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.