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.
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.