Motherhood, Dirty Dishes & The Happy Housewife

By Angie Torres Moure

The LOGOI team is pleased to feature during the month of May Dr. Elizabeth Baker’s first book, The Happy Housewife, which is available free in both English and Spanish at  LOGOI.org. I recently had the joy of interviewing Dr. Baker,  a Christian author and counselor, whose own life is as  fascinating as her prolific collection of writings.

“He gives the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 113:9)

Most countries in the Americas and the Caribbean honor mothers during the month of May. Families let Mom slow down for a well-deserved day of rest to thank her and celebrate her dedication to the so-called “hardest job you’ll ever love”.

The Happy Housewife is an honest, spiritual and humorous look at the joys and challenges of being a mother and wife. Originally published in the late 1970s, an updated edition is now available for new generations of housewives. Author Elizabeth Baker says she expected she would have to put a lot of time and effort into doing a new edit. “I realized not a lot has changed from [the age of] 30 to 65!”  She adds in her book:

“I was surprised to find most of my conclusions as valid in 2012 as they had been in 1976. Life was certainly different but truth was not. Back then there were no computers, cell phones or Internet. In fact, even school backpacks were not yet in vogue. I know. I created the first few chapters with a pencil borrowed from my daughter’s pile of arm-held supplies and finished out on a manual typewriter bought at a garage sale. It was a pleasure to find the advice I gave long ago and the emotions I felt then are as valid today as they were when I pulled carbon-paper copies from black rubber rollers.”

In preparation for my conversation with Dr. Baker, I read her book online at LOGOI.org and other works available on her website, elizabethbakerbooks.com. As a mother of two boys, it became clear to me that the joys and challenges of motherhood are timeless. Across the centuries noses must still be wiped, little mouths need to be fed and, yes, dishes need to be cleaned. Likewise, the timeless list of qualities God wants to produce in us remains unchanged: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Dr. Baker agrees and says, “The Word of God remains transgenerational and transcultural”.

Dr. Baker began to pen (literally) The Happy Housewife as a young mother with two children. Baker felt the calling to write around the age of 23. Married and a high school dropout with two children, writing seemed like an impossible feat. But the challenges didn’t stop there. She had mild dyslexia, had no typewriter (or knew how to type), and didn’t know the first thing about getting a book published. While most would have given up, Baker did not let these obstacles deter her from pursuing her passion and help came in unusual ways.

When she mentioned to an acquaintance that she was trying to learn how to research, her host said she remembered reading somewhere about it. She then walked over to her birdcage, removed the paper from the bottom, scraped off the bird droppings and handed it to Baker. In it was an article about research. “It was exactly what I needed!” she says. “I think God does provide curious ways to put in our hands knowledge that we need when we need it.”

During this time, her husband, Bill, left the Air Force and moved toward his dream of becoming a rancher. After working on her book for eight years, deep financial distress forced Baker to search for a publisher to determine if her work was worth some money. But she didn’t know how to go about finding a publisher. While visiting family, her preacher brother-in-law gave her a church leaflet and suggested: “I have no idea if these folks publish books, but I like their stuff and there is an address on the back. Why don’t you send them what you’ve got and see what happens?” She did, and had a response within two weeks. “Looking back, I realize now what a miracle it was,” she remembers. “My advance from Victor Press literally saved the family farm.”

Success was not immediate and her financial struggles were far from over. Her husband died in 1979, months after her second book was published, so the then mother-of-four had to work full-time to run the ranch single-handedly. Even so, the determined Baker found a way to earn her high school diploma, raise four children, write a few more books, and enter college at age 43. She earned her Associate, Bachelor and Master’s degrees in just five years. “My journey has not been typical at all,” she assured me. Baker then moved to Dallas where she became a licensed professional counselor and
completed her doctorate in religion and society shortly before turning 55.

Baker has written nine books and her website includes information on each of them, as well as articles, devotionals and other materials.

Writing continues to be Dr. Baker’s passion, but finding time hasn’t been easier now that her kids are all grown. “It is harder now. Kids needing dinner is not going away!” she said. Now there are other desires luring her away, like playing canasta or taking a walk. Her approach is pragmatic: a stopwatch helps her clock in and out of her writing duties. “It keeps me on target,” she explains. She works on her writing four to six hours a day.

Currently Dr. Baker is working on two books, an online devotional for women and a
collection of vignettes about women of the Bible. She encourages young mothers to follow a
similar routine when pursuing their passion, making time to do things in pieces, using 15-30 minute intervals, and remaining willing to be flexible. “The Lord takes care of us in small ways,” she says.

Today, Dr. Baker’s extended family includes two sons, two daughters, their spouses, 15 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. She lives with her mother, also a widow.  In The Happy Housewife, Baker emphasizes the importance of a mother’s work:

A Christian home is the greatest earthly resource society has. If it were not for Christian homes and godly mothers, this world would have caved in long ago. As a Christian mother goes about the daily task of laundering, cooking, bed making, and kissing the children’s bruises, she is like a mason working with bricks. Each tiny piece may be unimportant of itself, but when each piece is carefully set in place and mortared together with love, we form something solid and immovable, a Christian home.

Note: Scan here if you would like to read Dr. Baker’s book on your smartphone or visit her website.  ElizabethBakerbooks.com