Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pumps and Pearls Not Required

Saturday I needed to clean house. On any given day at any given time I need to clean one or every part of the house. I had my list made of what were priorities to get done. So I started out with a load of laundry in the washing machine and from there you could find me vacuuming, mopping, back to laundry, cleaning the bathroom, baking muffins, although not at the same time as cleaning the bathroom, dusting, more vacuuming (you know we have 2 black fluffy pets), more laundry, general tidying of misplaced items, shampooing a throw rug, giving my children my undivided attention and was warm and affectionate to all. Okay that last part? Not so much.
As I review the list I feel quite accomplished until I remember I didn’t get 2 out of 3 bathrooms cleaned (although I delegated one of them to the kids to do), didn’t take library books back which means I didn’t take the recycling to the community bins, still need to wash bedding, have not a clue what we will be eating tomorrow or any other day next week. Taxes, bills, filing, etc etc there is still so much more that I should, could and need to get done. That’s when it hit me, I need is a 1950’s stereotypical style housewife.

I wasn’t born until 1960; though nothing much had changed in the early 1960’s with respect to the role of women in the home. Just look at the TV role models. Margaret Anderson from Father Knows Best, Donna Stone from the Donna Reed Show or how about June Cleaver from Leave It To Beaver. Those women had homemaking down to an art form. My personal favorite though was Laura Petrie from the Dick Van Dyke show. She still kept things running smoothly at home although there were the occasional mishaps. A bit more real woman and slightly less wonder woman.

How would life be different for the 3 of us at 1929 if every day there was someone devoted to the care and keeping of home, family and community? For one thing, I doubt a 1950’s housewife would ever have to do a load of laundry at 5:30 in the morning so her son would have a clean school uniform that day; stop by the store to grab some convenience item dinner because there is nothing to eat at home; search high and low for an insurance bill that should have been paid yesterday; put wrinkled pants in the dryer with a damp towel because there is no time to iron; pour bleach in the toilet until there is time to properly clean it (whenever that may be); use body soap for shampoo because she forgot to get any at the store the last 3 times she was there; leave a sink full of dirty dishes; drop into bed without washing her face or brushing her teeth because she can’t stand up for another minute; miss an appointment; fail to get to an appointment on time… Oh no, the 1950’s housewife would never do any of the above and I have done all of the above and more, which is why I think I need a housewife.

Over lunch today I steered the conversation with my mom and dad to this topic. I asked my mom, because she was a 1950’s housewife, about her life then. She said she knew where everything in the house was all the time. Every year she cleaned out every drawer and cabinet. I guess spring cleaning actually meant what it implies. Friday was house cleaning day and it was done without fail. She grocery shopped, with a list and planned menus once a week for the whole week. I have no memories of her frantically trying to find an overdue library book or in the middle of making cookies and having to run to the store for butter. Even after she started working a job outside of the home the habits and organizational skills she developed didn’t miss a beat. Instead of house cleaning on Friday, it was moved to Saturday as was grocery shopping. She may disagree with me but I am pretty sure she still knows where everything in her house is. Heck I call her and ask her if she knows where stuff in my house is and she usually does. I think she has some kind of magical powers that she didn’t pass on to me. She says she doesn’t clean house like she used to but it looks clean and tidy to me.

Eventually when my mom worked outside the home full time my sister and I were responsible for cooking dinner some evenings. We went to the grocery store to do the weekly shopping. Saturday was cleaning day and the duties were divided up amongst us all (I have a picture in my mind of my dad vacuuming). Now, the children at 1929 do help out. Allison grocery shops, will put dirty clothes in the washing machine, cooks and other things to help but she also works and goes to school (taking a crazy number of hours this semester too). Drew’s consistent chore is cleaning out the dishwasher and walking Kiva in the mornings. There are a couple others that I admit, I am just not as good at enforcing. When I get home the last thing I want to do is to do housework so consequently, I don’t. Granted, I could work on being more organized. Really I have the books. I have watched the shows but dog gone it I just don’t do it. But I do love making a list though.

I know, not every household ran like clockwork in the 1950’s any more than everyone in the 1960’s was a hippie or 1920’s a flapper. Nonetheless, if anyone knows where I can get a June Cleaver to run the day to day management of my home, please send them on over. Pumps and pearls not required.


  1. Great blog, brings back memories, we had the best role model ever!

  2. My mother also ran her house like that. Four children, house beautiful, our hair always brushed, gourmet food on the table. I do not know whether she derived the joy and comfort from it that we did.

  3. My mother was also a great Mom. I do all she did (except for the kids part) and work 60-80 hrs a week. As I age I'm not doing as much and don't care if the house is spotless.

    Rhonda McClintock

  4. It's a good thing I have my husband, Mark. He seems to carry the 1950s perfect housewife gene which is not part of my makeup. (No slam on the wonderfully MASCULINE hunk o' man that he is!) Having a guy who cleans as he cooks breakfast (yes--cleans AND cooks) never ceases to amaze me. I can hardly do one at a time without getting distracted by something else that needs to be accomplished, leaving the dishes half finished or something burning on the stove. If it weren't for him, I think I'd have to move to an assisted-living (and cleaning) facility!

    Thanks for the thoughts, Cynthia!