Thursday, 27 September 2012

Housewives - your job is the one for which all others exist.

There are many quotes attributed to C.S. Lewis that he simply didn't say.  I came across the following today:

“The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only - and that is to support the ultimate career.”

This quote is scattered across many Christian home-making blogs with attribution to C.S. Lewis.  My first reaction was, "What a great quote!"  But I had to find out where it came from.  It didn't sit right with me because it just didn't sound like Lewis.  'Homemaker' is not a British English word, it is of American origin, we Brits would traditionally be more likely to say 'housewife', although due to the influence of many lovely blogs 'homemaker' has entered my vocabulary now.

Anyway, after much searching online, I found something very similar in one of C.S. Lewis's letters.  The letter is addressed to a 'Mrs. Johnson' and was written in 1955:

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, mines, 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'. (1st to be happy, to prepare for being happy in our own real home hereafter: 2nd, in the meantime, to be happy in our houses.) We wage war in order to have peace, we work in order to have leisure, we produce food in order to eat it. So your job is the one for which all others exist. ~C.S. Lewis, Collected Letters, Narnia, Cambridge and Joy 1950-1963, Volume 3

I'm so glad I found the real quote, I love it! And I love the Dr. Johnson quote too, going to remember that one

What Lewis writes here is so fundamental to the reason that for me home is so important.  Home is about rest, comfort, nourishment, family, safety, and leisure.  Our ultimate home, as Lewis states, is in the hereafter, until then we have our earthly abodes, which, to the best of our ability, we make them a place of refuge until that time has come. For, just as we long down here on earth for that final beautiful rest and joy of heaven, so too, when we are tired and weary, we long for the rest and joy of home.


  1. I never cared for the term 'housewife' because, to me, it sounds like I'm married to my house, LOL!

    Good for you for searching for the truth about the quote and you are also right in that this world is only our temporary home.

    And your last paragraph is just beautiful. :o)

    1. Mrs B - you know I love words so I had to investigate!

      There's an interesting etymology to the word housewife: It's attested from early 13 century from 'husewif' meaning "woman, usually married, in charge of a family or household". The word 'wife' used to be used just to mean woman, but the meaning in old English changed to mean married woman. The old meaning of simply 'woman' is preserved in words like housewife, fishwife, and midwife.

      Interestingly, the word 'husband' comes from 'husbonda' ('hus' meaning house), which means male head of the household; gradually the meaning changed from head of the household to mean simply someone married to a wife.

      So Husband (master of house), housewife (manager of house) - a great team! :)

  2. What Ho! I don't live too far from Lichfield and we go to the Cathedral often. We also visit Dr Johnson's house and once I bought his prayer as a souvenir. I'll try to find it out for you, I think you'll like it.

    Here's another nice derivation to add to your list "lady" means "loaf giver."

    1. What Ho old bean.

      Ooh, how interesting, 'load giver' eh? I wonder how that changed into 'lady'? Words are just fascinating.

      I look forward to reading the prayer! :)

  3. What Ho!
    I've been thinking about this post on and off for a few days. Giving a loved one a happy home is one of the greatest gifts we can give. It takes a lot of self sacrifice and (agape) love, a lot of gentleness and thought and emotionally it is no mean feet. I've worked a lot with kids who are deprived in some way - live in inner city poverty. All of them have Blackberry phones, they're the fashion. None of them have had the gift of a loving and caring home. They were home poor.

    1. Yes, a loving caring home is a real gift.

      It's not just inner-city children who are home poor. I know middle class children who have beautiful clothes and every gadget they could dream of, and yet their parents speak of them like they are a burden, an inconvenience, interfering with the achievement of all their hopes and dreams (i.e. long holidays, no child-care costs, tidy house, clean car, endless nights out...). Their home is full of expensive toys that are never played with (which the parents moan about!). They stay at the child minder or after school club from a very young age, sometimes from being a baby, from 7am til 7pm, when they finally trudge off home exhausted to bed. It makes me ache for these children.

      I'm not suggesting I never complain! I'm only human, but my absolute joy is my family.