By Jackie Semmens of An Anchored Hope
I want to be a 1950s housewife.
I can picture it now. My husband comes home from work, and I hand him a freshly mixed cocktail. I’m wearing a flattering dress, my hair is perfectly coiffed, and my sparkling clean children sit politely at the table while I pull a roast from the oven.
That would be the life. If only I could figure out how to do it.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of women’s liberation. A woman’s place is in the kitchen, the boardroom, the Senate or wherever the heck she wants it to be. I’m not advocating we all turn back time here.
But you see, I already am a housewife. (Ahem, “stay-at-home mom.”) I do the bulk of the cooking, cleaning, and childcare anyway. So if I’m going to be the one keeping the home fires burning, I want to do it with the grace and class of the 1950s.
The problem is – I just can’t seem to figure out how they did it.
I don’t greet my husband at the door wearing pearls and heels. I’m wearing sweat pants with the remains of three different meals smeared on them from sticky fingers. I don’t even know if my hair “coifs,” much less how to do it myself. I can barely keep my kids out of the E.R., much less look good while doing it.
Perhaps if I were a mother in the 1950s, I would instinctively know the secrets of effortless and flawless housekeeping. Have you ever watched a movie from that era? No woman graciously invites a guest in, saying, “Sorry there is underwear all over the couch. I was just folding laundry.” Had I been a housewife back then, I would probably do things like wash my baseboards regularly and mop on days that my mom isn’t coming to visit.
I tried to clean my bathrooms today. During that time, my two-year-old took all the cushions off the couch, spilled the Scrabble tiles, and brought a kitchen stool into the bathroom I wasn’t cleaning to try to get the bottle of Tylenol out of my medicine cabinet. It took another five hours and lots of screen time before I got the rest of the house clean.
And “clean” might be a stretch.
Occasionally I’ll stumble across an article about how parents today are, of course, doing everything wrong, including spending too much time with our kids. Mothers of the 1950s let their children roam free, leaving them time to concentrate on things like floor wax and the latest recipes involving a canned cream of mushroom soup.
I like this idea, and I frequently try to spend less time with my children than I do. I hide in the bathroom, and I pretend not to hear when they ask if we can get the finger paints out. I constantly request, beg, command, “Just go play with your brother!” But it’s not working. I went to the bathroom yesterday, and during those two minutes my youngest son had climbed onto the kitchen table and was swinging from the light fixture above it.
Please, 1950s domestic goddesses, tell me your secrets. How did you get your children to play alone in a way that didn’t result in concussions? And how did you survive without millions of parenting articles telling you everything that you are doing wrong? Oh, no wait. That sounds pretty awesome, too.
Also, I want to cook like they did in the 1950s. Those women got away with calling Jell-O a salad. Sure, I could get my kids to eat their vegetables if their vegetables were compromised of a substance that is almost entirely sugar. You know how many 1950s housewives ever put kale in a blender? Not a single one. Glory days, I tell you.
Overall, I’m glad women have been liberated from the kitchen. (Even though the kitchen is the only part of housewifery I have down. My kids might actually be swinging from the chandeliers, but I can bake a mean sugar cookie). And it’s nice that we now know things like, “don’t get sloshed while pregnant” and “cigarettes are bad for you.” Plus, we’re technically supposed to get equal pay for equal work now. Technically.
But I’m still dying to figure out how those high heeled mavens managed to ignore their kids — I mean, to encourage independent play, keep the house immaculately tidy, and wear clothes not covered in kid juice. We might tout these women as symbols of an oppressive patriarchy from a bygone era, but let’s admit that they were also badass woman who had it figured out.
And truthfully, I wouldn’t mind mixing my husband a cocktail every night. As long as I got one, too.
About the Author
Jackie Semmens is a writer by nature and a mother by nurture. She has two rambunctious boys and is willing to chase them all over the hills of Montana in an effort to get them to nap. She writes about family, nature, and the experience of motherhood, occasionally with a touch of humor at www.ananchoredhope.com.