Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Desperate for a Housewife

ON A number of occasions in the past I have written in this very column about how I have a secret yearning to be a 1950s housewife.

As much as I'm aware that I'm suffering from 'grass is always greener on the other side' syndrome, the thought of having no expectations on me other than keeping my home tidy and minding my son is, at times, remarkably appealing.
But I've changed my mind.
After reading an email doing the rounds at the moment from Housekeeping Monthly magazine in 1955, I have decided I don't want to be a 1950s housewife so much as have one at home to look after me.
You see the way I've worked it out is that if I had a housewife at home I would come home after a hard day at the office to a clean house, lit fire, quiet child and lovingly prepared meal on the table.
My housewife would be cheerful and chatty and allow me to vent about my day. She would pour me a cold drink and help me take my shoes off. She would perform a modern day miracle by making sure my son was first of all clean at 6pm and, second of all, quiet. If I so desired she would fetch me a pillow to rest upon.
Yep, it sounds good to me. I could get quite used to the idea of having someone who saw it as their only duty to make me comfortable and relaxed in my own home.
I've even tried to talk the husband into hanging up his suit, donning a pinny and becoming a househusband- but his levels of housekeeping are simply not to the standards of your average woman. (To put it mildly, we would be needing Kim and Aggie in within a month.)
'The Good Wife's Guide' as published by 'Housekeeping Monthly' on May 13, 1955 has created quite a stir on our office. All the modern wives have been having a jolly good laugh at the advice dolled out to the 1950s wife.
The guide includes some classic gems of information such as "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."
My favourite line however is "Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgement or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will within fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him."
I can only dream of this being true in my house where my 1950s housewife would replace my husband's judgmental glares when I arrive through the door laden with shopping bags or reach for a second chocolate mousse after dinner.
My 1950s housewife would never be so bold as to question my judgement in such matters. She would know that my shopping is always for necessary items to relax me after all, I live "in a world of strain and pressure".

My comfort
And when I returned from work, weary from fielding calls about graduation photographs, she would let me off-load before launching into her list of problems. In fact, I'm almost sure she would be, to quote Housekeeping Monthly, concerned with "catering for my comfort" she might not even whinge at all.
It sounds like bliss. I think every modern woman should have a housewife at her disposal.
Of course behind our laughter is the truth that our grandmothers and great-grandmothers really were expected to behave in this fashion. This was an era were children were seen and not heard and were a wife dared not question her husband's actions even if, as 'Housekeeping Monthly' states, he came home or even stayed out all night.
The reason I want a housewife all of my own is because I would generally love someone to act as my dedicated servant. It seems that in the 1950s that was very much a woman's role- to serve her man and raise her daughters to believe that they were not worthy of careers or independence simply due to their sex.
Modern relationships do not (or at least should not) work that way. In theory at least my husband is my equal in the house and we share the household chores. (I know, I'm snorting myself at that one- my husband, God love him, thinks sharing means him emptying the bins and washing an occasional cup and me doing everything else).
But we both know that when we finally get five minutes together at the end of the day we both have an equal right to chat, let off steam and put the world to rights.
While the noise from the wee man can induce a grade three migraine on your average Wednesday evening, neither of us expects him to be silent to keep us content. In fact we cherish his childish chatter and hearty belly laughs. Much as I would like to come home to clean and tidy child, I at least know if my son is covered in mud, water, juice and yoghurt at the end of the day, he has had fun.
So yes, give me a housewife, someone to clean and tidy and fix me a drink. But leave me my husband to sound off too and my son to carry on with at the end of the day. That in itself would achieve the 1950s housewife's goal of making sure my home is a "place of peace, order and tranquility where I can renew myself in body and spirit".

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