Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Good Wife's Guide

When I first read about the Good Wife's Guide from 'Housekeeping Monthly' over at Sweet Pea's little kiwi blog, I was ticked pink. I couldn't believe that any magazine (even a misogynist one), much less one intended for women, even as early as the '50s could propagate such values. I was convinced that it was a joke, but one that a male chauvinist or rather a satirist had created as a commentary on expectations of women.

Curious to know the origins of this curious little tale, I snooped about and ended up predictably at Snopes, which had but of course discredited the story as a fabrication intended to highlight 'outdated societal behaviors and attitudes and portray them as worse than they really were as a way of pointing out how much we have improved.' Well, point noted. Snopes has as usual created a compelling and intriguing argument about what would have possible caused this article to be born and also gives instances of other absurdly archaic articles titled 'Slave Consultant's Narrative' and the outrageously hilarious 'Advice to young brides'. I am convinced that only a man or woman of rapidly flowing highly concentrated creative juices could spin such a yarn. I wonder where humanity would be if we took these to heart and chose to follow such codes of conduct word for word. But clearly it is commentary or even a satire at best and a mockery at worst of the values espoused by highly moralistic institutions who tend to pervert meaning and truth and make up versions of it that suit their purpose and convenience.Whatever said and done, it serves to entertain for sure!

Coming back to 'The Good Wife's Guide', imagine if the article were to be true. Agreeing that it is highly exaggerated and some parts of it even border on absurdity, is it truly to be rubbished as regressiveness in entirety. I couldn't help but feel that sadly, most of the points mentioned are still what most successful homemakers do, whether they tout a career along with the family or in absence of it. Failing these, she is most likely condemned and labeled a 'lousy wife' and 'unqualified' mother.

The challenge
Its implication
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.
Practically speaking, this is what most married women, with or sans work and kids do in any case. Women come home and cook and have a nutritious and appealing meal for the family ready while the children study and the husband either does odd jobs around the house or comes later or watches TV, depending on how house trained he is. To raise an outrage to this proposition is to dramatically take on the role of a feminist and proclaim, ‘How dare you assume that the woman is supposed to be doing these things! This is abuse, a modern form of slavery. An outrage! A travesty of justice!’
Oh just breathe! It’s called sex roles. Women nurture. Men protect. It’s a basic difference. By cooking a meal for her family, women are just doing what they innately are best at and probably enjoy the most. If you ask me, I would any day rather cook a meatloaf than fix a faucet. 
Prepare yourself. Take fifteen 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.
What we need to understand here is that the evening is for the two of them or for the entire family, rather than for just the man to enjoy being fussed over.

Taking a deep breath, washing one’s face and touching on make up allows her to enjoy the fruits of her labour more than anyone else.

Hardly anyone would argue that the woman is entitled to and undoubtedly should dress up to please herself in the presence or absence of others. Anyone telling you that tidying yourself up after a meal and presenting a pretty you in front of a husband is a sign of submission and an invitation to discrimination is clearly just exhibiting a case of sour grapes. And you would do well not to pay heed.
Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.
Ummm…in more ways than one, this would work very well in maintaining your husband’s interest and attention. After all, nothing better than to feed to one’s fantasies!
Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.
Do this before he comes. After he comes. Whenever. A pretty and well kept house is everybody’s joy. There’s hardly a contention there. Better yet, make the kids tidy up.
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 to his personal comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.
The fire, if you ask me, should be kept going in winter anyways, irrespective of the husband!

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 one of them. Let him talk first - remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.
Of course the latter part is better ignored, but communicate! This cannot be stressed enough! Talk about everything under the sun! Talk about your day, your work and the people in it. A problem shared is a problem halved. Sharing is caring and you will be all the happier for it.
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.
Of course, if he comes home late once in a while, you should rejoice and plan a night out with your own friends. But if this is an everyday phenomenon, refer to previous steps.
  1. Communicate
  2. Dress up nicely
  3. Greet with a smile.
Be the incentive for him to come home and no one truly achieved this by complaining.
More often than not, the problem will solve itself. And if it doesn’t, the problem is much more deep rooted than you think. Or maybe he genuinely is a workaholic. In which case, points a, b and c should anyways offer the solution.
 Your goal: Try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where your husband can renew himself body and spirit.
Your husband, you, your dogs and everyone else living in it should see your home as a place of peace, order and tranquility. In today’s mad world, we cannot afford it to be anything but that.
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.
This should be done by all family members for each other! You for your husband and kids and of course them for you! And if not, do it for yourself. Have a cool or warm drink as soon as you come home and watch your evening improve.
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.
Trust and faith are integral parts of any relationship. Nobody wants to be criticized, judges and nitpicked on all the time. Have faith that he will indeed be fair and truthful. If you go by popular culture as propagated by ‘The Secret’, you will be rewarded by an honest and fair husband because that is exactly what you expected. Of course, anything that you are uncomfortable with should be discussed. But nobody got anything they wanted by nagging, screaming, kicking and crying. Talk rationally, calmly and equanimously. Not as a doormat and definitely not as an authority. Be the equal if you want to be one.
A good wife always knows her place.
That is true! She does! And it is at the centre of her home and her family’s heart.

Of course, to abdicate their right to question any actions of their spouse is dysfunctional and counter – productive and is antithetical to the idea of communicating in a positive and solution creating manner.

Additionally, a sense of self respect and self worth is crucial and imperative in any fulfilling relationship. Believing that your thoughts and concerns are of minimal importance next to those of your partner is a sure fire way of destroying this.

Thus on analyzing the article it is clear that it is the ‘whole’ that is offensive rather than the parts. Because really, only 2 of the parts are really regressive and deserving of a good bashing up. Which brings me to a very important idea.

The context of analysis. a.k.a. the framework.

With the picture of a kitchen of a woman cooking, the date 1955, the name of the magazine (Housekeeping Monthly. How outrageous to assume that Housekeeping is what the woman would and should be doing!) and a stereotypical label such as ‘The Good Wife’s Guide’, this article, at the outset, created a framework from which it was judged. In 5 seconds, an intelligent mind could have judged and given you a gist of the article and the reader’s typical response to it. That is how successfully the context and framework was created by the author. It is this that leads us to react in a particular way to information rather than the information itself.

Now imagine a different scenario.

This is the story of a happy, young, newly wedded couple. It’s the Mr.’s birthday and the Mrs. has a special evening planned for him. This is an article that her best friend gave her to follow, to plan a special evening for her husband. Now read the above steps. Doesn’t seem so offensive anymore does it. And precious little in this list would be inappropriate or unwarranted in this context.

And there is no argument that in a dream marriage, the husband and the wife would be treating each other in the best possible way. I for one, think that everyday should be a celebration. So I'm game for dressing up, special meals, cleaner houses and flowers through the day if that's what it warrants.

In short, rather than rejecting anything that seems ‘off’ at first sight, it may help to try take things out of their natural habitat and viewing it without the rose / blue coloured glasses. And if you do this for your marriage, your husband and children will love you for it and you will be all the more blessed.

And honestly, most husbands would worship a wife like this and completely reciprocate. And if he doesn’t, you are much better off being single. And a month of being a ‘good wife’ is just the way you can find out. But Ill bet my bottom dollar you’ll reap what you sow. With dividends.


  1. Wow.. Proposing through a blog post !!!! AWESOME!! haha... though i hope ur wedding is not an e-wedding ... And Liz you'd make the sweetest wife... maybe i need to keep reading this post everyday and learn it by heart for a smooth-sailing marriage :)

  2. Even I think I'll make the sweetest wife Sarah :) I'm glad someone agrees! Now I just need to beat Thom into submission and make him say it too.

    I'll let you know how I progress ;)


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