Modern Wife Goes Retro: My Transformation From Career Girl to Housewife

I've decided to experience life as a housewife using the 1963 guidelines outlined in  Fascinating Womanhood. And so far this modern gal has not taken to the role of Domestic Goddess very well.

"Darling husband, let me serve you!"Why am I an uber-liberated make-your-own-damn-dinner kind of gal doing this? A few reasons. One: I’m turning it into an article based on my experiment, the book and outside interviews. Two: I hinted to him that maybe one day I’d become his “perfect wife” and he laughed and said he didn’t think I’d last a week. Hey, I don’t see him trying to be my perfect husband. Three: I want to see if changes I make to more “traditional” duties are ones that I actually like–although, I got to say I know what’s in the “Fascinating” book and it makes me ill to think about how much I’m going to have to change. Four: I want to see if being this “ideal” woman will make him happy or drive him crazy. Because, frankly, I think if I had someone waiting on me all the time I’d feel uncomfortable. Five: I want to gauge the reaction of other women who see me acting “traditional”.

I'm using the book Fascinating Womanhood first published in 1963 by Helen Andelin laying out the ground work for a “perfect” wife including: have all your housework done before he arrives, refresh yourself befor he arrives and have dinner ready for him. Some women swear by it saying it’s a book that helps unleash true feminism.  They also have online “mentoring” for married and single women interested in the concept. (You can read more about my experiment at type "Fascinating Womanhood" into the search button).

Fascinating Womanhood arrived last night and what an arrival it was. I flipped through the pages and, girls, let me tell you. Just reading the 1963 chapter titles and guidelines on how women behave about sex and finances made me sick physically, spiritually and emotionally.

Here are just a few highlights: understanding men
Chapter 3: Accept Him
Chapter 4: Appreciate Him
Chapter 5: Admire Him
Chapter 6: Make him Number One
Here are just a few highlights: understanding women
Chapter 18: The Feminine Appearance
Chapter 19: The Feminine Manner
Chapter 20: The Feminine Nature
Chapter 21: The Feminine Role vs. the Working Wife
Chapter 27: Fascinating Womanhood Applied to Sex

It’s Chapter 21 that bothered me last night. According to author Helen Andelin, women are only justified working outside the home if they are widowed, divorced, single or their husband is disabled. If your husband is not disabled you are still allowed to work outside the home if it’s an emergency, “to further your husband’s education or training” so if he’s a doctor, you’re butt works as a waitress to support him, and if you are an older woman whose children have left the nest you can work outside the home to ”occupy your time.” But Andelin cautions against working period. You as a wife should learn the feminine art of being thrifty.  Even if  the finances are strained, you aren’t supposed to step in but build his confidence and keep his home peaceful. Remember, you are “saving souls” at home by choosing not to work and for you career girls the price you may pay is your soul, “If your husband and family must take second place, you are making an unwise choice.” She concludes the chapter with a quote from a successful single novelist who talks about the prestige and money she’s made but without a man and home she is among a legion of,  “sad women like myself.” (You can read more about my experiment at type "Fascinating Womanhood" into the search button).

I want to tread carefully here because I do know stay-at-home moms and I respect them. They say it’s the hardest, most unappreciated job but I will tell you that a working mom with two jobs at menial wages is also sadly unappreciated. And I’m not sure who deserves the title of Domestic Goddess. I work and still scrub toilets too. But what bothered me so much about this chapter was an overwhelming sadness that encompassed me. Where would I be if my teachers and my parents hadn’t indulged my creative side? If my English teacher Mrs. Higgins hadn’t pushed and prodded me into filling out a college application? I doubt a male teacher would have gone as far as Kathy Higgins did for her students and she was a mother and wife. If my mother had forced me to learn to sew instead of buying me paints? I mean, hell, why are we even sending out daughters to school? All they need is domestic training like trade school or something. You know who has similar rules about women at home? The Taliban. And they make their women cover head to foot and refuse to educate girls beyond the home too. Wouldn’t Andelin like that?

I want you to think about all the great women in your lives. Some may have been housewives but a lot of them are teachers, nurses, CEO’s, businesswomen, lawyers, bankers, authors, writers, musicians etc. Women who pursued a God given talent AND had kids and a husband. The more I read Fascinating Womanhood the more I realized just how unfascinating her rules are. She uses biblical scripture a lot in this book. And that offends me. Because I don’t think I’m sinning by pursuing my passions. I do think that a working mom and a stay-at-home mom must make sacrifices. Some women just want to be June Cleaver and that’s fine. But husbands leave you, divorces happen and so does infidelity. It scares me to see women base their existence on their marriage. Because I’ve seen women crumble when it doesn’t work out. Children also grow up and away. And working women have to admit that when you try to do everything you can’t do it all perfectly.

Sigh. I’ll continue reading this book, but if anything it’s making me prouder about the fascinating woman I am!

(You can read more about my experiment at type "Fascinating Womanhood" into the search button).

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