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? 

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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?

Save 2020

For months I have been seeing posts from people complaining that they want 2020 to end soon. December 31 will probably be a much-heralded day, slamming shut the door to this painful year, but it is merely symbolic as the virus is still with us and 2021 will not be the panacea for all our ills. So I propose we don’t rush through this month but pass through it calmly like someone enjoying their last mouthful of chocolate.

Let’s savour this difficult 2020 by living December with great zest, with great awareness, so that we can look back without allowing the year to slip through our fingers. Let’s not start the calendar month with regret, sadness, reluctance, but appreciate that each day has 24 hours – just as someone reaching the end of their life doesn’t want each day to pass away. The sort of days that a grandfather with his grandchildren wants to be eternal, that people in love do not seek to end.
Let’s get excited again and tell 2020 that it is not over yet, that December is ahead and that we want to live it, we want to take advantage of it, we want to learn from what we have been through, without forgetting that we must continue to act responsibly.

As suggested by Professor Maria Pia Chirinos in her conference presentationHappy Home, Happy Society?let’s focus on care. Let’s take care of ourselves more than ever. Let’s be kinder, more sincere, more empathetic. Let’s put the complaining aside and replace it with a wish list and all the things we are looking forward to. December is the month of Christmas, of Santa Claus, of Papa Noel, of Saint Nicolas, of the Birth of Jesus. Let that hope overwhelm us, let’s go back to being children, let’s look at everything with open eyes. Let’s be super tolerant with our neighbour, the boss, our friend.

And let us accept once and for all, if we have not done so yet, that we are vulnerable, fragile and that we have come into the world with a purpose… Have you found yours? Maybe 2020 could achieve that end, that you find it, that you look inward, that the outside is already well seen. That you stop for a second and value what you have, that you feel lucky no matter how small and insignificant you think you are and that you let yourself be loved and wanted. That you let yourself be taken care of and you take care of yourself. That others need you. Yes, to you. Stop going on the subway with headphones as if the world was not with you, stop walking down the street with your head down as if you were not from this planet… be attentive to the needs of your father, your mother, your brother, your sister. Because Covid has brought us a new problem, but the old ones are still there and the solution is in you. And who knows if it is not in this month of December.

So don’t waste it, let’s save 2020.

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.