There is hardly one of us who has not heard, from physician or family or friends, a great deal about the dangers of over-work.
Today, when we are all trying to do more work and harder work than ever before, the danger bulks very large and close at hand. But--I honestly believe that there is not one-half the danger in over-work that there is in under-play.
Under-play is something about which we have heard very little. Has it ever once occurred to us, for instance, that the woman who one day dropped her pots and pans and fled out into "A vagrant's morning wide and blue, In the early fall, when the wind walks too," was doing a virtuous thing! Why, no, indeed! she was leaving her work undone, her day's plans all awry. What of her beds unmade and her twelve o'clock dinner to cook?
"Efficiency" is the modern cry. Efficiency is an excellent thing in my kitchen but it must leave some room for my soul to grow. A schedule of duties is an excellent thing, in my day, if it be elastic enough to include other values than those of immaculate floors and carefully prepared food. We are all of us too apt--and this applies especially to the most conscientious of us--to postpone the things we should like to do until the things we think we ought to do are done. And that time seems never to come.
We plan for cooking and cleaning; for washing and ironing; for canning and preserving and sewing and mending; for special duties of winter and spring and summer and fall. Do we plan as carefully for reading, for pleasure, for outings or pleasant home afternoons and evenings? And--let us put this question,--even when we do claim for ourselves, either deliberately or on sudden impluse, a little leisure for enjoyment or diversion, do we include the family--all of the family--in our pleasure and rest plans?
To be a Home Mother is the biggest and most beautiful part of being a Housekeeper.
The human relationship is the most valuable thing, as well as the most mysterious and beautiful thing, in the family and in the world. The woman who is merely a mechanic as far as life is concerned, getting work "done" and losing soul-contact with the workers, is cheating herself of the charm that is her birthright and of the love that is her due. You and I simply cannot afford to get along without the intangible possessions of life, which, after all, are the only "real." The state of being a real mother or a real daughter or a real friend, is the only "real" estate which does not change value or suffer loss! I shall never tire of the story told in verse, of the woman who, having only two loaves, "Sold one, and with the dole, bought hyacinths to feed her soul."
Inevitably, as she enriched her own life, she enriched those about her. I can admire even more that woman who, not daring to sell the one loaf which must feed her children, should presently take those children with her out to the fields where daisies grow. To my mind, one of the most wonderful individuals I have known is a washerwoman living in a large city, who, after a hard day's work in another woman's kitchen, takes her two little sons, in the evening, to a free municipal concert to "feed her soul" and theirs.
We have never needed to cherish our ideals as we need to cherish them now. And that we may cherish our ideals it is absolutely imperative that we perserve our necessary leisure and fill it full of warm and pleasant thoughts.