I decided to do an experiment and research about the typical 1950’s housewife and her daily responsibilities. I am a modern day housewife who can admit that I lack the skills of the past day housewife. Before beginning this experiment I had to get expertise advice from elders and read through their resources to truly understand their role in the 50’s. I committed this experiment for one week but have been very interested in becoming being more feminine and hard work of woman in the 50’s and with a lot of passion decided to fully commit with this experiment.
I have been with my partner for two years and we have two children under the age of two. When we first committed to each other I could barely cook toast without burning it. Through the last two years I have developed my home making skills to a barely appropriate level.
The first person I asked for advice was from my 89 year old grandmother. Even though her memory isn’t the best, she informs me with a great insight of her experience. She also kept a few vintage copies of good housekeeping magazines which I will use as a guide line plus her experience.
My grandmother advised me that as a housewife and wife in general we must submit and respect our husbands as if they were the image of god. She also advised me that the woman is the rock in the relationship and it is important not to burden your husband with thoughts, feelings, and stories when he arrives home from work. She said she use to give my grandfather 30 minutes or so for him to have his own time. She will bring him a cold beverage and a snack then left him alone. While he was having his own time she would be finishing of dinner and then call him for when it is ready to be eaten. Then she will clear up dinner, settle the kids for bed, continue cleaning the house for a few hours and then join my grandfather for their personal time. She said she would get up at least two hours before her husband and children and will start her day. She calls this pamper time. She will bath, remove hair rollers and style her hair, do her skin routine and apply make-up. Then she will put on her home dress, heels and apron then make her way to the kitchen.
As a 23 year old housewife growing up with a rebellious mother who did none of those routines. It makes it impossible for me to believe that there was an era that woman actually did this. By listening to my grandmother speak in regards to what she calls pampering and her blessed day of serving her family. It all seems very foreign to me and comparing my daily routine. Which barely consists of a shower a day? I spend majority of the time in my Pyjamas or track pants and t-shirt. Usually by the time my partner finishes work and arrives home I am still in my Pyjamas. The only time I usually put that much effort in dressing up and putting make up on is on date night, wedding’s or a funeral. I feel pretty shocked as the idea of making an effort in getting dressed up while I am staying home cleaning and caring for two infants all day, seems unbelievable.
While in the kitchen, she will spend the morning cooking a feast of a breakfast. The daily breakfast usually contains porridge, freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice, bacon, eggs, toast, English breakfast tea or coffee. In the weekends she will spoil the family and add pancakes, hash browns or waffles in syrup. My grandmother would pack the children’s lunch with a meat pie, sandwich, a piece of fruit and soup in a thermos. Sometimes as a treat she will put in a tart, creamed donut or homemade biscuits into the lunch box. She would pack the same for my grandfather’s lunch. Once everybody had left for the day she would begin her daily cleaning and cooking schedule. My grandmother said she didn’t have any appliances like we have these days and having a refrigerator, washing machine and a television was a luxury item which they did not own.
Now the experiment begins. For me to fully commit to the experiment for a week I will use the resources that have been given and words of wisdom from my grandmother. In regards to the food of the 1950’s my partner is Mexican and he requires nutritional and flavour able meals.
The first day did not go so well. I actually ended up sleeping in as my newborn decided to have a three hour breast feeding marathon. My partner usually gets up at 5am to drive to the city and he was out the door by the time I woke up. Not looking too good for the experiment. But by the 3rd day I fully committed myself in waking earlier before my partner. It took a long time to get my partner to eat breakfast before driving to work. He would rather sleep in until he has to get up and go to work.
For the rest of the week I committed myself to get up and take my shower and did a quick ten minute make up routine I read an article. I get up and make my way to the kitchen. I feed the girls and begin cleaning the house daily.
I didn’t realise that not using the vacuum, steam clean mop and washing machine would be so frustrating. Washing clothes by hand took a good hour or longer. Soaking my toddler clothes was the frustrating part, plus scrubbing the food stains and dirt of her clothes just made it more fun. Then having to rinse the excess soap and squeezing the water out of the clothing to get it ready to hang on the line to dry. While the washing was happening I have my toddler playing with the soapy water in the buckets making another huge mess. On top of that my newborn demanding another feeding marathon, I just do not understand how 50’s mothers did this.
The most difficult part of the experiment was the cleaning. Scrubbing the floors and using a standard mop took a great amount of time. Plus with a breast feed exclusive newborn and an active toddler. I found my day to go very quick. Every time I would start mopping the floor, the children would be demand attention. I would attend to one, then that one would be settle. Then the other one would demand attention. When I decided to clean the floors, I turn my head for a second and found my toddler playing with the mop water. The good thing about it is that I didn’t use any chemicals. I found myself cleaning more than often. I usually clean the house once every two days and spend most of the time doing activities with my children.
The good thing about the experiment is that my partner noticed the effort I was making in my appearance; the home environment was more relaxing and pleasant. He felt at ease and was determined to be home as soon as he could when he finished work. He enjoyed having a beautiful partner dollied up supplying him with a hot dinner and a supportive attitude. Even though he actually had no idea I was doing an experiment. Which I find the funny part. I got to keep myself entertain somehow. I made him a few of the 50’s dinner recipes. He found the dinner recipes tasteless. Even though he is too polite to admit it. I can tell when he enjoys something I have given him. But I notice one thing he really did enjoy eating and that was my Grandmothers trifle recipe which he states is the best dessert he has ever tasted. He says it is the perfect combination of a dessert not being too sweet or too plain. Just perfect he says. This made me very happy.
What I learnt about this experiment is that my partner was more relax and more appreciative of me. I found that 50’s women were very hard working, caring and active. It made me appreciate my new age technology more and that how lucky I was to have all the items to make life easier. I did enjoy the effort it took to dolly up in the morning and again before my partner came home. I did enjoy having to put some effort in even though I may have not received the gratification I wished for.