Planners, manners and spanners: learning the art of home management

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Sharon Rogers, mother of four, wanted to explore ways to manage her home life and family better for when she returns to part time work after taking a break.

Julie James has been running her very full household for 40 years, but is enjoying taking a more professional approach to her work and passing on knowledge to her adult children.

And Rosemary Tedesco, mother of three, was thrilled to find a mentally-stimulating course that would fit into her busy schedule and equip her with practical skills.

The three women belong to the current crop of students undertaking the part-time Diploma of Home Management offered by Kenvale College in Sydney.

The hospitality college based at Kensington also offers a variety of courses in hospitality, cookery, and events management.

Its home management course, run in different locations in Sydney and Singapore, covers the practical and philosophical aspects of creating and managing a family home.

Carmen Pavia, the course’s curriculum co-ordinator, is passionate about promoting the work of caring for a family and its home, especially as much valuable knowledge is no longer passed down via traditions between the generations.

“The public and private value of the family home is very much undervalued in our current society,” she says.

Student by student, her mission is to address the lack of understanding and appreciation of person-centred service which is evident throughout the hospitality industry and especially with respect to unpaid work in the family.

Each person and whole societies are enriched when the work of caring for family members and the home environment is truly valued, she says.

And our homes are the places where the work is done which is most effective for the social, political, economic and sustainable development of societies.

This is because “home is the natural ecology of the human person”, she explains.

“In the home we learn the interpersonal skills and other skills that are necessary and readily transferable to places of learning, to the workplace, and in personal, social and political life.” Many would agree, particularly stay-at-home mothers and fathers, and carers of elderly relatives or family members with disabilities or other special needs who struggle to find recognition and real support for their work. The problem is only worsening. It is increasingly difficult, for example, for mothers to leave or take a few years’ break from the paid workforce to care for and educate even very young children.

Tony Farley, executive director of the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations, recently called out budget changes to family payments as a “a new regime that discriminates against single earner families and will hurt stay-at-home mums and their children”.

“There’s an ugly philosophy underpinning these changes that says that choosing to raise your children full time is neither valued nor respected and should attract a financial penalty,” he said.

It is this philosophy which is addressed, in part, by the Home Management course.
Julie – she and her husband have 10 children – has also been a carer for one son with an intellectual disability, a teacher of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and a volunteer pregnancy counsellor.

She knows that her service done out of love is no less valuable than any other kind of career path she could have chosen to follow, and contributes greatly to her family and society.

“This course has made me see that looking after my home and family is a genuine profession, and I can treat it that way, not like it’s something that’s not very important,” she says.

She’s found the practical assignments in the course curriculum to be challenging yet easily incorporated into her life.

“We had an event-management assignment to do and I had my son’s 21st birthday coming up,” she says. “So because I chose to do this party for my assignment I had it planned out six weeks before; I knew what I was going to do each week in the lead-up to prepare for it.

“We had to do a budget, plan a menu, choose a theme, decorate, and delegate where we could.

“Everybody in my family had a job, and we outsourced some of the cooking to friends.

“Before the course I wouldn’t have done any of that,” she laughs. “It would have been very stressful!”

Students have mostly been mothers and grandmothers, but also carers to other relatives, and women wanting to create homes which are warm, welcoming and functional with a maximum of love and a minimum of fuss.

Past students have described it as transformative for them and for their families.

Everything to do with the home and family is covered, from anthropology, beauty, design and current technologies, to cooking and entertaining, first aid, and money-saving home, clothing and car maintenance tips.

As the practical assessments in areas such as home finance, time management, and decluttering are completed at home, family members quickly realise that, in the words of one graduate, “creating and running a good home is a serious commitment of love and sacrifice and a mentally, creatively and organisationally challenging enterprise”.

Graduate Veronika Sieben says: “Very often women believe that they can only achieve perfection outside the home as if time spent with their family is stolen from the development of their personality.

“But the truth is that the attention a woman gives to her family will always be a woman’s greatest dignity because hers is a mission that can only be really accomplished by a woman.”

Elizabeth McKeown, another graduate, agrees: “In our society currently, women often see the need for work in the home as restricting their potential for personal development. They seek fulfilment solely in paid career employment.

“It makes a difference when the homemaker sees that in this work, too, she can develop her own personality and character and her sense of individual style, utilise her talents and acquire new knowledge and skills.

“All work ultimately finds its meaning in love. And the work at home is done directly for those who are most intimately loved, spouse, children and other family members.”

Former graduate Catherine Abacum adds that it’s true that ‘the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world’.

“If women truly realised the fullness of what their roles mean, then they wouldn’t be tempted by the false idea that they are primarily the oppressed gender and that they have to be like men to earn respect.”

Sharon, whose four children are aged three to 18, was attracted to the whole idea of the course but wanted especially to reduce the chaos of family life and run her home more smoothly.

“I just wanted to learn how to make our home a more efficient and, at the same time, more comfortable place and, in the meantime, to be able to pass on tips to my elder daughter,” she says. The first semester came with the unexpected benefit of discovering a new connection with one of her teenage sons – over the cake mixer trying out ideas from the course’s kitchen module.

“It’s been a fantastic bonding experience,” she says.

“He doesn’t talk much, but when he’s in the kitchen with me we have these lovely conversations.

“With the menu-planning we had to do as part of the course, my whole family got involved. It’s been a good family-bonding experience.”

Rosemary has found the most useful part of the course so far was an exercise in evaluating exactly what and how much work she does at home for her husband and children aged seven, nine and 11.

“It has highlighted for me just how important unpaid work is because it does have tremendous value,” she says.

“Even my husband and children, after seeing me do assignments and asking me about them and being intrigued by what I’m learning, began to value how much I do for them.”

Another huge bonus Rosemary is grateful for couldn’t be more down-to-earth. “I’m loving the subject on cleaning!” she says.

“I’ve learnt things that have actually cut down my cleaning time. And I know how to organise my weekly clean and the importance of getting the kids involved.

“It gives them responsibility and develops their independence and team work.

“They learn to not just do their chores because they have to but we are all helping out as a family to run smoothly because this is our home and it belongs to all of us.”

The Diploma in Home Management is run as a series of eight modules over two semesters.

The course is run on Fridays from 10am-2pm during the school term. Places are available during the school terms three and four at Tangara School for Girls, Cherrybrook, every Friday until 25 November.

Places are also available during terms three and four this year and terms one and two in 2017 at Montgrove College, Orchard Hills.