OLDFANGLED: out-of-date; old-fashioned
When I announced I was leaving my job to become a full-time mom and wife, one of my co-workers gave me an article purported to be from a 1955 issue of Housekeeping Monthly called “The Good Wife’s Guide.” Further investigation indicates that the article is likely a mock publication created as a satirical commentary on attitudes prevalent in the 1950s. The article was good for a laugh at the baby shower the firm hosted for me. People laughed at how much the times have changed. But have they?
I consider myself to be a modern, liberated woman. Yet, during this season of my life I spend a great deal of my time behaving like a traditional, old-fashioned housewife. And, truth be told, I take pride and pleasure in my housewife duties – I am convinced that my homemaking efforts are a meaningful contribution to my children and Husband. I don’t find the work demeaning. To the contrary, much of what I do nurtures my creativity, challenges my intellect, and brings me joy.
Today, I read “The Good Wife’s Guide” with a different perspective than I had sitting in the firm’s board room five years ago. While I still cringe at some of the ridiculous notions, I am able to recognize pearls of wisdom where I only saw misogynistic musings before.
The text of “The Good Wife’s Guide” reads:
- Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they get home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.
- Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.
- Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.
- Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Run a dust cloth over the tables.
- During the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering to his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.
- Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Encourage the children to be quiet.
- Be happy to see him.
- Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.
- Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first – remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.
- Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.
- Don’t complain if he’s late for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through at work.
- Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or lie him down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.
- Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.
- Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.
- A good wife always knows her place.
I warned you…there are some ridiculous notions. “Complain” doesn’t quite cover what I would do if Husband was out all night and I would probably laugh out loud if he asked me remove his shoes. I believe my “place” is as Husband’s equal and that no human has flawless judgment that is above question or reproach. That said, I believe some elements of the “guide” have merit.
Everyone likes a home-cooked meal. Preparing a delicious meal is a loving gesture. I put time and effort into meals I prepare for guests – why not do the same for my family? There is something comforting about arriving home to the smell of something cooking. As the parent who stays home with our children, healthy home-cooked meals are a small kindness I can provide for my family.
While I consider the hair ribbon optional, I do try to take a little time to “refresh” before Husband comes home from work. It matters to me that he thinks I’m cute. And, while Husband seems to find me relatively cute regardless of my attire, I feel cute when my hair and teeth are brushed. Add mascara and chapstick and I feel positively radiant. After spending all day as a practical mommy, it feels good to refresh and re-boot come 5pm. This ritual helps remind me that it’s time to transition from day to evening – from Mommy to Me.
I think it’s reasonable for Husband to walk in the door to a relatively tidy home. Home is a place to rest and recoup from the pressures of our lives. Taking the time to tidy up and create a peaceful environment helps everyone to relax and breathe a little deeper. Dusting seems like overkill, but removing wheeled toys from the entryway seems more than reasonable to me. Son and Daughter know that Husband’s “I’m on the bus” phone call means it is time to tidy up. Inevitably, they’ve transitioned between multiple toys and activities during the hours preceding dinner and left a trail of destruction distraction in their wake. Cleaning up their toys teaches them responsibility and helps to re-focus their energy and attention for the few hours of play time remaining in the day.
Making a point of being cheerful and interesting is good for all of the relationships in my life – including my marriage. Letting Husband know that I am happy to see him and having some interesting things to share is an important part of our quality time in the evening. There were days early in motherhood when I thrust Son into Husband’s arms the second he opened the door and fled the house as fast as my post c-section body could carry me. Those days happen. But, now that things have normalized a bit, I make an effort not to bombard him with the day’s ills the moment he walks in the door. Instead, I try to greet Husband with a smile, hug, and kiss to let him know that he has been missed and that he is an important part of my life.
It may sound a bit old-fashioned, but I embrace the title of “homemaker.” Making a safe, nurturing, welcoming, tidy, loving, and joyful home is no small task.