A number of blogs that I follow have been posting comments about a US study that is linking women’s obesity to doing less housework than they did in the 60’s. The study was published in the journal PLoS One, and researchers studied 45 years of time-use diaries to compare hours spent on tasks inside the home. Findings showed that the amount of time women spent on domestic housework dropped from 26.7 hours per week in 1965 to 13.3 in 2010. Not very surprising considering the technological inventions during that period – such as the microwave, dishwasher, washer & dryers. News media have been having a hey-day with the topic. Headlines such as:
Less Housework May Mean Weight Gain For Women – Medical News Today
Less Housework May Be Leading to Weight Issues in Women – CBS News
Lack of Housework For Modern Women Might Be Contributing to Obesity – NY Daily News
I don’t speak for anyone else, but my house never cleaned itself.
I read the study, and have no personal argument with the premise: women are not doing as much housework as we might have once done. There are modern conveniences and we take advantage of them BUT so do our husbands. Men were not a part of this study because (apparently) in the 1960’s, men worked too hard to keep time-use diaries.
While searching the internet about housewife statics, I located a truly disturbing article.
The Good Wife’s Guide
From Housekeeping Monthly, 13 May, 1955.
1. 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 get home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Run a dustcloth over the tables.
5. During 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 comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.
6. Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Encourage the children to be quiet.
7. Be happy to see him.
8. Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.
9. 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.
10. Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.
11. Don’t complain if he’s late for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through at work.
12. Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or lie him down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.
13. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.
14. 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.
15. A good wife always knows her place.
I am really not sure what to say about this instructional manual except WTF? It might explain why there were so many alcoholic housewives in the 1950’s.
Housewife is no longer the norm as many women now have careers (either by choice or for economic reasons). In 1960 only 35% of women worked outside the home. That number is now closer to 75%. Women are doing less housework because they are wearing more hats. I understand – I have been there. You are a wife, a Mom, an employee, a child/sibling, a community member, and a friend. There are only so things that can be accomplished in a day, and so I devised the following checklist. Print it off, and either complete it yourself or have your family make their choices. You should hang the checklist up in a prominent spot where it will be easy for you to point to if someone makes an unsolicited demand on your time.
I am not Wonder Woman. Below is a list of duties. Please pick the three that you feel most pressing for me to tackle today.
Meals served in a timely fashion (take-out fast food is highly likely, no nutritional guarantee).
Child(ren) nurtured, cuddled, bathed, clothed, disciplined and chauffeured to school and activities.
Laundry washed, dried and folded. Your baskets will be in the laundry room – put the clean clothes away.
Floors mopped and carpets vacuumed (the Swiffer is an acceptable tool to accomplish either/both of these tasks).
Bathrooms cleaned and empty toilet paper rolls taken off and switched out with full rolls – as I seem to be the only person in the house who is capable of doing this. (Note: I do not want to know what any of you wipe with after the roll runs out and before I change it).
Grocery Shopping – might be relevant if you notice that the milk is chunky, or if anyone becomes tired of jam sandwiches.
Bills paid – our family can live without telephone and hydro, but I doubt we can manage without high-speed internet or cable.
Take out the trash. Likely not important until we get interviewed to have our home featured on “Hoarders”.