes us stronger as a couple. It doesn’t make my husband weak in my eyes for him to tell me when he’s stressed, upset, or having a bad day. It gives me the opportunity as his wife to step up and be a proper help-meet. It let’s me fulfill my role as his support, in the same way that telling him about my emotional struggles let’s him guide and care for me.
Yup, I said it. Homecooked meals will always be a key part of homemaking in my book, and I honestly believe that there’s something missing if you’re always eating out, ordering takeout, or have a stockpile of TV dinners. We’ve got one skillet, one pot, a cookie sheet, a spatula, one dull knife, and two place-settings right now. And do you want to know something? Our first night together in the house, the very first night I was there(which happened to be his birthday), I made us dinner. Chicken carbonara. With a bottle of rosé to split.
His mom was furious! She thought we needed to go out to dinner. How dare he “make” me cook. She sent him an essay of a text message about how she wouldn’t tolerate that because if he had been ‘home’ she would have made sure he got a party and to go out to dinner. Spoiler alert, it was my idea to cook, it was also his idea that I cook for his birthday. I had spent the last year listening to him tell me how much he missed my cooking, and how he couldn’t wait to sit down at our own table and to eat something I’d made for him. He told me that being able to come home and eat something I made meant more to him about “home” than anything else.
Now, that’s not to say that you should never eat out. I plan a date night once a week where we go out together and enjoy dinner and an activity. Dates are still important for your marriage, just as they were for courting, and it gives you a day off as well. But five or six nights a week, we eat dinner at home, at our(rented) table, with phones on silent.
If you’re limited on what’s available, like me with my half dozen cooking tools right now, then let me assure you, dinner does not have to be fancy in order to bring value to your homemaking. Almost everything I’ve made the last two weeks has been single pan meals, or else has included stuff that can be prepped before hand so that I’m able to get it ready without scrambling.
It’s also important for me to make sure that I’m meeting my families nutritional needs when I’m cooking. Sure, I could make pizza every night, but it would get boring quick, and it’s not super healthy. Right now, low carb high protein meals are important to my husband. So I’ve been making a lot of meat dishes, and substituting starches in the meals. Rice becomes cauliflower, hamburger buns become lettuce wraps, ect…
I make a point of having dinner ready or almost ready when my husband gets home. He’s got a twenty minute drive from work to the house. So he’s been calling me when he’s leaving to let me know he’s on the way. During the day I’m prepping as much as possible for dinner(today I mixed up homemade meatballs and set them inside the fridge to rest) so that I can cut down on cooking time. Days when he gets off earlier, I just push back cooking to my normal time and let him relax and play video games while I’m cooking.
Finally, we get to number three on our list. Routine is really about consistency though. It’s the comfort of knowing that when he comes home each night, it’ll be to a clean house, with dinner cooking, and that all his gear has a specific place to go, and he doesn’t need to be disoriented each day.
Every morning he can get ready for work quickly and easily, because even though we don’t have a dresser, all his stuff has been organized in the closet. Every evening dinner is ready when he gets home. Every night he has time to pack his gym bag for the next morning, knowing his dirty stuff from that day will be clean and ready to go the next night. Every Saturday we have a plan for what we want to do that day, and a place picked out for out date night. Every Sunday we make breakfast together, he helps with yard work that requires a bit more muscle, and we do our grocery shopping. I’m hoping that pretty quickly here we have church fit into that Sunday schedule, but even while we look for a church, it’s consistent and reliable.
We make time for friends, hobbies, and shared interests. We make sure there’s a chance to explore the area around us and meet new people. But we also have the comfort and stability of a routine in the home. That routine is just as meaningful for him as it is important for me. My routine in homemaking gives him the structure and stability he needs from a home. That let’s him focus more on being a good provider and a good husband, while I focus on being the best wife I can be.
Tying it all Together
When you get down to it, there aren’t too many steps to actually making a home. Each of those things requires care and affection though. In the end, it’s about how much love you can fill inside a house. I’d like to challenge everyone to determine what they need as the bare minimum in order to call a house their home. If you were on the road, staying in a hotel because of repairs or remodeling at your house, or relocating and didn’t have all your household belongings, how would you make that space into a home?