A housewife in the 60s was a very different woman to one of today…

Feb 05, 2014

At my wedding my mum hopped up and did a speech.  She read out a quote from an old “housewives’ manual” from her own era, that of the over 60s, making a rather comical statement about what I should do as a new wife.

Needless to say, she had the room rolling in laughter by the end of her speech, which began with the following five points.

She says these tips came from an old 1960s Home Economics Textbook:

 

1. Have dinner ready: Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal — on time. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospects of a good meal are part of the warm welcome needed.

2. Prepare yourself: Take 15 minutes to rest so you will be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. His boring day may need a lift.

3. 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.

4. Make him comfortable: Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lie 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, soft, soothing and pleasant voice.

5. Listen to him: you may have a dozen things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first.

It seems funny in this generation of equal opportunity and “work life balance” to imagine that just thirty-five years ago, this was perhaps a reality for today’s baby boomers.

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 9.42.51 pm

 

60 year olds today have lived through a very special era.  More than any era before them, I suspect societal change has ripped quickly through the last generation, your generation, allowing mindsets to change, life to speed up and care to be lost. But with it we have allowed women the ability to play any role they want in society.  This change has been tough, painful, enjoyable and beautiful all at once.  But it is not for me to judge.  You lived through it, and today I want to talk about the contrasts…

My mum says that early in her first marriage, she used to sit at home dutifully as this quote suggests, preparing for her husband’s arrival, and my grandmother certainly did, breeding the mindset of tradition and wifely care in decades before.

It is amazing to think that in the fifties and sixties, women, who in the wartime years gained some independence, returned to the completely dependent role of supporting their husband and creating a spotless home, delicious meal and inviting bedroom.  They slipped out of the workforce almost completely when they were married and performed a duty to society, family and their man.  Did you?

Today, women perform the opposite, and I know many of you can reflect on the roles played by your daughters and granddaughters in their own families.  Many work part or full time in career roles, juggling children into childcare, school and after school care, and their husbands share actively in the responsibility.  They are exhausted and spend little time “preparing themselves” for their husband.  Most would consider such a role completely inappropriate.  Again, it is not for me to judge…

housework

 

Lets look at the contrast:

Homemaking

In the 50s, 60s and 70s a woman would clean her own house, all the time.  She would hang her washing on the line to sun-dry and ironing was a crucial household task.

A woman would sew clothes and bake cakes at home, before the commoditised products of today arrived.

In contract, today’s working mother or housewife may still have a cleaner to make her life easier and keep her house clean.  Some choose never to iron, or iron only as required and most would buy their clothes and cakes rather than baking them.

 

Personal Grooming

In the 50s, 60s and perhaps the 70s (or maybe not) a woman would groom herself primarily for her husband.  Today, she grooms herself for herself… as we see in the Loreal ad which states “You’re worth it”.

 

Bedroom

And in the bedroom the woman was there to serve, because that was their role in marriage.  Sexual equality was not a reality until the 70s, when it took over the world and became something that women fought hard to grow.

 

Part of me wonders if the ultimate 2014 working mother has in fact made their lives harder and taken away some of the joy that was in the simplicity of life for a housewife of the 50s and 60s.  But what would the perfect combination of 50s/60s and 2014 housewife look like?

Today lets take a trip down memory lane and ruthlessly look at the incredible contrast between yesterday and today for a woman, a mother and a housewife. Share your opinions and experiences… 

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