A game or reality?

In a few days, we will reach the first anniversary in the West of the incredible pandemic that was already raging in Asia this time last year. There are still days when I wake up thinking that nothing I have experienced over the past 12 months can be true but was all a bad dream. Curfews, masks, closed establishments, bankrupt businesses, impossible meetings, cancelled flights… and the saddest thing of all: over two million deaths worldwide related to Covid19.

But no. It is real. We are living in the middle of a global pandemic that has us all in suspense waiting for vaccines. And meanwhile, throughout the past year, we have seen on social network the ‘showcasing’ of our lives with more home interiors and kitchens on view than ever before. We have endeavored to adapt our houses to suit our needs and to make them more comfortable because of the necessity of spending a lot more time at home.  We have created workspaces, small offices, study areas for children and adolescents. We have decorated our small balconies in order to breathe in some fresh air.

With the situation that has been forced upon us, we have become experienced  “homemakers.” We have been forced to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner without rest. And we have even taken a liking to the kitchen, discovering that in some countries it was considered so obsolete that it is confined to a small corner of the house, impossible to cook in and organise the weekly menu for the whole family. What were architects thinking when they reduced the engine of a house to a couple of cabinets, plate racks and breakfast bar?

We have never before shared so many recipes … We have never before photographed our creations so proudly or shared our private spaces so widely. We used to spend most of our time outdoors, looking at the home from the outside, believing that away from the home was the only fun place to be. And just as everything appears to be returning to normality, a new wave occurs once again with increased numbers of deaths, infections, new variants and a return to the safety of the home.

A year later, we still have to focus our lives around our homes and it is becoming easier and less alien to us. I would even say that we now value much more the work that has been carried out in our homes in the past to make it a more friendly and comfortable place. And what seemed like just a game at first, a mandatory pastime that circumstances led us to, has become a reality. We all now appreciate our home more and value the work that has gone into making it into a liveable home.

How about your experience? 

With what motivation do we act at home?

As we have already explained previously, our latest book talks about the People who live in a home, the Care they require and provide and the Work involved in the correct management of our homes.

It is a book that was born as a result of the Conference on Wellbeing that was held in 2017 and that sought to delve into what are the sources of wellbeing for the person. Without a doubt, one of those sources and in turn, the main stage of our life is the home, since it is the place where the person is born and takes his first steps as a social being, marking his life forever.

According to Professor Argandoña, author of one of the chapters dealing with Work, the home is an institution with multiple purposes. The home is reproduction, food, learning, socialization, producer of goods and services, care of children, the sick and the elderly, provider of physical and ontological security. But also home is a hotel, restaurant, school, hospital, a place of entertainment, a school of virtues…

In other words, the home has many functions, although the main one would be “learning to live by assuming different tasks.” Household members, regardless of their age, must be willing to carry out different jobs while living together because the proper functioning of the “institution” will depend on that relationship that is established between them and on that common effort.

To understand work at home, you have to know the 3 types of results that derive from our actions and that are specified as extrinsic, intrinsic and transcendent. That is, what we hope to receive: the food on the plate each day; what we hope to achieve: learning to share, or learning to cook, or the satisfaction of a pleasant home; and what we hope to give: considering, taking into account the needs of others.

But it is important to understand that in the home there is no intention to compare because the home is not a market in which we continuously compare what we give and what we receive. In many cases, there is no direct reciprocity, nor possible forms of compensation. The only possible measure of this distribution is love.

Love is the most intense way to share. Love is, par excellence, the main virtue in the home” says Argandoña. Benevolent love is demonstrated when the person acts with a transcendent motivation, that is, when he only takes into account the needs of the other and seeks his good, not his own benefit. That is why Professor Argandoña says: “the home is a privileged place for the exercise of care. It is the temple of the civilization of care.”

How many times do we act like this in our homes?

A deeper understanding of disability is rooted in the home

By Rosemary Roscoe

Happy New Year everyone and a warm welcome to the hundreds of new followers who joined this blog in 2020.

The founder of analytical psychology Carl Jung once stated that “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are”. The home, as we have experienced from months of lockdown due to Covid, is pivotal in our understanding of ourselves and others. All the prejudices of our understanding, especially when it comes to disabilities, are gleaned from the home. And those prejudices are reinforced, for example, by television dramas such as ITV’s Emmerdale Farm, which recently featured a couple expecting a baby with Down’s syndrome, portraying the baby as a lesser human being in some way. But parents, relatives, friends and those who work with people with Down’s syndrome follow a very different storyline.

They know that a child with Down’s has as much to give and gain from the world as any other child, if not more, and nurtured with love and understanding will grow into a well-adjusted, fulfilled adult. I speak from personal experience, as just over a year ago our youngest grandchild was diagnosed at birth as having Down’s Syndrome. She is an absolute delight, full of smiles and mischief, babbling away and gazing into your eyes. Despite the weak muscle tone she was born with, it hasn’t held her development back, as she is constantly crawling and walking around the furniture and pulling books off the bookcase to open the pages and look at the pictures.

She enjoys the attention of her young cousins and loves tipping up her toy boxes and discovering her favourite noisy toys, then confidently climbing onto your lap with a beaming smile, urging you to play with her. Next minute she’s slipping down from your lap and grasping your hands, walking determinedly around the room, then flopping down when we reach her intended destination. So determined is she to explore that recently her mum had to catch her by the feet to stop her diving headfirst down the stairs, so eager was she to go outside! She is such a joy and you can tell from the adoring looks from Mum and Dad that they wouldn’t have wanted her to be any different to her charming and loveable self.

We need to reassess our inbuilt biases against disabilities, and there is no better place to start than in the home. Many are suffering from post-covid stresses of one kind of another, caused either by contracting the virus or by the unprecedented upheavals in our home lives and work routines, all of which were beyond our control. Hopefully, these experiences have changed our perceptions of others who might seem different to us and lifted the cloud of ill-informed prejudices. If you have experiences and insights into caring for people with disabilities in the home, of any age, we would love you to share them with us.

Please send it to info@homerenaissancefoundation.org We will contact you to discuss any material you send us that is chosen for publication on our website.

The value of relationships in the home

How was your 2020? This might seem a foolish question given all this year has held, but as we come towards the end of this extraordinary year, most of us are taking stock – looking back and looking forwards. The recent news of viable vaccines has been a great boost, and although we know that the next few months will be far from plain sailing, the further horizon begins to look far more hopeful.

At HRF, the heart of our vision and mission is to support the life and work of the home. It is the home that has borne the brunt of many of the restrictions the pandemic has imposed, and the home that has provided the core care and support to get us through it. While it is clearly too soon to talk about the new lessons learnt from the demands of this year– and as many continue to suffer in terms of loss of livelihoods and incomes –it is surely overdue that we should relearn some of the old lessons.

One of the revealing results of many surveys and much anecdotal evidence, is the value people have placed on simpler schedules and expectations. Parents have juggled childcare and remote working but have rediscovered the pleasure of just spending unstructured time with their children. Some of the pastimes we thought we had left at the homes of our grandparents have found a place back in our homes: jigsaws, board games, shared family mealtimes and household tasks.

This is the surface evidence of much deeper truths about the value of relationships and how they are shaped and held in our homes. If we do not listen to each other we shall not hear what that other is saying. If we do not value the time we spend together we are all the poorer. Noticing what another person is feeling and responding to them is not an old-fashioned luxury but a human necessity.

Tellingly, one of the key insights of being cut off from each other is our need for connection. For many of us those neighbours whom we generally ignored on our way to and from more pressing engagements have become real people during this time. People who need our help or people who can help us. Although only a few may become lasting friends, many more will at least know our names and we theirs.

These insights are no surprise to the world-renowned expert on happiness, Richard, Lord Layard who was the keynote speaker at the launch of HRF’s conference earlier this month – Happy Homes: Happy Society?  where he emphasized the place of relationships at the heart of our thriving as individuals, families and society as a whole. We are delighted that Lord Layard has just been presented with a lifetime achievement award by the Economic and Social Research Council for his work on happiness – lessons from what he has called “a new science.”

This new science of well-being and happiness has a modern lilt but the truths it speaks are age-old. The home is the place where people first learn to be with other people. And those lessons last a lifetime. In our own homes and families let what 2020 has shown us help in making those lessons count.

Calling All Families: Covid Family Study

There is no question that though health workers have been in the frontline of dealing with Covid-19, all of us have been seeing action on the “Home Front” during the pandemic. Especially families, where parents have been managing the care and education of children while juggling the new demands of working from home and concerns for older relatives. The impact on our families and on the physical and mental health of parents has been the source of much anecdotal comment and speculation.

Dr Anis Ben Brik, distinguished and acknowledged expert in Social Policy and Sustainable Development, LSE alumnus, now Associate Professor at Hamad Bin Khalifa University College of Public Policy Qatar, has set up the Covid Family Study  to provide some real evidence of this experience and opportunities to learn from it. The Impact of the Pandemic on Family Life Across Cultures is an ambitious and timely study.  Twenty-one researchers from 40 countries across five continents will be looking at the survey data generated by the project. Fourteen partners are also contributing to this work. We are delighted that Home Renaissance Foundation is one of them, joining with international organisations sharing our vision and priority for the life and work of the home.

The aims of the study are wide-reaching and of great potential value to all families and agencies concerned with their thriving: to track the pattern of the symptoms, causes and risk factors of mental health in parents; to understand the experiences, coping skills and mechanisms of parents under pandemic conditions; to identify parents’ needs, and to use this evidence to inform the design of policy and support for families in the future.

Such aims reveal a strong understanding and recognition of the foundational role of parents in providing secure, stable and healthy home environments for their children. At HRF we whole-heartedly endorse this understanding and approach. During the pandemic, we have returned to our homes for safety and support. There have been positive aspects to this; many children have benefited from more time with their parents and regular daily patterns of meal and bedtimes, but it has also been costly for families in terms of health, living conditions and resources.

The Covid Family Study survey invites parents to share their experiences to help provide support in the future. The questions are straightforward and the guide time to complete the survey is 30 minutes. By receiving information across all national, cultural and economic contexts, both global and local insights will be generated. The investigating team will be able to use these responses to direct, design and deliver the best support services for every family.

If you are a parent of a child or children under 18, please take some time now to contribute to the survey to be a part of this vital work. For, if the pandemic has led to an international conversation on what we want to happen next in our world, it could not start in a better place than at home.