Titus 2:4-5 tells us that as wives and mothers we should be “busy at home”–and frankly, with homeschooling eight children, gardening, canning, and trying to get back-to-basics with cooking from scratch, I never thought of myself as lazy. Busy at home? No doubt, yes!
Since moving to Africa, however, I have a whole new take on “busy.” Without the modern conveniences of a running water, electricity (and thus, washing machine, dishwasher, refrigerator/freezer, vacuum cleaner), and even a car to run to the grocery store, my American “busy” pales in comparison to our daily routine here. And the African Mamas around me are even busier! (You can read more about my sense of inadequacy here.)
In transitioning from one very different culture to another, I see how we American Moms fill our time with things that these African Moms don’t even contemplate. We research about the benefits of freezer cooking and spend days bulk shopping and then cooking, filling Ziploc bags with family-sized entrees for the next thirty days, while here many Moms literally work for their daily bread. They don’t have a freezer to fill, so at the market you’re more likely to find single-serving sizes than bulk quantities of anything.
Also on the subject of food, in America we have a tendency to want our menu to be diverse, palate-pleasing, and even nicely displayed. This takes a lot of time. Yet here, it’s not uncommon for people to drink tea for breakfast and eat ugali (essentially a cornmeal mash) for both lunch and dinner. Dinner ugali is, however, usually complimented by boiled greens. For the most part, there is little seasoning used (beyond, perhaps, some salt), and food is typically either boiled and mashed, or fried in a bit of oil. Not much done for taste or presentation; food is just fuel for the body. Saves time in cooking and money on “non-essentials,” too. Menu-planning (another time-sink for many of us in America) is also not a thought in the average African’s mind.
Many of these rural-living Moms and children have never left their village. Without cars and co-ops and extra-curricular activities, very often you will see them simply working together hoeing in the fields. When their work is done, whole families will lounge under a shade tree, just enjoying each others’ company. When the afternoon rains come, they hunker down and sip tea together. These children have never known a museum or a library or a park; their amusement is old bike tire and a stick or tree-climbing or a game of hide-and-seek. Are they deprived? They don’t seem to think so.
And don’t even get me started on television, video games, and electronic devices, which take so much away from the modern family, both parents and children. We think we’re “busy at home,” but surfing the Internet doesn’t really count.
I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with menu planning, or cooking tasteful food or setting a nice table or freezer cooking. In meditating on the changes in my life and on the simplicity of the lives of the women around me, however, I do see that in America it is easy to busy ourselves with things that, perhaps, we really don’t need to. I’m not making any judgments–just sharing observations. I don’t expect that you’re going to “go African.” After all (just by way of example), in my area we have a pretty much year-round growing season, which precludes canning or freezing food for the sake of economics; that’s not really negotiable for most frugal Americans. However, I hope that seeing things from a slightly different perspective will prompt you to self-evaluate in some of these areas. Ask yourself: how much of your busy-ness is self-induced, and how much is essential? Are you “too busy,” or are you just distracted? Can you streamline your home management and simplify your routines so that you can do more of what the Lord really called you to do–love your husband and children, and live for the honor and glory of God?
By: Cindy Carrier