Did June Cleaver ever feel like a failure?

What will I fail at today? Mothering? Volunteering? Working? Maybe I'll burn the roast...

I may be opening myself up to a beating from the feminists, but please bear with me.  I’ve been thinking a lot about how much being a wife and mother has changed within the past few decades.  I am going to use the 1950s housewife as my example here because she is rather iconic. America was fresh from the “victory” of WWII (I used the quotations because I hate to put too much of a positive spin on something cost so many lives, even if it was for a good cause).

Hopes were high, as was the economy and the standard of living.  New inventions were making our lives easier, giving us more “leisure” time. With the new ovens being sold, you could cook a roast in under a day!!! But looking back, most of these “modern conveniences” didn’t work worth a shit, by today’s standards.  Women still had to be up by 6 in the morning (or earlier) to be fully dressed, perfectly coiffed and made-up and downstairs making breakfast for her family. Of course, making breakfast came AFTER getting that roast in the oven so it could be ready at 5 pm sharp.

Dishes had to be washed by hand, and quite often, the clothes did too, which then had to be hung to dry.  EVERYTHING had to be done by hand, and it took three times as long as it does today.  Many women couldn’t drive, either because they never learned, or because the husband took the car to work everyday.  They had to walk to the grocery store, or do their shopping on Saturday, because Sunday was for churching and potlucks.

It all sounds like so much work.  So why do I feel a certain kind of jealousy for those women?

It seems things were so much simpler then, despite all the “hard labor” women had to endure to “keep house.”  Mothers stayed home.  Fathers worked 9 to 5 (with a paid lunch hour, or sometimes the enviable 2-hour, 2-martini business lunch) and didn’t expect the wives to work outside the home.  Working was for young single women—secretary, waitress, librarian, teacher—something to do until they got married.

Mothers sent their children outside to play, ride their bikes and climb trees, without feeling like they had to be outside with them. They didn’t worry about kidnappers or pedophiles. Yes, bad people existed back then, but without television and the Internet, I think most mothers never thought anything bad like that would ever happen to their kids, if they ever even thought about it at all.

After school activities consisted of Little League and Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and baking cookies.  Moms didn’t need a 4 ft x 4ft calendar to keep track of all the soccer practices, ballet recitals, clay therapy, play dates, and swim classes.  Moms didn’t have to zip around town seven days a week dropping off, picking up, cheering or volunteering.

It seems to me that even with all the “modern conveniences” most of us have today, we are more stressed and over-worked today than we were 50 years ago.  Not only do we mothers still do most of the child-rearing, many of us also work outside the home (or earn extra money working for other companies from our homes).  We do most of the cooking, cleaning, homework-helping, and at least some of the yard work.  We volunteer, we try to give our kids every experience, every opportunity to try new things.

And now, on top of worrying about our own families, we are supposed to “think global” and do something about hunger, disease, death, destruction, and oppression in other countries. We need to “save the environment” and stop “poisoning our children” by buying organic and we are called upon to stop the corporate rape of third world countries by buying free-trade.

We are also supposed to help support our community by “buying local.”   We are vilified if we let our kids watch TV, or eat fast food, when we buy frozen meals, or let our kids play video games.  We are bombarded with negativity and often contradicting theories on how to properly raise a normal, happy, well-adjusted child.

Are there days when I DON'T feel like pounding a few highballs? Nope. No, there are not.

Do you think June Cleaver ever felt guilty about pouring Ward a hot cup of non-free-trade joe?  Do you think she ever cried herself to sleep at night? Well, maybe after having sex with Ward, but never because she stressed out because she realized she let her kids watch two hours of Sponge Bob after eating cold cereal and cheese sticks for dinner.

Please don’t get me wrong! I am very GRATEFUL to the women who kicked ass and paved the way for us to get (mostly) equal pay for equal work, the right to vote and NOT be considered property, the right to wear pants, drive a car, be a police officer/soldier/CEO.  But I have to say, sometimes I long for the days where not much would be expected of me other than keeping house and having dinner on the table by 5:15.  Because now-a-days, it feels like TOO much is expected of me. I can’t keep up, and I feel like I am failing at life, the universe and everything.

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9 Responses to Did June Cleaver ever feel like a failure?

    • Kerstin says:

      Oh I agree. That’s why I pointed out that I was puzzled as to why I would want to be a 1950′s housewife. Of course I referred to the iconic 50′s stereotype, because that is all I know. But I do know it wasn’t as idyllic as portrayed on the telly and the big screen. It’s just nice to imagine it that way. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to jump though the tv screen and give ol’ June a shake, and kick Ward in his condescending taco. But there was a certain simplicity to life back then (Cold War or not) that seems to be missing in life today. There appears to be a certain black-or-white feel to it that, as you said, is appealing. But considering the racism, sexism and other “isms” that prevailed in society, I don’t know that I would want to revisit those times.

  1. Susan says:

    Well said! I think we’ve all been there at one point or another …and these outside pressures and expectations are just unrealistic. I try to focus on my kids first, and the stuff with my husband, self, and house fall where they will…there was actually a time in my life where I had a toddler, and infant, stayed home all day, worked from 4pm-12:30am as a corporate trainer 50 miles from home, would get home around 2am and do dishes before sleeping for four hours and starting all over again. Fuck that.

    And don’t worry about a beating from the feminists. Most are pacifists too.

  2. Amanda Palmer says:

    Again! You nailed it, again! I have had this EXACT conversation with those close to me several times over the last year. After completing my second degree just recently, I took some time between degree completion and diving into a job-I was able to sit back and assess my life. You know what I realized? All the things you just brought up. While women have made huge strides to put ourselves on the map, we have in turn screwed ourselves because we are inherently the one’s who care for our families. So now, nearly every woman in American has two full time jobs-child rearing and a career. It is exhausting. My other realization came after my loving fiance listened to hours of my ranting about how hard it was to attend school full time, work, and raise a small child, and how at the end of it all I didn’t even want this damn career now. In a sci-fi brain-washing type of unexpected mind shift, I realized wanted to be a god damn house wife. I wanted to stay home, make delicious meals while watching the food network all day, take a bath and have some wine mid afternoon, and tie it all together at the end of the day by knowing my family was well fed and attended to. So when his response was something about how he would be fine with being the provider if I wanted to live that life (which is a bit of a hoot, because we couldn’t live a very comfortable life with one income, not to mention I have enough student loan debt to keep me poor till 2065), it only solidified my thoughts. Now factor in all the other aspects that you mentioned (the complexities of everyday life coupled with play dates, soccer schedules, and the incessant bombardment of scary things that could happen to our children if we don’t have our eye on them every second and feed them all organic food) and the realization is true-Life for wives and mothers 50 years ago, while perhaps not entirely self gratifying, was much easier.

    • Theresa says:

      This is Theresa, not Kerstin–I’m the half of Valium who did not write the brilliant post above.
      Anyhoooo, Amanda, I got to be a total, complete SAHM. And it is SOOOOO boring! We have another post on here about that! It’s called, “You want to do a craft? Here’s a broom. Sweep the floor. That’s a ‘craft’.” Sadly, there is no easy answer to balancing motherhood and having a brain.
      Sometimes I do think we have too many choices , but GOD BLESS the women who forged the way for all those choices. I love being a SAHM who works part-time from home. And I’m only medicated SOMETIMES, when my favorite vodka is on sale ;)

  3. Amanda Palmer says:

    Theresa, I read the other post, too. I also found it completely relative to my life. Sometimes I feel like, WILL I EVER FIND A HAPPY BALANCE? I would love to work part-time from home, but I am not sure how to go about that. I wanted to try and tap into the online blogging thing (I am not sure if that is what you do from home?) but from what I could find you have to have either a degree in Journalism/Writing or have published works somewhere, or a combination of both. I have neither of those things, as I went a completely different route as far as a career and now I am not certain I am entirely interested in that career….
    Mostly I just wanted to express how much I enjoy reading the things you both write-genius, entertaining, and uplifting for those of us who feel guilty for every thing we don’t do fucking perfectly as a mother. KEEP UP THE AWESOMENESS!

    • Theresa says:

      Amanda, I JUST saw your reply to my reply (HAHA!). Anyway, you can get PAID to blog?!?! WTF?!?! We need to look into that…

      I am a freelance editor, writer and marketer. If you’re interested in WRITING for pay, I highly recommend books by Peter Bowerman, the Well-Fed Writer series. “Back for Seconds” is the second book, and it’s great. It’s a how-to manual on how to build a career as a corporate/business/marketing writer. http://www.wellfedwriter.com/
      Good luck!

  4. kicki says:

    Hi Kerstin,

    I just have to tell you a funny ‘Kerstin story’. When my niece was little she drove my sister crazy asking her to play The Kerstin game. The rules were simple, my niece went into another room and my sister was supposed to shout out; -Kerstin, Kerstin, Kerstiiiiin….. And then my niece showed up and said; -Yes, what do you want? This could go on for hours. She liked the name so much so she was thrilled to be called for that way. She grew up to be a perfectly normal young girl despite this.

    Have a great weekend! /Kicki

  5. Theresa says:

    There’s a link on every blog page to LIKE our FB page! Here’s our FB url: http://www.facebook.com/valiumwithmylatte

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