The home, a long-distance race

The home is of incalculable value to the individual, but it is very little recognised. It is the cradle of our happiness. The home is an investment in the future. There is a viral phrase on social media that sums up very well one of the purposes of our foundation: “An emotionally healthy child is an intelligently happy adult”. And the home is, without a doubt, that environment in which to flourish.

Let’s look back, let’s think about the home we had or the home we have created and try to separate what is in me from what I am now, the fruit of that home and what I have contributed.

Let’s start at the beginning, our parents and the relationship between them. How they treat each other, how they look at each other, how they take care of each other, something that seems routine, teaches us so much… Our siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents, every detail of their behaviour towards us, towards others, between them, also marks our lives.

How we deal with small and big problems at home, what decisions we make, whether we confront them or shy away from them, whether we tell the truth or hide it, whether we take responsibility or let it slip away… Each situation tattoos a style, a way of being. And our personality is shaped by all of them.

I’m from that generation that wouldn’t even think of stealing chewing gum, because no matter how little money it was, your mother would go back to the shop with you to return it. Yes, your mother would go with you even though she was ashamed to admit that her son had stolen.

Everything prepares us for life, even the fall… Beware of those parents who directly pave the way so that their children do not even have to face how to jump over the obstacle… The person who is born and grows up in a stable, safe, warm, welcoming, restorative home, in which he/she feels cared for and learns to care, is at an advantage. Those tools that one acquires at home at an early age will allow us to weather any storm and enjoy whatever comes. Because we will have learnt from an early age to distinguish rights from obligations, feelings from emotions, right from wrong, truth from lies, facts from their consequences…

The home becomes a backbone, a pillar without which it is difficult to sustain oneself. And today’s society has neglected the home. It has not given it the value it deserves. We have thought that it was easy, that anything goes, that it will be done, that the school will take care of it, that working outside is more important, that everything can be achieved even if it is only half done, that a little time with our children before going to bed is enough… The percentage of dedication has been reduced to such a level that it is very difficult to explain that ME FIRST is incompatible with the home.

HOME with a capital H is possible when everyone wins. When we all go together when all the adjectives mentioned above are real and we fight, we work daily, we take care of each other on a daily basis. A home is a long-distance race and it is not built overnight, because people are not born today and die tomorrow.

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Home and trust

By Prof. Antonio Argandoña. I don’t remember which film it was. I do remember that the protagonist was running through the streets, full of panic: everything around her seemed to be an immediate danger. She reached her house, ran inside, slammed the door shut and stood with her back against the door. She sighed, she was calmer: she was safe. Home is the right place to get ourselves together physically, psychologically and emotionally. The four walls protect us, and the people we meet there we can trust.

This is not always the case. Human beings are vulnerable, we know we are vulnerable, and this leads us to mistrust. But a life based on mistrust is much harder to live. In advanced societies, we have many instruments to provide trust: the law, the police, the judiciary, accountable institutions, social rules and routines, that allow us to operate confidently in the street, at work, when we go shopping, in leisure activities… But these instruments are expensive and not always reliable.

In all our social relations we need trust. Trusting others, and making ourselves trustworthy to others, makes it easier to live together. When do we trust someone? For example, why do I trust the public transport bus to get me to my destination quickly, efficiently and safely? First, because it is consistent: it announces its route, timetable and cost, and delivers. Second, because it is capable of doing so: we have ample evidence that the physical, human and organisational resources of this service work, at least with relative efficiency and safety. And third, because it is in our best interests: we expect it to put our interests ahead of those of the company or the driver.

Home is the place we can trust because those around us want our good above all else, they have demonstrated this to us over many years, and because they have demonstrated their ability to care for us, especially when we are most vulnerable: as children, the sick, the elderly, or simply when mistreated by life. That is why the home must be strong. A strong home gives us confidence, teaches us to give confidence to others and teaches us the importance of trusting others.

Toc, toc! “It´s me”

The other day I was listening to a podcast with a neurologist specialising in migraines, who said that there are 150 different types of headaches. He went on to explain the importance of knowing the patient very well in order to be able to prescribe the right medication. He was not only referring to their medical history, but also to their hobbies, their work, their day-to-day activities. “What works for John doesn’t necessarily work for Charles despite having  apparently similar symptoms.”

This reflection brought me back to the idea that Prof. John Wauck insisted on so strongly in our session in Rome with the whole team of HRF directors last week. In a world where we have tended to generalise, where we are “a numerical value”, it is essential to reclaim the uniqueness of the individual.

In the digital world we may be users and consumers, but we still live in a real society, with real human beings. At home, we are “me and you”. When we ring the doorbell and they ask: “Who is it? It is enough to answer, “It’s me”. And being unique in our home makes us normal at the same time. This identity that we forge and that is determined by our DNA, by the history of our parents, is the key to recognising our uniqueness.

How good we feel when we arrive at that place where, no matter how much we change, we are always recognised and welcomed with a hug. In the Odyssey, Odysseus returns to Ithaca after years of battle, struggle and danger, and his nurse, Euriclea, recognises him by a scar on his leg. That is home.

The digital world has allowed us to advance in many ways, but we have jeopardised others. Home, no matter how much home automation we incorporate, is analogue because it is based on human relationships created in a private sphere where we are able to just be ourselves. We need to be careful about the example we, as adults or parents, set for our children, as we are their most important technological reference. This became clear with the research carried out with IESE. In the pandemic, we shared a table with family and friends through a screen, because deep down, we longed for those analogue moments that meant home.

Prof. John Wauck remembered a song by Joe Walsh:

The whole world is living in a digital dream, it’s not really there, it’s all on the screen, makes me forget who I am but I am an analogue man that’s gonna get an analogue girl who loves me for what I am.  A timely message for us all.

Handing-On

In the UK there is currently a joint action case coming to court, brought by students who feel their access to the education promised by their university courses was denied by Covid restrictions. This article does not concern itself with the rights and wrongs of the case, but with one of the points made by the complainants. The point is that “hands-on” practical skills cannot be fully taught online. Students argue that while some disciplines do allow for remote learning, for others you just have to be in the same room as your teachers. Sculpture, for example, or neurosurgery.

A student of sculpture notes that it is more than the teacher’s words that guides the student’s hands, it is his or her own actual hands working with the same material at the same time. A student of neurosurgery quotes her frustrated teacher saying to camera, “You really need to feel this as well as see it.”

Being in the same room. Real hands at work. Things you can feel as well as see. The points made about the skills needed by these students can be readily applied to the home context. There are many things that we can learn – obviously – at school and college. Many things to be studied in books and on screen. It is at home though that life’s earliest and most formative lessons are given and received.

In my career as a teacher, I have had the privilege to watch young children at work and play. Unconsciously, what has been learned at home is played out in the classroom. It does not take a degree in child-psychology (valuable though this training is) to work out home attitudes and practice. A child’s responses to simple instructions such as, “Tidy-up time, now” or “Please share those crayons” can reveal a lot.

Broadly speaking, if you have seen certain positive patterns at home you are more likely to reproduce them in other circumstances. And not only to have seen them, but to have been guided in them – watched those you love do them and then started to do them yourself. Children learn from those they love and not from what they “say” so much as what they “do”  -as do we all.  This literal “handing-on” of attitudes and practices is age-old and holds true against the new challenges of our own age.

Recent research undertaken by HRF with our partners at the International Center for Work and Family at IESE underlines this. See recent article in Forbes. In the next few weeks, we shall be continuing to reflect on these initial findings, which range from the age-old distribution and benefits of household tasks to the new challenges of digital communication. Helping us make the most of the time when we are home together in the same room, to pass on the skills needed for life outside.

By Susan Peatfield

Giving up? That’s for Marie Kondo

And suddenly the news came out… Marie Kondo gives up… Now with three children she prefers to enjoy time with them rather than tidying up the house…

Not hard to understand but I read this and I thought, surely it is now when order is more necessary… Surely it is now when everything she has taught the world, she should practise with her children… Now when that organizational discipline that gave so much peace and harmony to her home is going to help the whole family.

And I thought I have to tell her about our latest research carried out with the ICWF/IESE in which it is very clear that facing the work of the home with a positive attitude brings enormous benefits not just to relationships at home but also at a professional level.

“It is necessary to activate the reticular system in a positive way”, as psychiatrist Marian Rojas says, “those who are prepared, those who are organized, those who know, perceive opportunities much better.” The positive pilot allows us to see the good in things, and to see the rewards of putting good habits in place.

I would like to think that Marie Kondo has made these statements to emphasize that her children are her new priority and that her work is not above them, but a person to whom order and planning has given so much and has been shared with the world in such a successful way, I do not think that she now has her home as a lion’s den because she dedicates time to play with her children.

I say that because all those people who have taken the opportunity to throw in the towel; all those people who were making a strenuous effort to try to demand order and now, according to the headlines in the press, the Japanese guru has “given up”, have found the excuse to say that it was not possible. Keeping going really works! Happy habits help to make everyone feel truly at home.

NEW RESEARCH with ICWF/IESE Conclusions and Recommendation

We have just launched the conclusions and recommendations of the study HRF has been conducting with the International Centre for Work and Family of the IESE Business School. We became an academic partnership in 2020 and a series of surveys were carried out in collaboration with the Schlesinger Group for which now we have the results.

What were we looking for with this project? To find out what impact the work of the home has on the family, on marriage and on professional well-being.

 

Family health improves and is more stable when the attitude towards housework is positive. And this is not insignificant, because housework is often seen as a burden that nobody wants to take care of and for which there is an attitude of resignation. “Since I have no other choice, I do it”.

It is true that this study reveals differences between men and women, and we can see that attitudes change with age.  Men show greater interest in housework from the age of 35 onwards, whereas women consider, for example, that cleanliness and tidiness are fundamental from the age of 20, an attitude that becomes more relaxed from the age of 50 onwards. (See infographics)

With regard to the cross-correlated variables that refer to well-being at work, it is interesting to see how a positive and committed attitude towards housework increases the levels of job satisfaction, work engagement, psychological empowerment and positive job crafting. (See infographics)
Finally, and although reading the press releases you can find out much more, the risk of Phubbing is striking, and of course, technology was also present in the study. Phubbing is ignoring others by being on your phone or electronic devices. A practice that not only serves as a negative example for children at home (lack of technological reference) but also causes social isolation and problems in relationships. (See infographics)

Phubbing stems from the perception that you have to be highly available for your company even when you have left work. In men it is almost 50% and in women 33%. This is why companies are advised to develop policies of disconnection with their employees. It is essential that the rule is not that the employee arrives home and is attentive to email or the mobile phone.

In Conversation with… Prof. Argandoña

Antonio Argandoña is a Professor Emeritus of Economics and Business Ethics at IESE Business School. He joined the Home Renaissance Foundation as a Director in 2015. We spoke to him about the Foundation.

“In today’s society, there is a need for an overall vision that places the home in a central position”

– How would you explain HRF?
HRF is an academic hub dedicated to the study and dissemination of household issues. There are many experts who study partial aspects of the home: the family – parents, children and relatives -, cohabitation between generations, the internal work of its members and external collaborators and work outside the home, housing, family economy, health, childhood and old age, mobility, children’s education, leisure, new technologies and the rest. What HRF tries to do is to offer an overview of these different studies, because the household is a unit, albeit a dynamic one.

– Why did you get involved in a project like this?
I have always been involved in economics and business, and I have seen that their problems cannot be fully understood if they are not related to those of society, politics, history, technology as I explained before. In other words, that an overall view is needed. When I was invited to an Experts Meeting of the HRF in London in November 2015, I realised the importance of this broad and dynamic vision, which places the home in a central position in our societies. I was invited to join the Board – and here I am.

– How do you think HRF has evolved and where are we today?
We have worked hard, calmly and perseveringly, organising expert meetings and international conferences, publishing books and reports and developing an extensive network of collaborators around the world. Internally, we now have a consolidated project, with the collaboration of a large number of experts from very different disciplines, who agree on the unitary vision of the problems related to the home; this gives us security and capacity. Outwardly, we want to intensify our presence in relevant national and international forums, to influence public policies and private initiatives in which the home is an important part.

– What social challenges do you think the home faces today?
The home operates in a very close framework; the problems are often very local. But there are also global challenges. One is the proliferation of policies that involve the household, but which are often drawn up behind its back: health, pensions, housing, education, technology. Another is related to the ideologies that are spreading worldwide, which involve significant changes in relations within families and with their environment. And yet another may be the economic uncertainty caused by inflation and recession, which impacts on the quality of life of many homes.

– Finally: a message for 2023.
The home has undergone many changes over the centuries and will continue to do so. This leads me to an optimistic view: as long as the home is a place to learn to live, a place where people are valued for who they are, not what they bring, and a place to which one always returns, there will be hope.

HELLO 2023!

We welcome 2023 with new content, new research, an Experts Meeting in September and presentations of our latest book in several countries. Looking back, we have realised that HRF is 17 years old this year. Not an insignificant number. Almost two decades dedicated to research and analysis of the impact of public policies on our homes.

For this reason, and because we do not want anything to be left out, we are going to offer you, on the one hand, the data and conclusions of our own research that we are carrying out with the ICWF/IESE and, on the other hand, we are going to release all the literature that we have been creating since 2006 with the collaboration of our experts.

The blog thus takes on a new dimension as a showcase for our academics with one article per month. We hope that you find it useful and enriching to read all these articles that we will prepare with enthusiasm from the work of Home Renaissance Foundation.

The HRF family is growing both in terms of experts and readers. More and more of you are academics who have dedicated your time to research the reality of homes from the perspective of your own disciplines. With your knowledge, you help us to put the home back in its place at the centre of public debate. That is why we also want you to share your concerns with us.

On the other hand, there are readers who are homemakers, who we address every week through our blog, the web or social networks to advance results, analysis, conclusions, recommendations and who, as you tell us in your emails, look forward to our reflections every Thursday. We also count on you to send us your concerns, because all proposals are welcome in order to defend and care for homes.
Until now, we were the ones who set the themes for our Experts Meetings, we were the ones who decided what approach to give to our Conferences according to the needs that were arising in society and also anticipating possible events, always trying to cover the home in its 360 degrees. But, lately, you are also knocking on our door to request specific research, to call on experts who have studied the home and ask them to carry out specific analyses.
For this reason, this year we will be holding gatherings and meetings to obtain reports focusing on issues that we have agreed with both the United Nations and Nottingham Trent University. We will keep you updated through our blog, website and social media. If you are specifically interested in any of these, please write to us for more details.
Let homes come first in 2023!

Happy Christmas!

Dear Homemaker,

As the year comes to an end we are grateful that although economically there is still a long way to go, 2022 has allowed us to get our lives back on track. We have seen each other’s faces again, we have been able to meet again, trust and renew connections.
Our Christmas newsletter is always a summary of the year, a time to look back and remember what we have achieved. We are grateful and pleased to report that as the activity of HRF is progressing, credibility is growing and we see daily the enormous interest and commitment shown towards our topic: HOME.

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine is one which, of course, stays in our news and in our thoughts at this time. In September our Experts Meeting in Washington, ‘The Home and Displaced People’, was timely as it addressed a new topic for HRF: the migration crises and the impact of displacement. It proved a very enriching meeting that opened the doors to a new group of highly prestigious experts with whom we are already working on a future publication.

In addition, we have had the opportunity to reinforce earlier topics with the publication of ‘Happiness and Domestic Life’, which we have already presented in Argentina and Italy. Here you can learn more about our event at Roma Tre University. In the first quarter of 2023, there are plans for launches in the UK, Poland and Spain. At the same time our research on digital homes, the Communication Project ‘The Impact of Technology in the Home’ which has prompted 5,000 downloads, continues to leave its mark.

We are delighted that you find our work helpful, and it is good to see how many of you also consult our experts’ working papers published on the website. We are committed to providing new content and fresh approaches to the study of the work of the home. In this context, we shall be soon releasing details of the first tranche of research carried out in partnership with the International Centre for Work and Family at IESE Business School.

Before I end this newsletter, I would like to announce an agreement we have recently reached with NTU and the UN to investigate the impact of climate emergencies on homes and vice versa. We want to find out how homes and families can be great allies of public policies to curb climate impacts. The Experts Meeting is planned for late summer 2023, and we shall send more details soon for how to contribute to this work.

My thanks on behalf of us all at HRF to everyone we have had the pleasure and privilege of working with this year.  It only remains for me to wish you a very Happy Christmas and that 2023 will be full of good news for homes, which will mean a better future for everyone.

Bryan K. Sanderson CBE

The home, the cradle of happiness

Addressing happiness is always a difficult challenge. The experts who took part in our event last Thursday at the Roma Tre University were faced with the complexity of defining the term because it is ambiguous, broad, and often even paradoxical.

Professor Antonio Petagine (Università Roma Tre) said that we all want happiness, we all seek it, and we all long for it, but we do not always obtain it, and on many occasions, this impossibility of finding it is due to the fact that we fall into the error of giving it a hedonistic meaning, seeking our own satisfaction. But this attitude leaves an emptiness that rarely makes us happy.

Given the thousands of suicides and the high consumption of antidepressants, Professor Vinicio Busacchi (Università de Cagliari) suggested turning to philosophical reflection to discover those situations that make our lives unhappy and try to improve them. “Philosophy can help us understand the meaning of life and become a school of life,” said Busacchi, recalling the title of a famous essay by Lou Marinoff entitled “More Plato and less Prozac.”

And then, the concept of relational happiness came up, when Professor Nicola di Stefano (CNR Roma) explained that Aristotle said that, among other things, happiness depends on the number of friends one has and the quality of that friendship. Can our happiness depend on the environment around us? Is the home the first place to find happiness because it is the first place where we relate to others? The home is a test bed, a private place, where we feel protected, it is a nest,” Di Stefano stressed.

Ambassador Roberto Rossi, author of “Aristotele: l’arte di vivere. Fondamenti e pratica dell’etica aristotelica come via alla felicità” (FrancoAngeli, 2018), recalled that happiness is not a moment in life, but a constant state of the soul, a concatenation of actions that help us to find the ultimate goal of life, happiness. Aristotle insisted that happiness is identified with the good life, i.e. the virtuous life. The “recipe” is therefore to try to seek the best possible good in everything we do, unselfishly.

As the editor of the book ‘Happiness and Domestic Life‘, Professor and Philosopher Maria Teresa Russo, explained, the question we have to ask ourselves is: what home for what happiness? Because we can understand the home as a refuge or, conversely, as a place of conflict and happiness as well-being in a material sense. On the other hand, the home is that physical place where we live, think and love: where we guard our own intimacy and define our identity. A complex but unitary system, where happiness is taking care of each other, disinterestedly.