Truthfully, I don’t know what it was like to be a 1950’s mom. My own mom was in high school then, so she’d have an idea. But I don’t want to ask her. It might burst my little fantasy of a slower paced, homier lifestyle.
To give you an idea of why I have this nostalgic longing, let me tell you something about my average weekday, these days. Say Mondays, which are easier than some days but harder than Fridays.
6:40am: Alarm goes off. That probably sounds late to many of you, but I can get away with it because I don’t care about things like hair all going in the right direction or covering up the signs of age that are taking over my face like a not-so-slow moving cancer.
Okay, I lie. I care about those things, but I’m a realist and would rather sleep than fight the inevitable.
6:50am: I head downstairs to make lunches for the girls. This activity gives me an opportunity to capture a 1950’s moment. I could just toss a Luncheable™, box juice, and an icepack in each lunch box, like many parents do. Or, heaven forbid, tell them to make their own lunches. But this is one of the few moments in the day where I can really say “I love you” and try to take the edge off the guilty feeling that I’m not the supermom I want to be.
So I take the time to build deli-style sandwiches, with shaved meat, mayo (and mustard, depending on the meat), tomato, and lettuce on interesting bread. By interesting, I mean bread that is soft and fluffy and does not contain any gritty or chewy signs of fiber, which would result in partially eaten sandwiches returning home after school, along with complaints of extreme hunger. I vary this routine by using flour tortillas or buns, or by including a thermos of hot soup or re-heated leftover stew or spaghetti.
(Note: Kids are on their own for breakfast – cold cereal, yogurt and fruit, or pbj. Hubby is on his own for food, period.)
(Another note: when I take my younger daughter grocery shopping, she lingers in the refrigerated aisle, staring wistfully at the assortment of Luncheables™ that her friends get to eat.)
7:20am: I herd the girls into the car and drive them to school – 20 to 25 minutes, depending on traffic. Then, if I’m especially organized, I head to the gym for a quick work-out. About 20% of the time, I forget my towel or clean undies and head home instead.
9:00am: I join the stop-and-go traffic on Highway 1 for the 45-minute commute to the University, where I teach a technical writing class for the statistics department and work for statistical consulting services.
11:45am: Work is broken up by a 15 minute lunch break, when I take a peek at Facebook for sound bites from my friends and I snarf leftovers.
4:00pm: I join the stop-and-go traffic on Highway 1 for the 45-minute trip to pick up the girls from school, where they have just finished orchestra practice.
5:30pm: Arrive home. The evening is a jumble of homework, violin and voice practice (the girls, not me), scraping together some lame excuse for dinner (my ability to strive for 1950’s maternal perfection is exhausted for the day), and writing lecture notes and/or reports. Sometimes the dishes get done.
9:00pm: I collapse in front of the tv, too tired to do any more work, too wound up to sleep yet. Hubby heads for the man cave to work, do bills, and play computer games. I check Facebook for sound bites from my friends.
That routine probably sounds familiar to many of you. Compare this to my imagined 1950’s weekday.
6:40am: alarm goes off. If they had alarm clocks back in those days.
6:50am: Make hot oatmeal or eggs and toast for the kids and husband.
(Note: when I take the kids to the grocery store, they stare longingly at the selection of cold cereals that their friends get to eat for breakfast.)
7:30am: Hubby heads for work. The kids walk to school. I walk with them, if I’ve bothered to get out of my housecoat. I then clean up the kitchen, and do a few odd chores around the house.
10:00am: I meet the neighborhood ladies for coffee. We gossip about the ladies who don’t show up.
12:00pm: Kids come home from school for lunch. I indulge in convenience food: Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. (I’m innocently oblivious to worries about the numbers on the nutrition label. Assuming they had nutrition labels back in those days.) Grilled cheese, pbj, or bologna sandwiches and a glass of milk complete the menu.
12:30pm: Kids walk back to school. I clean up the lunch dishes, tidy the family room, and do some sewing or baking while I listen to the radio.
3:00pm: Bake cookies or make peanut butter celery sticks.
3:30pm: Kids come home from school and eat the above. I help them with their homework.
4:00pm: Kids head out the door to play with neighborhood kids. I have no idea where they go and don’t care, as long as they’re home by 5:30.
4:05pm: I put roast or chicken in the oven and tidy some more. Then maybe read a romance novel and eat the leftover cookies.
5:30pm: Husband and kids come home from wherever. I conscript the girls to help make side dishes for dinner because it’s important for them to learn these skills.
6:00pm: We sit down as a family, facing each other across the table, say “please pass the peas”, use napkins in our laps, and hold our forks properly. Kids help with the dishes.
7:00pm: Kids finish homework, and we all sit around listening to the radio, reading books/newspapers, and doing handwork. Or, if we’re more progressive, watch the 4” by 4” tv screen housed in a 450-pound console. I turn it off after half an hour so it won’t hurt the kids’ eyes.
8:00pm: kids go to bed. Hubby and I chat about the day.
9:00pm: Hubby and I go to bed.
I have two distinct reactions to this imagined day. On the one hand, it sounds boring and inconvenient: I would miss my 52” LCD television (and Bones , Chuck, etc.) and DVR, modern washer and dryer, microwave oven, and high-capacity hot water heater. But, on the other hand, I could stand to be bored for at least a few weeks. I could also stand to avoid driving altogether. And I might enjoy seeing more of my family.
My mom was one of those ’50s moms but we had a carpool to school ‘cos it was too far away. We had dinner together almost every night that I can recall & she was quite the cook/baker. And I remember the after-school adventures – I can’t believe how far I used to wander! I’d never let my kids do that when they were little, or even into middle school!
Like you, I feel guilty I wasn’t super-mom. But if they ate regularly (though McDonalds was on the menu far too many evenings with crazy practice sessions), went to bed at a decent hour, and had clean clothes to wear to school, I felt like I was doing my job.
When I was growing up, we had all of that, too. At least until High School, when we had after school activities.
Now, I do my best to have us all eat together most nights. That means it’s sometimes 8;30 by the time we eat…
So see you at 10am? …. Oh yeah right I’ll be working! We’ll have to do it on a Sat or Sun and pretend it’s a Mon. I think I can stand being bored a bit. Good on you for hitting the gym by the way! 😉
a) I get exhausted just reading your schedule.
b) You wanna be WHAT??!!
Somewhere in Heaven (at least I hope it’s Heaven), my mom’s mom is saying how she would have given her eyeteeth to have a computer, a calculator, Motrin, the Internet, white-out, a microwave, a dishwasher*, Prozac, pantyhose, tampons, etc.
She was a 50’s housewife (which she said was a lot better than being a ’30s or ’40s housewife), while my mom’s dad was a professor at K-State. If she wasn’t washing and drying dishes, she was cooking on her gas stove; she had to start a roast in the morning if anybody expected to eat it before bedtime. And laundry! Want to dry clothes and sheets? Hang them on the clothesline outside if it’s sunny; down on the basement clothesline if it’s not. And don’t forget the ironing (no permapress in those days. And no sending the kids off to school in jeans and t-shirts; girls had to wear skirts and blouses, while boys had pants and shirts; all ironing required).
Want to balance your checkbook? Get out the pen and paper and start figuring it up. Probably no big deal if you’re a math wiz like you and Tom (or an algebra teacher like her), but the mere thought makes me want to start tearing things into little pieces.
Is it hot in here? Then pack up and sleep down in the basement, because fans are your principal coolers, and your rare air conditioning mostly consists of window units.
Want to write a story? Sit down at your typewriter and start banging it out. Better remember your smudgy carbon paper if you want to keep a copy. Make a mistake? Have to type the whole page over; there’s no white out around.
Have the kids do their homework? Hope you have a set of encyclopedias in the house at least, or you can drive them down to the library. That’s your one and only research database. While they’re there, you can read the news about the latest polio epidemic and wonder whether they’re going to wind up with crutches or an iron lung.
But if they do escape polio (and measles, and mumps, and whooping cough, and all the other stuff we have vaccines for), then the girls can learn about their career opportunities; secretary, teacher or nurse. All of them low paying, often high stress jobs, and about all that was available to women. Of course, there was the housewife job if you happened to marry, but then the wife often didn’t get to control her own bank account, credit cards, business, etc. Again, it might be OK if you had a good husband, but if he happened to be a drunk, or an abuser, or if he died or abandoned you…well, I’d be sorry for you.
The kids going on dates? Better volunteer to be a chaperone, because there are no date rape victims; just “teases who get what’s coming to them”. There’s no AIDS, but there’s plenty of VD floating around. There’s no birth control pills, and no legal abortion; just back alley butchers and homes for unwed mothers. If a girl was lucky, her boyfriend offered to marry her. If she wasn’t, she could be ostracized for the rest of her life.
Feeling a little ill around that time of the month? Your doctor (almost always a man) will tell you you’re just imagining things in your hysterical female mind, and you don’t REALLY feel any pain. Here–have a cigarette! It will help you calm down. Cancer? Now you’re being hysterical again–cigarettes don’t cause cancer. But if you do get cancer, all he can do is tell you to make out your will. With your husband’s permission, of course.
But don’t fret! You can always enjoy the ’50’s life; just take a week off and go live in a cabin in the woods with a radio, a sink, and a gas stove. Think of it as your own little time machine. Only you can go back to the future whenever you want. 😉
(‘Breaks into chorus of “I Like It Here In The Present Day”, sung to the tune of “I Like It Here in America.”)
* OK, maybe not a dishwasher; she never had one in the Manhattan house, and we used to spend half the day washing and drying dishes after every meal. No sooner did we finish the dishes for breakfast than it was time to start cooking lunch. And of course, there was the added fun of the gas powered stove, which we kids weren’t allowed to touch for fear we’d blow up the house.
Hey, Jean, I *said* I didn’t want to have my bubble burst with the facts…just let me have my Happy Days dream, eh?
Sent from my iPhone
I know, Marie. I’ve just been watching the latest series on “Mad Men” and it’s really bumming me out. Maybe I need to switch on “Happy Days” like you. I always loved the “Mork From Ork” episode.
You have an iphone? *turns green with envy8
Yes to the iPhone. But it’s over two years old, so it’s a dinosaur 😉
Plus, this Valentine’s Day is the 20th anniversary of Grandma Olson’s death. She’s the one who passed on any writing talent I have, as well as part of my snarky sense of humor and latent mean streak. 😉
Anyway, she had a pretty difficult life–grew up on a farm, nervous breakdown, heart trouble, sick kid, etc. She liked to think of herself as Scarlett O’Hara battling through the days (only she was lucky enough to marry her Ashley Wilkes). I keep thinking of how much she would have loved to have stuff like a word processor, the internet, feminism, etc. All the things that would have made her life so much easier, if she had only been born sixty years later.
Dang, now I really do have to find that “Mork From Ork” episode.
I know this post is old so i hope you forgive me for replying on here. You did a review on Thor and i really liked it so i thought i would check out the rest of your blog.
This is the first time in a long time that i have laughed at some honest to god reading material. I love your imagined 1950’s day. On quiet a few occasions my girlfriend of 3 years(Debbie) any myself have always fantasized about living in the 50’s. What it would be like to have those traditional family values in place. Sitting around a table as a family and doing things together.
Thank you for giving me something real to read.
Look forward to reading more.
P.s. I posted a reply on your Thor review and i accidentally called you a “dude” because i thought you were a guy. Apologies on that. 🙂
No problem about the “dude” thing. Happens more often than you might think 😉 And I’m glad you are enjoying my blogs!