Was it easier being a 1950s mum?


60 years ago life may have been harder for mums (no dishwasher or tumble dryer!) but was it also easier? As radio presenter, journalist, blogger and mum Emma Borthwick debates, they may have had much less choice and opportunity, but they also had much less to juggle on a daily basis!

Was it easier being a 1950s mum?

It sometimes feels that a modern mum needs to be and do everything. The woman’s role ‘at home’ has never changed, (well for some of us anyway) and yet many women now have the added responsibility of full or part time work.

We clean the bathroom, do the laundry, the food shopping, pack the nursery/school bags, do the school run and hold down successful, demanding careers or run our own businesses. But sometimes I can’t help wondering how different life would be if I returned to the supposed life of a 1950s housewife (although, according to this article, life as a real 1950s housewife wasn’t quite as easy as it may appear!)

I often have this conversation with my friends on maternity leave. What would life be like if we gave up our careers and lived as a cliched 1950s housewife? Put makeup on before our husband wakes, wear pretty dresses, and have slippers and dinner ready for the man of the house to return from work? Not to mention raise well-bred children who only speak when they are spoken to?

And if we did all that, would we feel fulfilled?

My day today

Well to answer that question let’s take a brief look at my day today. My three year-old woke up for a wee at 3:30am and screamed her head off because there was no toilet roll left. It then took me half an hour to persuade her to go back to sleep.

My husband, therefore, got up first this morning. He went to work at the normal time, before I was showered or dressed, and I decided we would have a day in the house. Lexie was in her pjs till midday. My eight month-old had three poos, three meals, three bottles and a snack.

The highlight of my day was jumping around the house shaking my legs and flicking my hair to ‘Call Me Maybe’ by Carly Rae Jepson because Lexie wanted (ordered) me to dance with her Bambi teddy, and the crazier the better (standard).

I value my time at home because it’s temporary

Although, I appreciate my time at home – I think part of the reason I enjoy it so much is because I know it is temporary. I know there is more to me than the dirty nappies and crazy dancing mummy, and I need that. I need the time away from the children to be me, Emma. For me, the day I’ve had today would soon start to wear very thin if I didn’t have a career to return to.

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate what women did in the 1950s or do now at home, or that it’s not the right choice for everyone. I’m just not built for the idealised 1950s housewife lifestyle – I don’t look good on a morning and certainly couldn’t get out of bed first to be dressed and beautiful before my husband wakes up.

I’m not prepared to put everyone else first

I suppose there is also a selfish streak in me, and I’m just not prepared to put everyone else first. There is also an issue of value, of needing to know my worth, or at least understanding my value. Although I know my husband and children appreciate what I do at home, as women I think we often feel undervalued for that ‘job’.

That ‘job’ is not the one I want to build my life around. I’m paid to be a journalist. I know I’m good at it and that gives me a feeling of self-worth. I feel like a valued member of a team at work.

My life is about to change

At the moment I have a three year-old and an eight month-old and my life is filled by dates with the washing machine, the blender and a bottle of bleach (not wine!). But that is soon to change.

My husband will have to start doing more around the house again and I will be spending part of my week stimulating another part of my brain and sometimes (although rarely) feeling clever.

Was it really easier in the 1950s?

So, was it easier in the 1950s? Who knows, as we weren’t there. We weren’t mums then, we are mums now in 2015, with careers and the extra choice (and responsibility) that goes with that freedom.

All I do know is that for me it’s easier to go back to work, rather than stay at home. Not easier practically – as a working mum I still need to fulfil my housework tasks on top of my professional ones. But it’s easier because the decision to work sits more comfortably with me. I can’t let go of my career and more importantly, I won’t.

I want my son and my daughter to see that now, in the 21st century, we have choices. And women have the freedom to make the right choice for them – regardless of whether or not it’s ‘easier’.

Emma is a radio presenter, journalist and blogger. You can read her blog here

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