The 1950s Housewife

Most of you have seen the How to be a Great Housewife thing. Snopes has been unable to verify it, but it’s interesting that we’re willing to believe that it was the way things were done in the 1950s. My commentary is going to be from memory of family stories, but my grandmother was a 1950s housewife. (She started working in the 60s, IIRC, when the kids were old enough to start making meals and doing housework). Commentary will be in italics.

Have dinner ready: Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready for your husband. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home, and the prospect of a good meal is part of this warm welcome needed.

My grandmother was the primary household cook until she got a job. While I do not know if she had dinner on the table the second my grandfather got home, I do know that meals had regular times and she would pitch a fit if she came home from work and dinner wasn’t ready. Food was important Chez Nanny and meals generally were on time.

Prepare yourself: Take 15 minutes to rest so that you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people. Be a little gay and a little more interesting. His boring day may need a lift.

Knowing Nanny, I’m betting she did at least clean up a bit before dinner. I do have memories of my mother repairing her makeup before Daddy got home, but she sure as hell wasn’t taking 15 minutes to rest. She was doing that quickly so she would have time to finish dinner and wrangle my brother and I. While I doubt my mother, aunts and uncle were nearly the monsters my brother and I were, I also doubt Nanny exactly had 15 minutes to rest before Popie came home.

Clear away the clutter: Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives gathering up school books, toys, paper, etc. Then run a dust cloth over the tables. Light a candle. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift, too.

I doubt like all get out that Nanny did this. It is just possible when the children were older, she got them to do it.


But “haven of rest and order?” Around my grandmother? That’s a bit unlikely.

Prepare the children: Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair, and if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.

Nanny was fanatic about making sure the children were clean and moderately-groomed. My own face still stings at the memory of one of her rough face scrubs before dinner. But the charming little treasure bit? I doubt it.

Minimize all noise: At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer, dishwasher or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet. Better yet, have them in bed.

My grandmother? Not. A. Chance.

Don’t Complain: Don’t greet him with problems or complaints or complain if he’s late for dinner. Just count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day. Speak in a low, soft soothing and pleasant voice.

If something bothered Nanny, she’d let you know. In a loud, clear voice. She did not often wait for the opportune moment on this. Just sayin’.

Listen to him: You may have a dozen things to tell him – the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first.

Pretty sure she never let Popie talk first, either.

Make the evening his: Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Never complain if he does not take you out to dinner or to other places of entertainment. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure, his need to be home and relax.

BWAHAHAHA!!!! I won’t say Nanny didn’t wait on Popie. Truth to tell, she did, but it was more like a mother caring for a child than putting Father on a pedestal. Nanny and her sisters loved men, thought they were incredibly interesting and great accessories, but they never really saw them as full grown-ups. The idea of a man’s concerns being more important would have had them staring at you in sheer, blank system error. And once they got over that you could learn some really entertaining new words if you were a kid.

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