How to Be a Good Wife

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For my birthday, mother-in-law gave me this snippet allegedly from the May 1955 edition of Housekeeping Monthly.* I read it out loud over homemade Neapolitan ice cream cake, and we all got a good laugh out of it — except Erich, who made sure to remind me when I wasn’t speaking in a “low, soothing, and pleasant voice” and is now taking advantage of his right to disappear from home whenever he wants to. (I’m kidding, in case it wasn’t obvious. I would never marry a man with 1955 expectations.)

Notes: Bold phrases = me ROTFLOL, and I am not responsible for the lack of Oxford commas.

The good wife’s guide

  • Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. 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 (especially his favourite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.
  • Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.
  • Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.
  • Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper, etc. and then run a dustcloth over the tables.
  • Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.
  • 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. [<<< Favorite line.] Minimise all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.
  • Be happy to see him.
  • Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.
  • Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first — remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.
  • Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.
  • Your goal: Try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.
  • Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.
  • Don’t complain if he’s late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.

  • Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.
  • Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.
  • Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

  • A good wife always knows her place.

Well, that escalated quickly.

Tell me your favorite “good wife” advice!

*Snopes claims the Housekeeping Weekly reference was fabricated, but the bullet points still accurately reflect the worst of the 1950’s. Read more on the Cult of Domesticity here.

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16 thoughts on “How to Be a Good Wife

  1. Corrie Elizabeth

    Woah, nope! That sounds unhappily similar to advice I’ve read directed towards Christian wives of the present century. Some of it is not bad advice except that it is so one-sided. For example, it would certainly be thoughtful of a wife to clean up the house before her husband comes home, just as it would be for a husband to do the same before his wife comes home. But the language of duty and how the husband “deserves” such treatment is what is so disturbing. Also–don’t worry if your husband stays out all night? Yeah, that’s a terrible idea.

    Like

    • Bailey Steger

      My thoughts exactly! Some of the advice encourages considerate behavior, but *both* spouses should show such behavior! And yep, apparently being a good wife means being naive about where and with whom your man sleeps at night…..

      Like

  2. Hannah B.

    How about this real life pastoral advice: When a wife is mad at her husband, if, for example, she’s bringing him a glass of water, she shouldn’t slam it down angrily, but should set it down gently, with a smile on her face.

    *Gag*

    Like

  3. Justine

    I am complimentarian, but if my husband expected me to act like all this, I would tell him to go find a doormat to marry lol. Like seriously, consider him staying out all night minor compared to what he went through during the day? What happened to him that this could be minor in comparison, did he get hit by a train?? And never question his judgment… really? It seems like they are saying men can’t sin. One of the purposes of marriage taught in our church is the sanctification and building up of BOTH parties, which in my opinion requires some questioning of judgment and decisions.

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    • Bailey Steger

      “Go find a doormat to marry.” Good response! :D Right — couples ought to look out for each other and build each other up, not expect one party to wait hand and foot on the other and never challenge them. The 1950’s marriage offers no spiritual benefit to men!

      Like

    • Bailey Steger

      According to Snopes, it is and it isn’t. I think it’s a modern list, but it’s still consistent with the worst of the 1950’s. Patriarchal women are still teaching their daughters and other women these things, more or less. Quite sad. :(

      Like

  4. Bethany

    My stars. I almost threw up my macaroni. What is this?! Slave service?
    Also, what woman with children has time to take a freaking fifteen minute pamper nap?

    Like

  5. ruxeestanescu

    Oh my! According to this I am the worst wife ever! :)) I honestly think my husband would hate it if I acted like that – he always says I am his teammate, not someone under his command.

    Like

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