‘The strict social rules our parents followed and how we’re breaking the mould’

Jun 30, 2019
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"Mothers, on the other hand, did not participate in the paid workforce. They were expected to do housework, cook food, as well as sew and knit." Source: Getty Images

My old nanna used to tell her granddaughters, “A change is as good as a holiday!” As we grew up, we did change. We, the Baby Boomers, came from an era where we were supposed to be copies of our parents. Junior girls were trained in the noble arts of housework, being ‘mother’s little helpers’. On school free days, we each had our designated home duties, which we automatically did.

It was the unwritten codes of our parents. Father went off to work to earn not much per week, to come home at a certain time, to be served up meat and three boring for tea. Fathers were expected to spend their leisure time on the weekend mowing the lawn, washing their car if they owned one, and growing vegetables, fruit trees and flowers. Many dads were DIY fellows. They could paint, mend shoes, do basic plumbing, hand craft in wood, and spend a lot of time in the garden shed. For example, my late dad built us a homemade wooden swing, and installed a cubby house for us.

Mothers, on the other hand, did not participate in the paid workforce. They were expected to do housework, cook food, as well as sew and knit clothing for their children, who kept appearing as there was no adequate contraception. Families seemed a lot larger then. Advertisements of the day told housewives to ‘have a Bex and a good lie down’ to recover from housework.

Before Father reappeared from his daily toils, children were expected to tidy up toys, if not be washed and in their pyjamas. Mothers took the ever present curlers from their hair. Nicely combed, they applied a dab of perfume and a coating of kissable lipstick, so Father would not stray with some siren in his office. Women were advised not to nag and moan to their husbands. That advice did not always work. Mothers were supposed to let Fathers make most of the decisions, and not have too many independent thoughts of their own. That advice did not always work either. I must say, I am descended from a long line of feisty, independent women who had no issues with expressing themselves, as ‘little women’.

But then, the men did not take much notice, they went about doing the decision making. For instance, my mother never knew how to fill in a health insurance claim form until after my dad passed over. He always regarded such things as ‘his’ tasks.

“A change is as good as a holiday!” Upon reflection, my sisters and I always agreed with that sentiment. I guess we all tried not to be copies of that long gone lifestyle. In those days, many women only had adult conversations in the daytime, when they stood on the struts of the wooden back fence, to chat to a neighbouring housewife, while the Baby Boomers ran around in the giant backyards.

“A change is as good as a holiday.” Back then, the milk cart came clopping down our gravel road, drawn by a beautiful Clydesdale horse. It delivered glass bottles of full cream milk with foil lids. So many bottles per day, as the bread cart followed. This delivered loaves of unsliced fresh bread, no plastic packaging, to be carved into huge slices—satisfying. Some of us can recall even the groceries being delivered later in the morning.

Times changed and women raced off to supermarkets, to push shopping trolleys, to purchase from a vast range of groceries, accompanied by their rugrats. Now times still change, as we oldies can order online grocery home deliveries. The wheel keeps turning. We tried not to copy our parents. We still enjoy many cuisines, including meat and three veggies. Once, nice girls of our generation did not leave home until marriage. But that too passed. We aimed not to be like our mothers, as women’s liberation and effective contraception arrived.

“A change is as good as holiday.” Every generation plays it their own way, trying not to be copies of their parents.

How have you changed over the years? What changes have you liked?

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