The Good Wife

When I was *cough* very young, and a bride-to-be, there was an article circulating that was said to be from a 1950s textbook called “The Good Housewife.” In fact, it was read at one of my bridal showers – by a preacher’s wife – and we all got a good laugh about how ridiculous it sounded and how out-of-touch and un-modern it was.

I ran across the article again a few months ago, and now that I have 14 years of marriage under my belt… Wow… What a different viewpoint I have.

“HAVE DINNER READY – Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal — on time. This is a way to let him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned with his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home, and having a good meal ready is part of the warm welcome that is needed.”

I have written before about meal planning and how much smoother things go when I have a plan. When I have a meal plan, I have a purpose when I shop for food, and there’s no last minute, “What should I do for dinner. Oh, so-and-so sounds good but I don’t have all the right ingredients,” etc. When you don’t plan, dinner usually isn’t ready on time, or worse yet, you greet your husband at the door with “There’s nothing to eat. We’ll have to go grab something.” I don’t know about you, but I hate to come home and go out again. My husband frequently spends an hour on his commute home and the last thing he wants to do is go out again. When he spends all day working hard to earn a living for our family, the least I can do is have a healthy meal ready for him when he gets home. Score one for the 50s wife.

“PREPARE YOURSELF – Take 15 minutes to rest so that you will be refreshed when he arrives. 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. Greet him with a smile.”

Okay, so we all know that the hour before dad gets home is “the witching hour” and the last thing on your mind is feeling refreshed. But hear me out. Put yourself in his shoes. You’re tired and just want to come home and rest and you walk in the door not only to “Daddy!! Daddy!!” but to a cranky wife who immediately starts in on how terrible YOUR kids were today and how the bathroom upstairs needs plunging and how she needs the light bulb in the kitchen to be replaced immediately. I don’t know about you, but I would definitely feel justified in responding with some crankiness of my own.

So, I’m not saying let him off the hook, but I think they have something there about giving him a warm, cheerful welcome. When you sit down to the dinner that you have all ready to eat, you can then talk to one another about your days – the good and bad – but let him have a moment to relax before you bombard him. He’s more likely to take things better that way.

“CLEAR AWAY THE CLUTTER: Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives, gathering up the children’s books and toys, papers, etc, Then run a dust cloth over the tables. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too.”

Okay, other than the sweep with a dust cloth… I am totally on board with this one. Nothing turns my husband’s mood south as much as walking into a messy living room at the end of the day. It immediately puts him in a bad mood. He sees it as the children’s lack of respect for our home. And I’ll be honest – it only takes a few minutes of dedicated time – 5 minutes tops, to straighten the living room before Daddy gets home. It is so worth it! Plus, I personally feel better when I’m not surrounded by clutter. So it puts me in a better mood too.

“PREPARE THE CHILDREN: If they are small, wash their hands and faces and comb their hair. They are his little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.”

I suppose this is okay. I wouldn’t go overboard, but you might want to make sure Johnny isn’t covered in chocolate pudding or something because you don’t want Daddy to get completely dirty from those sweet kisses.

“MINIMIZE ALL NOISE: At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise from the washer, dryer, or vacuum. Encourage the children to be quiet.”

This one is a hoot. It assumes that I should have all those noises going already. Really?!?! I have to disagree with part of this. I see nothing wrong with leaving the dryer on, as it’s evidence that you have been being somewhat productive. And at first I scoffed at the ‘encourage the children to be quiet’ (I mean, just how do you do that? By screaming at the top of your lungs? Probably not the best). But after thinking about it, a little quiet time during that “witching hour” would actually be a good thing. Think about it – it’s the time when they’re the most whiny, you’re trying to wrap up dinner, and they’re usually fighting by this point. A reading/picture book time out might not be a bad thing. You can have them straighten the living room, then sit down and read. As a bonus, it can give you some of that refreshing calm down time.

“SOME ‘DO NOTS’: Don’t greet him with problems and complaints. Don’t complain if he’s late for dinner. Count this as a minor problem compared to what he might have gone through that day.”

I already touched on this a little. In this day and age, if he’s late and respects your time, he’s already called you with his cell phone to let you know. I must admit, I never thought to look at it the way they put it – that it’s just another stressor in what must have been a stressful day for him. In fact, it seems pretty selfish for me to be upset over this, even though it is frustrating. In most cases, I’m sure he didn’t want to be late in the first place. (If so you have bigger problems to address). So adding your anger as fuel to his fire can’t be productive.

“MAKE HIM COMFORTABLE: Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest that he lie down in the bedroom. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing voice. Allow him to relax and unwind.”

Okay, I’ll admit, the comfy chair and removal of his shoes is a bit much, and I seriously cannot see this happening in our house. I do think that bringing him a drink every now and then is a good act of service, and in our house it is something reciprocated. Little acts of love for your spouse are never a bad thing.

“LISTEN TO HIM: You may have a dozen things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first.”

I agree with this. When you respect him, choose your words and moments for discussing things wisely, it can make a world of difference in the outcome of the conversation. This is a biggie for me. I’m still learning to think phrasing for things out in my head before they blurt forth from my mouth. I’m a work in progress.

“MAKE THE EVENING HIS: Never complain if he doesn’t take you to dinner or to other entertainment. Instead, try to understand his world if strain and pressure and his need to unwind and relax. THE GOAL: To make your home a place of peace and order where your husband can relax in body and spirit.”

I think that we all have worlds of strain and pressure. If you go out of your way to make your spouse feel loved and understand that the home should be a place of peace, then that’s something you will both benefit from. If it were me, I’d replace “your husband” in the last line with “your family”. Isn’t that what we all want? A safe place of peace and rest where we feel comfortable and loved? It’s not about being a slave to your husband, as some might think and scoff at when they first read through the list. It’s about being a godly servant to your husband because you love and respect him. And when this happens – really happens – not only will your attitude toward him change – but I would be willing to bet his will change toward you as well. He may begin to be more attentive to your needs as well. It would be a blessing to your marriage.

In closing, I think we can all learn some lessons from the 50s textbook. Is this what my life looks like? No. Do I think some of these things would bless me if I tried them for a while? Yes. And as with everything, the only thing I really can control in the situation is myself and my attitude. If I want change, I have to be willing to change. So I’m feeling a little retro change coming to my future. Will you join me?

~Mama Tutu

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About Laura

A Christian wife, mother, daughter, former educator, photographer, amateur chef, pretend gardener, alto 🎶, book nerd, cancer-survivor and laundry-hater.


One Response to The Good Wife

  1. Stephanie Mack June 8, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    Enjoyed reading this! As ridiculous as it sounds there is lots of truth in it. The effort goes a long way! It is hard to not be selfish and just dump on them when they come home. I am guilty more than not. My eyes were opened to this on the days I worked and Billy was home with the boys all day. Dinner ready, living room cleaned, kids bathed and quiet, eating in peace, a little down time, wow was wonderful compared to the opposite. Made a world of a difference in my mood. Thanks for sharing.

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