‘How dare you compare housework duties of today to those of the 1950s?’

May 10, 2019
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Be it the 1950s or today, motherhood is one tough gig! Source: Getty Images

‘Today’s mothers do as much housework as mothers in the 1950s?!’ What the…? There is smoke coming out of my ears!

Earlier this year I read a post written by Trisha Leigh Zeigenhorn about the imbalance of power between mothers and fathers. The young mum wrote of lamenting the inequality of chores between Mum and Dad once Junior comes home and the effect it has on relationships. To emphasise her point she included an article from Australian author and popular blogger Constance Hall, herself in a relationship plus kids/babies.

I can’t help but agree with both Zeigenhorn and Hall on many points but really … “Women are now allowed to work for a s***tier wage and then come home and still squeeze in all the work we had to do in the ’50s.” Here, we part ways. (Can I use bad language yet?)

I was born in 1952, the youngest of six kids. My mum did not work outside the home because she simply would not have had time to do so. I must say, ‘how very (f***ing) dare you’ compare your housework duties of today to those of the 1950s! The gloves are off now girls!

My mum did her washing in a copper washer, hand stirred, and it took hours. Then, she had to feed the wet washing through a hand wringer after which she hung the still water-laden items on a Hill’s Hoist if she was lucky, a rope/wire contraption supported by wooden posts if she was not. Imagine not just the small stuff, but sheet after sheet; this was hot, heavy work! If it rained all us kids were called upon to help unpeg and rush the washing back ‘under the house’; so, next day, mum could start the whole procedure all over again.

Mum only had the corner shop just far enough away so that the string bags she carried made her fingers bleed and felt like lead by the time she walked home. Huge meat cuts, potatoes and pumpkins by the pound are not light!

The dinner table was always ‘set’ with plates, cutlery and glasses on a freshly laundered and starched table cloth. One night dinner was freshly cooked, the next night was leftovers. Lunches had to be made too. Sure, we had choices; eat it or go hungry. Easy.

Doing the dishes in the ’50s? We each had a turn of clearing the table, drying the dishes and putting the dishes away. There was a clean, ironed tea towel every night. Mum always washed the dishes not only for cleanliness sake but for breakage limitation.

Vacuum cleaners in the ’50s were not the most efficient. I remember Mum going over and over and over certain areas just to achieve cleanliness. And dusting. That poor woman walked around with a dust cloth permanently strapped to her apron … Yes, her apron!

When it came to ironing, there were no steam take-the-creases-out beauties back then, but inefficient monstrosities that weighed a tonne and clothing needed constant water sprinkled by hand to achieve a smooth finish. I won’t even mention the starching concoction.

My mum woke before all of us and went to bed after all of us because she needed every hour of every day just to keep her ‘house’ in order.

Hall also mentions the need to keep her partner ‘happy and content’ physically. Sweetie, that has never changed; 1819, 1919, 1959, 1999, 2019. The difference these days is you get to blog about the fact you’re so bloody tired you don’t care if his manhood is subjugated or not. Re-introduce him to ‘Mrs Palmer and her five daughters’ or the joys of porn. Sheesh!

These young mothers forget their breasts have another chore to do and plain and simple, a man cannot do it! It is a chore that’s finite, a chore that’s superbly special, a chore some crave but never get to enjoy. It’s okay to be tired, cranky and feel like this will never end, but take it from this old girl, it does end all too soon. You blink and then a most glorious miracle happens … you become a grandma. Honey, that’s what I’d call the pot of gold at the end of your rainbow; everything else is white noise.

Young mothers need to enjoy their babies; the supermarket trolleys and easy parking; the you-beaut washing machines and dryers; the super-efficient vacuums; one-touch irons and your anything-you-could-possibly-want home deliveries and out-sourcing. But don’t ever let anyone tell you being a mum is a walk in the park. That job has never been easy and never will be. Don’t compare, criticise or envy. Today’s mums don’t have it easy, but the 1950s mums didn’t have it easy either.

What do you remember of your mother? Do you think mothers today have it better than in days gone by?

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