Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Way Things Used to Be...Homemaking and the 'Good Wife's Guide'

A friend recently gave me a two-page summary of an article from Housekeeping Monthly's in 1955; it was called "The Good Wife's Guide."

Here are the key points of that's good for a chuckle, from my perspective!  It's hard to believe how much times (and perspectives) have changed!
  • 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 of 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.

    My note:  Yeah, I'm usually hungry by the time he gets home, too!  Actually, maybe I can qualify for 'good wife' material here because I do menu plan and I do usually attempt to have a healthy, tasty meal ready around dinner time.  But Geoff is often involved in meal prep on weekends.
  • 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.

    My note:  I love this one!!  Take fifteen minutes to rest...ahhh....that sounds totally delightful...I'd love to be able to meet this criteria!  Sadly, however, this does not happen and, alas, I own no hair ribbons, I barely manage to slap some make-up on at red lights on route to somewhere we have to be...and I don't think anyone's more likely to be with work-weary people than a stay-at-home Mom!!
  • 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.

    My note:  My duty?  Just the sound of that word brings out the counterwill in me!  And he has a boring day?  My hubbie loves his's me who's often starved for adult conversation.  'Nuff said. 
  • Clear away the clutter.  Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.  Run a dustcloth over the tables.

    My note: OK, I laughed out loud at this one.  Clearing away the clutter would take more time than I have in a month...I'm even out of hiding spots for all of the clutter and I have a four page to-do list designed around clearing the clutter from every room and closet in the house!!  I have children who resemble tornados by the path of destruction they leave...just last week, I counted to eleven the number of times during one day that I picked up/folded the throw blanket for the library couch and picked up the pillows that had magically been tossed hither and yon around that same room...and that's just one corner of one room!  And run a dust cloth over the tables?? Yeah...that's gonna happen.
  • 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.

    My note:  OK, finally something I can do here.  We have a gas fireplace.  I can turn it on with a click of a switch...assuming it even works.  I doubt that even a lit fire in our house would provide the illusion of it being a haven of rest and order.
  • Minimize all noise.  At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum.  Encourage the children to be quiet.

    My note:  OK, I can meet part of this rule.  I can almost guarantee that the washer, dryer and vacuum will be silent.  In fact, my husband might appreciate a little MORE of these particular noises!  But my children.  Sigh.  My children are never. ever. EVER. quiet.  If anyone has any magic pill for this one, I'm sure that Geoff and I would BOTH be more than happy to encourage a moment or two of quiet!
  • Be happy to see him.

    My note:  OK, I've got this one nailed.  I AM usually very happy to see Geoff at the end of the day.  The word 'desperate' might not even go amiss here.
  • 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.

    My note:  I'm afraid that Geoff's apparent need to talk first about all of the 'more important' issues is usually supplanted by my intense need to unload on him.  True, I do try to wait until he's taken off his shoes and greeted the kids, but much beyond that, well, he's  fair game!
  • Don't greet him with complaints and problems.

    My note:  Yeah.  I think this ship has already sailed.
  • 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.

    My note:  Huh?? I'm not to complain even if he stays out all night????!!!!!  Who amongst us has that kind of relationship??? My complaint about his staying out all night would count as minor compared to his day at the office??
  • 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.

    My note:  I did, once and only once, have a drink ready to greet Geoff at the door, and Geoff was so shocked that I wondered if he was going to fall over.   Huh - maybe that's what having him sit in a comfortable chair is all about - 'cause it's a safe place to fall down.
  • Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes.  Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

    My note:  A pillow??  Low and soothing voice? All I can say here is that there is seldom anything low, soothing or pleasant about me at the end of the day.  By day's end it's me needing low and soothing voices and maybe a jam over my face!  I'm not worried about someone taking off my shoes, though...usually I haven't had an opportunity to put any on in the first place.
  • 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.

    My note:  I don't even know how to respond to this one.  I bow low in humble servitude, lips sealed.
  • A good wife always knows her place.

    My note:  Well, this is certainly true...I absolutely know who I am and what role I play in our family...this self perception, however, undoubtedly lands a little differently than I suspect the authors of this article intended it!

Anyway, it was a great read and Geoff and I shared a good laugh about it...though I couldn't help but notice (or imagine) a longing look on Geoff's face as I read through each item...after all, it must have been awesome for men 50-60 years ago.  In fact, Matthew overheard our conversation about it and his comment thereafter was this:  "Mom," he said, "I wish things were still like that!"

The truth of the matter is that I try, pretty darn hard, actually, to create a welcoming and loving home for the five of us - I fail at this regularly, but I see it as part of what I'm called to in this season of life.  So despite how different our lives play out in comparison to this Guide of the 1950s, I suppose my intentions aren't totally at odds with it - it does take a lot of initiative and effort to keep one's house in family-worthy condition while educating one's kids at home, and Geoff and I both work hard to make this a good home to live in.

I hope this brought a smile to your face!


  1. I see.... Maybe that's why I'm still single! I haven't read, "the Guide"! Or maybe it's a house-husband that I need so that someone can gently take off my shoes, give me a pillow and have dinner ready when I get home. :-)

    1. ha ha! Food for thought huh??! Man, wouldn't that be just AWESOME, to arrive home to this kind of comfort?? A house husband sounds like perfection...and may you someday experience that, Ellen (if it's what you want!).

      Hugs, and thanks for the laugh back!


  2. Thanks for this, Ruth... Just what I needed... more than a smile, a big hearty laugh!
    Actually, I wouldn't mind if someone would do all these things for me when I get home from work. But it doesn't sound like a spouse or partner, it sounds like a servant, or maybe even a slave. So I can't really wish for it I suppose. I guess I could try to treat myself like this. Indeed! I think I'll go run a dust cloth over the table right now. It sure needs it. Then I will make myself a nice warm drink and lean myself back in a comfortable chair in the middle of all the clutter. Too bad I don't have a fireplace.

  3. Butler...that's what it sounded like to me...a butler.

    And ahh, the warm drink sounds good...I think I'm going to brew a cup of tea right this moment...great inspiration!!

    Hugs, Jackie!


    PS. Picked up the Penguin book today and am hoping to read it to the kids tomorrow or Friday...will keep you posted. R

    1. Oh yes! please let me know about the book! It's translated from French, so the text is a bit weird. I don't know why they had to try to make it rhyme. But anyway, have fun with it! it's the kind of book you could explore for quite a few days, and return to. You could build models of the various math arrangements in it... lots of counting, sorting, grouping, etc. The children could all enter it at their own 'level'...

  4. I would like a housekeeper who would leave 5 minutes before I arrive home with supper on the stove/in the oven. Then I could have alone time and be naked if I want.

    1. A housekeeper...ahh, yes, that would be lovely. Someone to do the laundry, and the meal prep. Yes, to arrive home with supper in the oven, with all of the requisite smells...yes, that would be good!!

      Love you.