“Let each morning and evening be a new and complete day. In childlike simplicity live as if you were to have no to-morrow so far as worrying as to its possible outcome goes. Make the best of to-day's income. Not one minute of to-morrow belongs to you. It is all God's. Thank him that His hands hold it, and not your feeble, uncertain fingers.”

Marion Harland


An Open Secret,

Chapter I.

Sisterly Discourse with John's Wife Concerning John,

Chapter II.

The Family Purse,

Chapter III.

The Parable of the Rich Woman and the Farmer's Wife,

Chapter IV.

Little Things that are Trifles,

Chapter V.

A Mistake on John's Part,

Chapter VI.


Chapter VII.

Must-haves and May-bes,

Chapter VIII.

What Good Will It Do?

Chapter IX.

Shall I Pass It On?

Chapter X.

"Only Her Nerves,"

Chapter XI.

The Rule of Two,

Chapter XII.

The Perfect Work of Patience,

Chapter XIII.

According to His Folly,

Chapter XIV.

"Buttered Parsnips,"

Chapter XV.

Is Marriage Reformatory?

Chapter XVI.

"John's" Mother,

Chapter XVII.

And Other Relations-in-Law,

Chapter XVIII.

A Timid Word for the Step-mother,

Chapter XIX.

Children as Helpers,

Chapter XX.

Children as Burden-bearers,

Chapter XXI.

Our Young Person,

Chapter XXII.

Our Boy,

Chapter XXIII.

That Spoiled Child,

Chapter XXIV.

Getting Along in Years,

Chapter XXV.


Chapter XXVI.

The Gospel of Conventionalities,


Familiar, or Intimate?


Our Stomachs,


Cheerfulness as a Christian Duty,


The Family Invalid,


A Temperance Talk,


Family Music,


Family Religion,


A Parting Word for Boy,


Homely, But Important,



The Secret of a Happy Home

Author: Marion Harland

Published: 1896



A correspondent inquires whether or not children ought to be trained to do housework and to make themselves useful in the numerous ways in which the young hands and feet can save the older ones.

Unless you expect to be a millionaire many times over, and in perpetuity--emphatically Yes!

It is not necessary that your little daughter should become a drudge; that she should have imposed upon her tasks beyond her strength, or which interfere with out-door exercise and merry in-door play. But through all her childhood must be borne in mind the fact that she is now in training for womanhood, that should she ever marry and have a home of her own, the weight of unaccustomed household tasks will bend and bruise the shoulders totally unaccustomed to burdens of any kind.

If you have a colt that in years to come you intend using as a carriage-horse, you will not let him stand idle in the stable eating and fattening until he is old enough for your purpose. He would then be, in horse-parlance, so "soft" that the lightest loads would weary and injure him. Instead of that, while still young, he is frequently exercised, and broken in, judiciously, first to the harness, then to draw a light vehicle, and so on, until he himself does not know when the training ceases and the actual work begins.

The college-boy, looking forward to "joining the crew," trains for months beforehand, walking, running, rowing, until the flaccid muscles become as firm and hard as steel.

In America, where fortunes are made, lost, and made and lost again in a day, we can never say confidently that our children will inherit so much money that it will always be unnecessary for them to work. And, even could we be sure that our daughters will marry wealthy men, we should, for their own happiness and comfort, teach them that there is work for everyone in this world, and certain duties which every man and woman should perform in order to preserve his or her self-respect.

By the time your child can walk, he may begin to make himself useful. One little boy, three years old, finds his chief delight in "helping mamma." He has his own "baby duster" with which he assiduously rubs the rungs of the parlor chairs until his little face beams with the proud certainty that he is of some use to humanity, and that "dear mamma" could not possibly have dusted that room without her little helper. He brings her boots and gloves when she is preparing for a walk, and begs to be allowed to put her slippers on her feet when she returns home. Often when she is writing and he has grown weary of play, the tender treble asks,--

"Dear Mamma, you are vewy busy. Can't I help you?"

Of course it is an interruption, and he cannot be of the least assistance; but is not that request better than the fretful whine of the child who is sated with play and still demands more?

"She missed the little hindering thing."

says one line of a heart-breaking old poem descriptive of a bereaved mother's loneliness.

Eugene Field strikes the same chord, until she who has laid a child under the sod thrills with remorseful pain:

"No bairn let hold until her gown, Nor played upon the floore,-- Godde's was the joy; a lyttle boy Ben in the way no more!"

Ah, impatient mother! as you put aside the affectionate officiousness of the would-be assistant, with frown or hasty word, bethink yourself for one moment of the possible time when, in the dreary calm of a well-ordered house, you will hearken vainly for shrilly-sweet prattle and pattering feet!

There are ways in which even the toddlers can make work lighter for the mothers. When your small daughter has finished with her toys, she should be obliged to put them away in a box kept for that purpose. The mother and nurse will thus be spared the bending of the back and stooping of the knees to accomplish this light task, and the child will enjoy the occupation, and feel very important and "grown-up" in putting her doll to bed, and dolly's furniture, clothes, etc., in their proper place.

When making the beds, allow the little girl to hand you the pillows; and, even should you stumble over her and them, sometimes, you will do well to maintain the pious pretence that she lightens your work by assisting in tucking in the covers, and in gathering up soiled articles of clothing and putting them in the clothes-bag or hamper. She will soon learn to dust chair-rungs and legs, and to wipe off the base-board,--and do it more conscientiously than hireling Abigail. She may pick bits of thread, string and paper from the carpet, and clean door-handles and window-sills. One mother, when making pies, places her four-year old daughter in a chair at the far end of the kitchen table, and gives her a morsel of dough and a tiny pan. The little one watches the mother and attempts to handle her portion of pastry as mamma does. After it is kneaded, it is tenderly deposited, oftentimes a grayish lump, in spite of carefully washed hands (for little hands will somehow get dirty, try sedulously though you and their owner may to prevent it), in the small tin, and it is placed in the oven with the other pies. It serves admirably at a doll's tea-party, and the meddlesome fingers have been kept busy, the restless mind contented, while the housewife's work is accomplished.

By the time your girl is ten years old, she should be equal to making her own bed, some older person turning the mattresses for her that the young back may not be strained by lifting, and to dust and keep her own little room in order. Of course you will have to watch carefully, and teach her little by little, line upon line. A model housekeeper used to say that one should "cultivate an eye for dirt." Bear this in mind, and cultivate your daughter's eye for dust, dirt and cobwebs. You will find, unless she is a phenomenal exception to the majority of young people, that she will not see when the soap-cup needs washing, or that there are finger-smears on the doors, and "fluff" in the corners. But with the blessed mother-gift of patience, point out to her, again and again, the seemingly small details, the "hall-marks" of housewifery, which, heeded, make the thrifty, neat housekeeper, and, when neglected, the slattern. As she grows older, let her straighten the parlors every morning, make the cake on Saturdays, and show her that you regard her as your right-hand woman in all matters pertaining to domestic affairs. Give her early to understand that it is to her interest to keep her father's house looking neat, that it is her home, and reflects credit, or the reverse, upon herself, and that it is her duty, and should be her pleasure, to help you, her mother, when you are overwearied and need rest. She will enjoy play as a child, society and recreation as a girl, all the more because she has some stated tasks. She may learn to manage the family mending by aiding you in sorting and repairing the clothes when they come up from the wash. When she is capable of entirely relieving you of this burden, pay her a stated amount each week for doing it. She will glory in the delightful feeling of independence imparted by the knowledge of her ability to earn her own pocket-money, and take the first lesson in that much-neglected branch of education,--knowledge of the value of dollars and cents, and how to take care of them.

Few children are born with a sensitive conscience regarding their work, so the mother will, at first, find it necessary to keep an eye on all the tasks performed by the willing, if often careless, girl. Do not judge her too harshly. Try to recall how you felt when you were a lazy, because a rapidly growing, girl; bear in mind that it is natural for kittens and all young creatures to be careless and giddy, and try to be gentle and forbearing while correcting and training her. If she is good for anything, your care will be rewarded in years to come by seeing her trying to do all her work in life "as mamma does."

While it is especially expedient that the girls receive this domestic training, the boys of the family should not be exempt from their share of the responsibility. You need not dread that this kind of work will make your boy unmanly or effeminate. It will rather teach him to be more considerate of women, more appreciative of the amount that his mother and sisters have to do, and less careless in imposing needless labor upon them.

Some mothers go so far as to instruct their sons in the delicate tasks of darning stockings, and repairing rents in their own clothes. There is a vast difference in the skill manifested by different boys. Some seem to have a natural aptitude for dainty work while others have fingers that are "all thumbs." One man, now a father, cherishes a tiny cushion of worsted cross-stitch made by himself when a child but five years of age. He is deft with his fingers, and, as the saying is, "can turn his hand to anything." May it not be that the manipulation then acquired still serves him?

Another man tells laughingly how, when a boy at college, he would tie up the hole, in his socks with a piece of string, and then hammer the hard lump flat with a stone. He could as easily make a gown as darn a stocking. Tales such as this fill motherly souls with intense pity for the poor fellow so powerless to take care of his clothing, and so far from any woman-helper. If possible, teach your boy enough of the rudiments of plain sewing to help him in an emergency, so that he can put on a button, or stitch up a rip, when absent from you.

As many men as women have a natural bias for cookery, and there are husbands not a few who insist on making all the salad eaten on their tables.

One branch of work in which boys are sinfully deficient is "putting things to rights." The floor of your son's room may be littered with books, papers, cravats, soiled collars and cuffs, but he never thinks it his duty to pick them up and to keep his possessions in order. About one man in a thousand is an exception to this rule, and thrice blessed is she who weds him. It goes without saying in the household that by some occult principle of natural adaptation, there is always a "time" for a man to scatter abroad and for a woman to gather together. Mother or sister attends to "the boy's things." Why has the boy any more than the girl the right to leave his hat on the parlor table, his gloves on the mantel, his coat on the newel-post, and his over-shoes in the middle of the floor? They are left there, and there they remain until some long-suffering woman puts them away. From hut to palace, and through uncounted generations, by oral and written enactment, as well as by tacit consent, whatever other innovations are made, the custom holds that man can upset without fault, and his nearest of feminine kin is blamable if she do not "pick up after him."

Teach your son that it is his business to keep his own room in order, and that there is no more reason why his sister should follow him up, replacing what he has disarranged, than that he should perform the same office for her. Inculcate in him habits of neatness. In acquiring an "eye" for the disorder he has caused, and deftness in rectifying it, he is taking lessons in tender consideration and growing in intelligent sympathy for mother, sister and the wife who-is-to-be.

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