Excellence in the home

It is curious but this was the title of our first conferences. We changed the approach but we kept the title. And although we were finally replacing it with the main theme of each meeting, the concept has always remained in the background. No matter if we talk about artificial intelligence, well-being, care or happiness, excellence remains perennial.

Because it is the final bow, the icing on the cake, that makes a well-done job shine. Excellence implies effort, detail, dedication, and care. Aspects that are difficult to convey on their own but that become the “soul” of the work.

In the last two weeks, we have held the workshops resulting from the papers presented to the 5th Conference ‘Happy Homes, Happy Society?’ And last Friday in the workshop entitled “Values and Domestic Life” the importance of excellence came to light straight away. It is impossible to talk about the work of the home without including the need for excellence.

Excellence is an essential element in the construction of our homes. It is a beam on which everyone’s work must support and rest. And it is also an aspect that is taught best by example. It is not a panacea, it does not guarantee happiness, it does not avoid discussions or possible crisis, but it nuances the problems because excellence transmits love, affection, the sensitivity that we have put into that work or that task that we have done and that is perceived.

When we are overburdened with laundry, ironing, cleaning, preparing food or dinner, when we are tired after returning from work and still have to bathe the children or think about the next day’s menu, or we have to pick up toys or do homework with the little one, or when we have to face a complicated conversation with our adolescent or study family finances with our wife/husband on Sunday night… When we feel like none of this, then we think about excellence, in the good that it will do to the recipient of that service, in the love that one will perceive when one finds the bed made, or the food on the table or the empty dishwasher, or the car filled with petrol, or the shopping in the fridge – let’s think about the selfless dedication that we are somehow transmitting to our relatives.

Maybe not today, but probably tomorrow, both you and everyone around you will value and appreciate that effort and a job well done. And the lesson learned will be key to building their future homes. Because there is a big difference between doing things out of obligation and without any intention, to carrying them out with care and delicacy.

That is excellence.

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?

People, Care and Work in the Home

We are delighted to announce the worldwide launch of our latest book ‘People, Care and Work in the Home’. This was published in 2020 by Routledge and we have gathered together the editors and some of the authors such as Lord Best and Baroness Hollins to present its launch online. In collaboration with Nottingham Trent University, the launch will be held next Thursday, January 21 at 12.00 pm (Uk).

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Here you have the review that Professor Rosa Lastra wrote about the book.

Covid-19 has brought back the home to the centre of our society. Home has become a place to work, to teach, to study. Home is that safe space at the intersection of our work and family/personal life. The Pandemic forced billions of individuals and families to stay at home for several months in 2020. The neat divide between home and office has been eroded. The time is thus ripe for an in-depth analysis of what the home means for us all, from cradle to grave, and how it permeates every aspect of our lives. It is in this context that a new book  People, Care and Work in the Home, edited by Mohamed Gamal Abdelmonem and Antonio Argandoña is such a welcome and timely addition to the literature on the subject. Though it was written long before the spread of the Coronavirus, its findings are of critical importance. Home now emerges yet again as the safe haven in a fast-changing world.

The collected volume brings together seventeen contributions from outstanding scholars, researchers, and practitioners from different disciplines and professional backgrounds, offering a multi-disciplinary analysis of the challenges contemporary homes face, focusing on the care and wellbeing of people in the domestic sphere. The book, which includes case studies from the UK, Continental Europe, South America, and South East Asia, presents a novel approach to the study of the home, at a time in which homes are becoming the focal locus for care and wellbeing. The chairman of the Home Renaissance Foundation, Bryan K. Sanderson CBE, writes in the foreword to the book that the opportunity to draw attention to the role the home plays in lifelong health and wellbeing is one of great significance to the work of the Home Renaissance Foundation (HRF) since its mission is to renew the culture and to restore the value of the home for everyone.

The editors note in their introductory chapter, while books on home relations and environments are typically defined by specific discipline or research areas, such as psychology, sociology, geography, ethnology, and others, this book engages a multitude of research domains based on shared enquiries on the home as a place of care, of people, and of work. The book adopts a broad conception of the home, including people (the family), place (the housing), environment (neighbourhood, city, town), and society, considering its multifaceted dimensions: anthropological, ethical, economic, political, social, psychological, and spatial. It evaluates and interrogate different impacts on people (knowledge, skills, values, virtues, etc.) and environments (family, business, social entities, public bodies, etc.) looking also at public policy and legislative solutions.

The book is divided into three parts (home and people, home and work, home and care) and addresses the changing demographics and changing needs of our modern society and their impact upon the dynamics and relationships within the home from being personal and private to encompassing domestic work, care for older people, or supporting people with special needs. Whilst the home is a concept universally experienced, permeating every aspect of our lives, it remains an entity whose influence on health and wellbeing is poorly understood.

The book caters for people of all needs and backgrounds. Sheila the Baroness Hollins, crossbench life peer in the House of Lords, and emeritus professor of psychiatry of disability at St. George’s University of London, in a chapter entitled “Aspirations of people with intellectual disability for an ordinary home and an ordinary life” tries to unpick some basic aspects of home and what it might mean to people who may have few choices about where they live and who they live with. She speaks of the work of the international development charity Hope and Homes, which quite simply aims to close down orphanages worldwide and instead support local communities to find substitute family homes for abandoned and orphaned children. This is the type of initiative that Home Renaissance Foundation strongly endorses.

Lord Best – who co-chairs the APPG on Housing and Care for Older People, including its recent inquiry, “Rural Housing for an Ageing Population: Preserving Independence” (R-HAPPI) and who has piloted four Private Members Bills on housing successfully through the House of Lords, most recently the “Homelessness Reduction Act 2017” – proposes key steps to provide adequate homes for an ageing society, considering the needs of space and light, warmth, accessibility, and manageability and invites us all to act as citizens, as voters and as consumers to persuade the government to give as much priority to their housing policies for older people as for younger people. As social animals we need contact with others. He writes: “Tailor-made new housing for our later years brings opportunities to do things with neighbours, whether in the all-singing, all-dancing context of full-blown retirement communities, or the more intimate settings of small retirement developments.” And this is not just to create a more humane environment. “At a time when local authority care budgets are in crisis and the NHS is desperately short of funds – and hospital beds – the importance of adequate housing for senior citizens makes sense at every level.”

José Victor Orón Semper talking about UpToYou focuses on the early years of life, emphasizing how childhood lays the foundations for future life. Everything we learn indeed starts at home, he reminds us. The dispositions acquired in the early years towards oneself last throughout life. Thus, it is more important to educate about the dispositions than specific behaviours. For example, developing the initiative to move one object is far more important than putting the object in the right place.

Sir Harry BurnsAccording to Professor Sir Harry Burns: “From the outside, a home is simply a building. It’s inside that the magic happens. If a home is a place where children feel safe and happy, they will learn they are loved and respected and, as a result, they are likely to grow up to love and respect others. They will grow in health and wellbeing and develop a sense of purpose, allowing them to make decisions as to the future direction of their lives.” And that is why it is imperative to devise public policies that support disadvantaged families in delivering a safe environment for their children with positive parenting anchored in the home as a nurturing place.

People, Care and Work in the Home

It would be hard to find a more important time for the publication of People, Care and Work in the Home. These last months have brought to the forefront of all our lives the importance of the home and the people, work and care that happens within them.

The book, published this week with Routledge, brings together academic and professional expertise in these fields, first gathered at the 2017 4th International HRF Conference: “A Home, a place of growth, care and wellbeing.”

What was clear at the conference was that these vital things – growth and wellbeing  – do not just “happen.” For strong, healthy individuals, families and communities there needs to be attention paid and support given to the frontline of where these patterns begin – at home.

Professor Mohamed Gamal Abdelmonem and Professor Antonio Argandoña, editors of People, Care and Work in the Home have worked with contributors to bring to wider attention this multidisciplinary approach to society’s key building blocks.

Sir Harry Burns, professor of Global Public Health at the University of Strathclyde, and former Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, underlines the importance of home for life-long health and healthy relationships in his contribution to the publication:

Sir Harry Burns“From the outside, a home is simply a building. It’s inside that the magic happens. If a home is a place where children feel safe and happy, they will learn they are loved and respected and, as a result, they are likely to grow up to love and respect others. They will grow in health and wellbeing and develop a sense of purpose, allowing them to make decisions as to the future direction of their lives. Children who experience a nurturing, safe upbringing are likely, as adults, to create a positive home environment for their own children and so, positive outcomes for families are handed on to the next generation.”

If those early experiences are not positive the results are less happy, less healthy for individuals and for society – examples of which are not hard to find.

This recent pandemic, the lockdown and enforced time at home together has given new energy to those determined to champion the unique and priceless role it plays in our lives. In the words of Professor Argandoña:

“The home grows with solidarity, sharing everything. And the most complete way of sharing is love, that is, to take care of others. That is what we learn at home throughout our lives, although in a different way at each stage of that life. In this period of confinement we have learned to live together, ignoring the deficiencies of others; to share, that is, to give and give ourselves.”

People, Care and Work in the Home is a very important articulation of that insight to inform both research and policy in how we value what is given and what is received at home.

We have won!

MovementforGoodAward: HRF has won!!! 13,695 foundations were nominated for awards and more than 250,000 people voted! We are one of the 500 foundations receiving it!!! THANK YOU for your support and thanks Ecclesiastical for organising the Awards.

You made this possible. We requested via email and social media networks that you voted for our think tank, which for the past 14 years has made enormous efforts to make visible the critical work of the running of the home.

Each award, according to Mark Hews, Group Chief Executive at Ecclesiastical, will make a positive difference. In our case, the funding will allow us to continue promoting the Communication Report on “Home in the time of Coronavirus” by translating it into different languages. At the Home Renaissance Foundation, we know that every little push counts because small projects lead to great achievements, such as our latest publication People, Care and Work in the Home that will be published next Tuesday, June 16.

Much effort has gone into the production of the book spanning several years following the Conference held on the subject in 2017, which brought together prestigious academics and professionals from the Public Health and Care sector. During that gathering, workshops were also organised in which researchers from different fields were able to share their findings from the perspective of the home.

Edited by Professor Mohamed Gamal Abdelmonem in conjunction with Professor Emeritus Antonio Argandoña, and published by the prestigious Routledge, the book contains 17 fascinating contributions with insights into the care of the home and its members in various different ways throughout the world.

Covering three broad elements, as its title indicates, it begins by paying attention to caring for the person as the centre of our homes and, above all, delving into the critical care of the elderly, focusing on homes that provide for the needs of people with disabilities; and ends by highlighting the importance of the work that all this entails, analysing individual cases across the continents.

Without a doubt, as you can see, your support is crucial in giving back to the home the place it deserves, both socially and in public policy decision-making.

A big Thank you!

Two weeks ago we published the Communication Report: Home in the Time of Coronavirus.

“Congratulations on this report! What good voices and what good ideas!” from Argentina

We are very happy to see the great reception it has had. We have received hundreds of messages thanking us for this compilation of articles and testimonials. But the thanks are mutual. We are also very grateful to all the participants for not hesitating for a minute to say “Yes” to our proposal, and to all of you for receiving our news with such affection.

Many of the contributors to the Report have opened their hearts and closely shared what this quarantine means for them. This has allowed us to know more about what this virus is demanding of us as a society and as individuals. Without a doubt, the home has recovered its place as a vital centre and we must learn from the mistakes made before the virus.

“HRF is doing a fantastic job, furthermore, I enjoy the posts a lot. We are all in this together” from Thailand

The Report is a document that requires leisurely reading. We know that many of you have left the Report on file to read over the weekend. We remind you that there are six different chapters and that in them you can see how the different sectors have been facing the pandemic.

Those who have turned their home into a workplace, those who have made their offices into their homes as key workers. Those who have had enormous difficulties in surviving this situation because they live with people with disabilities who cannot stop receiving their therapies. But also those who are homeless, have lost their homes, and those whose homes are not safe places to live.

“Many congratulations on your report it represents an enormous effort on your part with a wonderful outcome which is entirely appropriate for these extraordinary times” from the UK

Covid19 has caused so many tragic deaths, but it has helped us to see the value of home. Our home now and always should be that place where one feels safe, cared for and loved. At HRF we are not going to stop working every day so that every human being has the chance to be born and grow in a stable and supportive home.

“I want to congratulate you for this very thoughtful initiative to produce a documentary about the Home and the context of the current pandemic” from Portugal

Harnessing the digital revolution in the home

Welcome to this month’s blog and welcome back to school, college and everything else that starts again in September!

This month we are looking forward to all the good things autumn has in store. As we pack away the memories of a happy summer we have some advice on “Keeping the Glow” into the new season.

In our feature article, Rosemary Roscoe continues her series of insights into the opportunities offered by the digital technologies to our homes. This month Rosemary considers Intergenerational Homes of the Future. The value of grandparents in the continuing care and nurture of the family is becoming more and more widely recognised and we now need to build the homes and support the policies that allow this to flourish.

As the post-summer routine starts again perhaps you could do with some inspiration for activities and recipes to start autumn in style. There are lots of ways to make this month a golden one so see if any of these creative ideas can put a spring (!) in your step this September.

Enjoy all that this “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” brings your way and keep us posted on all your September plans!

Angela

Harnessing the digital revolution in the home

“An estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide possess a smartphone, a device virtually unheard of just over 10 years ago. It’s little wonder that digital technology is permeating just about every aspect of our lives – and cellular data revolutionising the home and office, blurring the lines between ‘work time’ and ‘play time’.  Whether limitless access to the internet is a good thing is a matter for debate but one thing is for certain – it’s here to stay.
At the Home Renaissance Foundation’s Experts Meeting at the Royal Society of Medicine in London, Mei-Lin Fung, Co-founder of the People Centre Internet, questioned “whether transparency between our internal and external spaces is disturbing millennia-old notions of the family.” She emphasised the need for the digital home to be “a safe place where we live, play, learn, earn and develop the skills to care about other human beings. It is both a real and virtual space where people make healthy and responsible choices so that we can thrive together.” She emphasised that “we must envisage and define what we as humans want a digital home to mean, in a world where digital technology can be embedded in every aspect of human life.”

Addressing the meeting, eminent psychologist Sonia Livingstone, Professor of Social Psychology, Department of Media and Communications at LSE,  while acknowledging the much-publicised risks posed by social media, cautioned against enforcing a blanket two-hour limit to screen time. She advocated instead that parents sit down with their children and talk about what exactly they are doing on the internet.
While online games are obviously addictive they are not all necessarily bad for children’s development. Apparently, some strategic video games, that aren’t claiming to be educational, can nevertheless help with problem-solving and spatial skills and even improve academic performance. Studies, however, have reported that young people immersed in ‘screens’ for too long are not using face-to-face communication and could be losing important social skills as well as taking time away from schoolwork.

But it’s not just young people who struggle to control their screen time –according to a new report by Common Sense Media, most parents worry that their children are addicted to devices, but about four in 10 teenagers have the same concern about their parents!”

Rosemary Roscoe

Less is more, or not!

The more children you have, the less quality of life? Think again!
I have a friend who is something else. I don’t usually brag about friendships but I can’t help giving this dear friend a special mention.  Regardless of the particular country where I happen to be working or visiting, the circle of friends in which I find myself – be it a family reunion or a discussion about children and family life – my friend immediately springs to mind. Some people call her and her husband crazy but I haven’t noticed a constant stream of what might be classed ‘sensible’ people in my travels.

Each time she says she has a big announcement to make, you know in your heart it must be the news she has been sharing with us for a number of years – that they are expecting another baby. They now have 9 children – and as you come to get to know each child, your whole perception of what it means to be part of a large family changes.

The first comment people usually make when I talk about the family is “Of course they will surely be from some radical religious group?” And I am amused because my answer is, “I don’t know or care, but what I do know is that they belong to a group of people who possess a quality we should all imitate -generosity.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean that their like-minded group of friends have equally large families but, economics aside,  they are all generous and give of themselves completely. I might not pass that test of sheer selflessness.

When you walk through their front door it immediately feels like a home. The first thing that hits you is the buzz and vibrancy of children offering to help. The disorder expected is non existent as everyone has a designated role to play, something they’ve been taught from a young age. Their five-year-old was setting the table, taking dishes from the cupboard at his height level and carefully arranging the knives and forks on the table. I could have offered to do it for him but I thought better of it.

There’s no need to speak about equality in this house because clearly, their home belongs to everyone. Their sons and daughters divide the chores equally and both parents manage to work outside the home, neither having to give up their chosen profession.

People often ask me if they have lots of nannies and are rich to afford so many children. The answer is negative to both those questions. But sometimes I don’t even bother to answer as it’s clear that, even after explaining everything, they still don’t understand that a team of 11 is much stronger than a team of just 3 – for prejudices of this nature are hard-wired into the human brain.