For most of my life, I didn't give much thought to the meaning of the word homemaker. When I did think about the term, I usually thought of it as a mostly meaningless label applied to women who stayed at home, usually taking care of kids. Homemaker, in my opinion, was a term that the corporate world had come up with to make a life of diaper changes and laundry baskets something that you could sum up on an official document.

After my first year of marriage, it became increasingly clear that the life I had intended to live - one that included getting a college degree and then having a family - wasn't working out in the way I had wanted it to. Because of serious health problems, I was finding it more and more difficult to deal with the rigors of student life, and I knew that I needed to make a change. However, due to those same health problems, I also knew that I would not be able to pursue motherhood in the near future.

I was left wondering what I could do with my life. I had never known a woman who stayed home full time without having children. What kind of contribution could I make to the world if I wasn't able to get my degree, work at a meaningful career, or raise children?

These life changes led me on a journey of discovery that lasted several years. In that time, I came to realize just how important the role of homemaker really is, whether or not children are a part of the picture. I realized just how much influence I had over the atmosphere of my home, and just what a big difference I could make in my own life, my husband's life, and even the lives of friends and family who came to visit.

Since I made the shift from full-time student to being a stay-at-home wife, I've learned that I have the incredible privilege and responsibility of making my home a haven - a place of peace, calm, and sanctuary, where love and happiness can be felt by those within.

Here are three simple things that have helped me to find happiness in my role as a homemaker:

1. Figure out what matters to you

For some people, having an immaculate home is a must. For others, a little friendly chaos just makes things feel more homey and lived-in. Rather than seeking to make your home match somebody else's standards, figure out what priorities are important to your family. If keeping the floor clear of clutter is imperative, but having trendy home décor isn't, that's just fine. If the dishes don't get done right after dinner because you're too busy playing a family game, embrace that moment of togetherness and let the clean-up wait.

The important thing is that you find what aspects of homemaking matter most to you and your family. What makes you feel at peace? What fosters love and connection among the members of your family? Focus on these things. In the end, your priorities will go a long way in creating the spirit of your home.

2. Pursue homemaking like any other course of study

When I made the transition to staying at home full-time, I knew that I didn't want my days to become meaningless, blurring together without any structure to define them.

To help get myself excited about my new lifestyle, and to help bring meaning and purpose to my days, I decided to pursue homemaking just like I would any other new career or course of study. I tried lots of different projects and researched techniques for cleaning, cooking, decorating, and other aspects of creating a home. I learned which tasks and projects enriched our home and brought joy into my life and which merely added a lot of work. I read what other women had to say about the importance of homemaking, and formulated my own ideas.

Although full-time homemaking was very different from anything I'd ever done before, I found that I could bring the same enthusiasm and excitement to my new job that I had previously brought to academic and career pursuits. Treating homemaking like any other important pursuit, rather than regarding it as a failure to do more important things, helped me to find joy and fulfillment in my life as a stay-at-home wife.

3. Embrace imperfection

Just like any career or other pursuit, it can be easy to feel like you're falling short in creating the perfect home. In our modern age, it's easy to be bombarded on a daily basis with images of perfection - floors that are always spotless, counter tops that never need to be wiped down, and beautifully decorated homes that seem flawless in every detail.

However, as with anything, I quickly found that expecting perfection from myself as I set about creating a home led to nothing but frustration and disappointment. Only after I had accepted that my efforts would never be perfect, and come to embrace my home as representative of my unique personality and style, was I able to be content with my efforts.

Although it's often a path that is overlooked and even belittled by the world, homemaking can be a source of great happiness and satisfaction. Whether you are working to create a home while also holding down an outside job, raising children, or embracing the stay-at-home lifestyle due to disability or other reasons, following these guidelines can help you to find fulfillment as a homemaker - just like they did for me.

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