Does anyone remember the song of the same title as this post? Here’s an excerpt:
She picks up her apron in little girl-fashion as something comes into her mind
Slowly starts dancing rememb’ring her girlhood
And all of the boys she had waiting in line
Oh, such are the dreams of the everyday housewife
You see ev’rywhere any time of the day
An everyday housewife who gave up the good life for me
Glen Campbell recorded it. I always thought Glen Campbell was a tool, but he, and this song in particular, rocked my dad’s socks back in the day. He (my dad, not Glen Campbell) used to love to sing this song to my mum. My parents had a very traditional marriage with clearly defined wifely and husbandly roles. Dad went to work, mum stayed home.
As I kid, I used to think, “Thank god I’m not a boy. Boys have to grow up to be men who have to go to work every day.” I hated the idea of trudging off to work every day.
On the other hand, I also hated it that my mother had to ask my dad for money for every little thing she or the kids needed or wanted. And he’d never just trust her and hand it over. No, there always had to be a big discussion about it and most of the time my mother wouldn’t get the money she asked for.
My mother was also not allowed to make any decisions about anything except Christmas, which he didn’t care about as long as she stuck to the “Christmas budget”. She was also allowed to decide what to cook for supper – though that one was based on what my dad liked.
So, after weighing the pros and cons, I’d pretty much decided by the time I was 8 that I was never getting married.
Of course marriage isn’t like that anymore. Is it?
Maybe not for most folks, but there’s a new woman’s movement (fad) afoot where women are giving up often lucrative careers to become “retro housewives”. Yes, it’s actually called the Retro Housewife Movement. There’s even an official Retro Housewife website.
A whole passel of recent how-to be a retro housewife type books have flooded the market: decorating guides, homecare manuals; there’s Happy Housewives by Darla Shine (she also has a website), How to be the Perfect Housewife by Anthea Turner, The Housewives Handbook by Rachel Simhon, and Caitlin Flanagan’s controversial To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife.
Flanagan accuses early feminists for dismantling family values, and says that not all housewives of the ‘50s and ‘60s were as bored or miserable as Betty Friedan wanted us to believe. She points to our ongoing fascination with Martha Stewart, who built “an empire on the notion that ironing and polishing silver and sweeping a kitchen floor might offer an almost sacred communion with what is most essentially and attractively feminine.”
Canadian writer, Carolyn Mctighe, spent 2009 living as a 1950’s housewife as discussed in her blog Vacuuming in Pearls (I’m not sure how the blogging part fits in with the 1950s housewife thing) But anyway, she mostly seemed to like the experience. She’s writing a book about it also called Vacuuming in Pearls. Stay tuned for that one.
The Retro Housewife Movement seems to be particularly popular in the UK. The Daily Mail did a feature a while back on several women who are completely living the lives of 1950s, 1940s or even 1930s housewives called Time Warp Wives. It’s…. umm…. interesting.
So, how crazy is all this? Well, I think a lot of women are fed up with having to do too much. They won the right to go to work, but no one ever really replaced them in the home, so they bear the lion’s share of that responsibility, too.
Then there’s this whole economic crisis thingy which has led some people to discover, oddly enough, that they can’t afford to have both spouses working anymore. They can’t afford daycare or nannies. They can’t afford to eat in restaurants or order take-out every day anymore. They can’t afford cleaners. They can’t afford their big house or two cars anymore.
And, a lot of people are just plain fed up with the way things are going and want to simplify their lives. Living in the past seems to be the answer for some of them. Sure, some of it’s a little creepy, especially when couples take the whole thing to extremes. But perhaps if people can find a way to incorporate the good stuff from the past into their current lives?
While there’s lots of ways I couldn’t imagine living in the 1950s, there are a few things that would be nice, such as:
- Not having to go out to work
- Spending more time with my family
- Having time to prepare good meals and cook more
- Better TV and movies – each show and movie was an event not just one of a million others just like it
- Not having gadgets – much as I love my gadgets I’d love to live in a world without DVDs, computers, cell phones, iPods, etc.
- No malls
- No sprawls
- Less cars
- Real communities
- Teenagers went to sock hops and got pinned instead of going to raves and getting high
 Flanagan’s book is controversial because while she espouses living like a 1950s type housewife, her version of that is giving up her career, but hiring nannies and housekeepers to do all the drudge work at home.