"As a housewife, I feel that if the kids are still alive when my husband gets home from work then hey, I've done my job."~Roseanne Barr
"Susie Homemaker" is the iconic (and fictitious) 1950s American housewife who summons up recollections of freshly baked apple pie, a gentle squeeze when you crawl into bed at night, and the ever-ready bandage over a fresh boo-boo. She's the Stepford Wife image of perfection and the ideal wife and mother devoted entirely to her home and family.
Remember Lucy Ricardo, Donna Reed, Laura Petrie and June Cleaver vacuuming in high heels? I mean, c'mon, even the Eisenhower years had moms like the newly exonerated Ethel Rosenberg, Joan Crawford and Mrs. Robinson!!!
As the fog of reality lifts, and November 3rd's Housewife Day fades in memory, we notice that times have changed and so have our (mis)perceptions, if in fact such an "über-mom" ever existed. Today she'd be portrayed as a postfeminist stereotype of a woman on the go juggling family, health, sex, career and home, with enough time left over for scrapbooking, gourmet cooking, volunteering at the local food co-op and shopping for (and actually wearing) Manolo Blahniks.
Today's stay-at-home mom is more probably a "domestic diva" stuck at the stove "expressing" herself by frying up eggs, sleep-deprived from watching her newborns and toddlers and changing hundreds of dirty diapers a month, ensnared back-at-the-ranch and finding her center by desperately trying to keep up with Martha Stewart (let alone the Joneses), shuttling her kids from soccer practice to clarinet lessons to dance rehearsals. Any which way you look at it, being a housewife has gotta be hard work.
Househusbands and dads, too, have joined the parade of parents who now make up the ever-growing genderless crowd responsible for caring for a household...it's not just for the ladies anymore! The individual who stays at home man or woman is oftentimes the one who's usually financially dependent on the other partner. To the surprise of those who aren't at home around the clock and are full time out in the workplace, they too benefit from the unwaged work provided by the one working at home. (If compared to what it might cost for each and every task by someone collecting a paycheck, the take-home pay for the average homemaker would be approximately $138,000!)
Still preferred by many, but also thought by scores of folks to be an antiquated and derogatory term, being a "housewife" harkens back to a time when one income could support all of the bells and whistles necessary to keep an entire family well clothed, fed and living within an acceptable middle-class style. But unfortunately it was also a time when housewives and single women had less than equal rights. Just within the past 100 years, they couldn't vote; didn't have the right to hold public office; if they worked, the range of occupational choices was very narrow; they weren't offered fair wages or equal pay for equal work; they were denied the opportunity to own property or a home; they weren't allowed an education; they were forbidden to serve in the military; they weren't offered the possibility of entering into legal contracts or even to have the most basic rights including marital, parental and religious rights. In fact, women were considered chattel.
Housewife Day at least acknowledges the magnitude of importance that stay-at-home wives and moms (and yes, husbands and dads too) deserve.
My mom, in her own weird way, was a hybrid of an ever-mindful-eco-friendly-Susie-Homemaker long before such status was imaginable. In the 60s, as a stay-at-home parent of three, she made clothes for the entire family, did her own hair ("Hmmm? Nice Toni-home perm, mom!"), knit and crocheted beautiful sweaters by hand, canned and preserved pickles, jams, fruit and sauces, made bread almost every day, made her own yogurt, invented toys out of scraps of this-and-that, gardened, mowed the lawn, painted rooms in record time and even made purses for my sister out of old jeans.
Make Green Cleaning a Game!
Clever as she was, my mom also made cleaning into a game. (This is this week's tip, so listen up. Try it. My mom used it effectively on my brother, sister and me until we were in our teens. We were either dolts or else she had something going on here!)
On Saturdays mom would make a cleaning list and tear it into bits, folding them into a bowl. My brother, sister and I "could choose" (Thanks, Mom give and give and give!) until all of the pieces were gone and we could then begin to open them one by one.
"I get to clean the bathroom!" "I'm going to rake leaves!" "I'm going to change the beds!" "I'm going to sweep the sidewalk!" We'd each exclaim, as if it were a treat. The first one to complete all the tasks written on their selections pulled from the bowl would "win."
Win??!! No, we didn't win a dollar or an ice cream sundae or anything like that we just "won." To my mom, and therefore to us, having a clean house by the hands of her eager and "winning" children was, in itself, the prize.
To this day, when cleaning, I first make a list and cross off each chore when completed. Hooray, I won!!
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