You’re probably familiar with the article published in Housekeeping Monthly in 1955 on how to be a good wife. It made the rounds on email back when everyone had an AOL account.
I thought it would be fun to do a little experiment and see what would happen if I lived my life at home according to the Good Wife’s Guide for 3 days. Would anyone notice?
Since times have changed a bit, I knew I would need a point of reference in the process.
So I printed a copy of the guide and taped it where I knew no one would find it-on the inside of my baking cabinet.
The article is pretty much based on the man’s arrival home after a long day at work and what your duties are to prepare for it.
The article states:
- 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 about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.
- Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.
- 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.
- Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.
- Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper etc. and then run a dustcloth over the tables.
- Over 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 for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.
- Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces, comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.
- Be happy to see him.
- Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.
- 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.
- Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.
- Your goal: Try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.
- Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.
- Don’t complain if he’s late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.
- Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him 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, soothing and pleasant voice.
- 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.
- A good wife always knows her place.
Ugh. I have my work cut out for me.
I actually enjoy cooking, and I’m able to get some decent meals on the table now that the baby is older. But I’d hardly call our house a restful oasis.
I’d love to say that my kids read and write novels in their spare time, but they are watching tv or playing video games, and running around the kitchen island screaming, leaving toys in their wake, while I get dinner underway.
And I look in the mirror in the morning long enough to *not look like a complete disaster while I take my oldest down the driveway to meet the school bus on our busy road, but that’s pretty much it.
For the clean house part, I liken it to the good old days when my brother and sister and I had our chore lists after school, and we waited until about 5 minutes before our mom got home to get the list done. That I can handle.
On the first day I was raring to go. First thing in the morning, I put a roast in the oven to slow cook all day with potatoes and carrots. The house smelled fantastic.
Midway through the afternoon, he called to say a client meeting came up and he wouldn’t be home for dinner and he wasn’t sure how late he would be.
The meeting ran pretty late so I had changed into my pj’s and the kids were in bed when he got home. I was disappointed. (But I didn’t complain! As per #14, it’s minor compared to what he went through that day)
Plus, he left me this note for the morning:
On the second day, I made a big manly meatloaf. I heated up the real mashed potatoes I made a few days before, and warmed a can of peas. I put pants on the baby and went to the bedroom and put on fresh acceptable clothes and makeup.
I picked up scattered toys down the hallway, kitchen and living room. I served up the kids’ plates so they would cool and waited for Danny to get home.
When he walked in, I walked up and gave him a big long hug. The kids of course couldn’t be left out and came running over to join in. It was nice.
He’s always appreciative of a good meal and says it’s good (even when it maybe isn’t) and we all relaxed in the living room after dinner. My feet were killing me. In addition to the meatloaf, I had made a big batch of waffles to freeze, and cleaned and decluttered the kitchen. I laid my head on his shoulder and almost fell asleep, I was so tired.
I wearily asked if I could get him a drink or take off his shoes and he laughed and declined. I think he knew something was up but he was curious and went with it.
I couldn’t hang much longer and I went to bed pretty much right after the kids did.
On the third day, I felt the need to give more hugs before he left for work. I was starting to feel a little more pride in our house, so I dusted the living room (a rare event) and cleaned out the bookshelf and updated and hung more living room pictures.
I made homemade pizza pockets with the yeast and rolling out the dough and all that jazz. It was time consuming but they turned out pretty well.
I folded and put away about 3 billion loads of laundry. I don’t mind doing laundry, it’s the folding that I put off until I have unsightly stacks to deal with. (I was thinking haven of rest and order.)
My 20-month old was not as helpful as he was in the days prior so I had to stop and keep him from jumping off of a cliff about 8,000 times in the process. He also tugged at my clothes wanting attention.
My lower back was starting to hurt, so I delegated the picking up of the toys to the kids while I put on makeup and changed clothes. I enticed my oldest to clean with more video game time and it was easy as pie. (Yes, a little treasure playing the part.)
I gave Danny a great big hug when he walked in and we all sat down for dinner. Not an elegant dinner, but a homemade one.
I listened more than I talked at the table, and it killed me a little inside. I’m a talker. He said there was a snafu with his vision insurance, so he paid for his eye exam out of the account and I was like what? (But I didn’t complain! He is the master of the house and I have no right to question him)
I asked him about work and how it was. I started to tell him about the things I wanted to get done the next day, but quickly dropped the subject. (His topics of conversation are more important than mine.)
My feet were killing me again and I was tired. By this time it was the end of the week. I usually start out Monday like Mary Poppins, but by Friday I’m more like Cruella Deville.
There’s no such thing as TGIF for me, by then I’ve pretty much had my fill of cooking and children. So I was a little grouchy and changed into comfortable shorts and a t-shirt.
I did all of the housework and cooking in comfy clothes and tennis shoes. No way-no how would I be able to tolerate a dress and high heels all day. There’s a reason June Cleaver was a fictional character.
I am so blessed to have a man that really doesn’t care if the house isn’t super-tidy as long as I’m happy (and mentally stable) It wasn’t long ago that we had a newborn and I lost track of time and forgot about dinner and the living room and kitchen and bathroom and all of the bedrooms.
The only thing he really noticed was different was my asking to get him a cold drink and take off his shoes. I have a thing with feet. I don’t mind my kids’ feet or my own feet, but I don’t like other peoples’ feet, especially after wearing socks and shoes at work all day.
Oh, and on the last day, he asked “What are you all gussied up for, did you have lunch with the MILFs today?” The term is meant affectionately and yes, I had. I worked in a little treat for myself because I had earned it!
So in the end, it had a positive effect on us, in terms of my taking more pride in the house and the big family hugs are here to stay. I was also reminded that there is another person to think about and honor, and I could probably stand to remember to let him talk once in a while too.
I think of this experiment as a special treat. There’s no way I’d let them all get used to this standard of living. I wouldn’t do that to my back, my feet, my mental stability, or my sons’ future wives.
It was neat to get a taste of what it was like to be a housewife in 1955, but I can say with 100% certainty that there’s no way those ladies didn’t fall dead asleep on the couch, open-mouthed snoring every night by 8pm. No thanks.
I have a sink full of dirty dishes right now, and I’m proud of it.
The article does hit the nail on the head where it says A good wife knows her place. She most certainly does. In the middle of a great big family bear hug, no matter what’s on the table, or what the house looks like.