In September, I wrote an Ethical Musings' posts about homelessness, reflecting on my experience of not having a residence for five months. While my experience was dramatically different from the experiences of homeless people who live rough on the streets experience, those months did give me a better understanding of the problems of being homeless.
Similarly, once again having a home has awakened a fresh appreciation of the benefits of having a home. A fixed place of abode enables fuller participation in the community and modern life (e.g., voting, mail delivery, and assured internet access). Having a home also provides greater security for the occupants and their possessions. Homes offer a place to sleep, access to potable water and sanitary facilities, and a kitchen in which to both store and prepare food. Perhaps most importantly, a home gives its occupants a place to enjoy the spiritual benefits of safely resting, relaxing, and renewing themselves.
In the US, women now comprise 47% of the labor force. Yet women, on average, still spend more time on household chores than do men (about 2.5 times as many hours!) and consequently have less time for leisure activities than do men (about a half hour less per day). Over the last two decades, these statistics have remained relatively constant.
Ending my months of homelessness has prompted several thoughts:
- Feminism rightly decried the lack of value most societies placed on homemaking and the underlying lack of respect and equality for women by men, women, and cultures.
- The struggle for female equality is not yet won, either in the US and Europe or in other cultures.
- Devaluing homemaking is not the path to female equality. Individuals and families benefit from having a good home. Perhaps one of the contributions that gay married couples will ultimately make to the larger community is to show that homemaking is not a gender-based skill. Similarly, perhaps one of the gifts that lesbian married couples will ultimately make to the larger community is showing that labor force participation is not a gender-based skill. Creating a good home requires considerable skill and effort.
- Most arguments by alleged Christians about family values are at best distractions and at worst actually erode support for one if not both of the two most basic, important family values. Those values are (1) a strong bond between two loving adults who (2) build a good home by sharing responsibilities in way that they have negotiated, embodies healthy interdependence, and is mutually satisfying.
- Researchers are repeatedly finding that the members of strong families enjoy greater prosperity and health. Conversely, persons whose family of origin or choice is broken or severely dysfunctional are more likely to be poor, suffer ill health, and commit crimes. Unfortunately, research also broadly confirms the biblical warning that parental sins and troubles have adverse consequences for children and the children's children.
- In sum, people of faith and society as a whole will benefit from greater public emphasis on the value of good homes and homemaking. Concomitantly, ending homelessness is often the essential first step toward enabling someone to move toward resuming a life of economic independence, positive social engagement, and an existence consonant with God's intent for each of us.