Friday, November 8, 2013

Why I live a 1950's Lifestyle and Why I Don't

There have been many TV shows, blog posts and articles around recently about people who live an authentic vintage lifestyle and it is a subject that fascinates me. For a fair few years I've have adored almost everything about the 1950's. I adore the aesthetics of the era, the fashions, furniture and artworks, movies and music  however I could never fully amerce myself in living in the era as I believe to do so I would have to either accept the ugliness of the eras politics, sexism and lack of civil rights or live wearing hypocritical rose tinted glasses. So here's why I live a 1950's lifestyle and why I don't:

The role of the housewife:
Movies, advertisements from the time and forged articles would have us believe that the 1950's housewife was a oppressed submissive sub-servant Stepford wife type. Although I am not an expert on the subject I find it hard to believe the women who went out to work while their sweetheart was away fighting in WWII. Women who supported families, worked and volunteered to help the war effort happily returned to the kitchen and reverted back into mimsy housewives once the war was over. It seems that interviews with women who were housewives in the 50's support my view.

Having said this (and this may shock my feminist friends!) I aspire to be a housewife! I have no want of my own career I just want to be a mother and raise a family in a happy home. But before any feminists start to leave me angry comments please understand that this is my choice. I chose to be a housewife and look after my husband but I do this out of love and respect for him. My husband works long and unsociable hours in a physical job and I like to feel I look after him when he gets home. I do not do it out of any obligation as a women and being the stubborn type if I was told I had to do it I probably wouldn't! If I were living in the 1950's then being a housewife and mother would be a noble vocation but now days women who are stay at home mums are made to feel that they are somehow sponging off their husbands and are letting the side down.

And that's not to say that I do everything around the house, I certainly do not! Being the old fashioned type there's some jobs such as DIY, taking out the bins and likewise that are firmly labeled 'man jobs' (by me) in our household. And in complete contrast to this there are jobs that in a 1950's household would be assigned to the opposite sex that my hubby and I quite happily trade. An example of this is the vacuuming that the hubby lovingly does as he knows pulling the vacuum around gives me terrible back ache! We also have days where one or the other of us are feeling tired, ill or just plain lazy so there are days when on of us does more than the other but it all seems to even out and as our marriage is built on love and mutual respect for out partner we do not feel that one of us offers more than the other or indeed that we owe each other anything!

Feminist fought for the right for women to be equals, to choose their paths and for women to be able to have it all but in doing so women have become insanely busy trying to juggle careers and family lives and I feel perhaps the feminist movement has backfired for us as having it all is a lot to juggle. As for being equals to men this is something that I strongly believe in. I believe we are equals but not the same. We should embrace our differences and play to our strengths as it were. It seems to me that in order for us to all be equal that men and women have to become asexual entities and I for one believe that if this is the only way that men and women can become equals then it is not a step forward!

Modern technology:
The 50's was an era of major technological advances for the home. The 1940's housewife who had to dedicate a whole day to washing, a laborious task that involved hours of back breaking scrubbing and wringing clothes through and mangle and hanging them out to dry embraced the invention of the twin tub washing machine. Cooking and food storage was easier with the introduction of the mixer and refrigerator. I believe that the 50's housewife embraced any new technology that made her life and workload easier and were she around today she would be encouraging use to embrace the use of our dishwashers, robot hoovers and any other modern pieces of kit that make out life easier!

I feel the 1950's housewife would have felt the same about all modern technology. The 1950's saw the introduction of television into the household and it became the focal point of most living rooms. The 1950's housewife embraced this new technology and had such wonders as computers or the internet been invented back then I feel she would have embrace these too with the same sense of wonder.

Cooking and Baking:
There seem to be a view out there that the 1950's housewife would cook all meals from base ingredients to make healthy well balanced meals for their household. While this may have been the case in the 1940's anyone who has picked up a 1950's cookbook can see that this certainly isn't true! There are many experimental recipes for calorie laden foods that look disgusting (Jelo salad anyone?)

The 1950's saw the introduction of the refrigerator into the home and new freezing techniques such as blast freezing meant that foods that were once unavailable due to being out of season could be picked and frozen and were available year round. This made the housewives job a lot easier when it came to cooking for the family and also meant that they didn't have to shop for food every day as food could now be stored more efficiently.  

In 1953 Swanson and Son invented the first TV dinner. The first Swanson-brand TV Dinner was produced in the United States and consisted of a Thanksgiving meal of turkey, cornbread dressing, frozen peas and sweet potatoes packaged in a tray like those used at the time for airline food service. Swanson sold more than 10 million of these dinners in the first year of production. TV dinners meant that the 1950's housewife no longer had to slave away in the kitchen for hours on end. However TV dinner were hardly a well balanced nutritious meal!

And while i'm on this gripe where did this strange association with 1950's housewives and cupcakes come from? If a 1950's housewife was baking it would be a cake not cupcakes and yet it seems we can't go to a vintage themed even without cupcakes being present somewhere!

Domestic Crafts:
I have always enjoyed crafts such as sewing and baking from a young age. I also enjoy gardening and growing our own herbs and vegetables. Not only is this more economically and ecologically friendly but it means that the hubby and I have more idea about where our food comes from. When cooking we always try to cook from base ingredients as it makes for a healthier meal.

Domestic Duties:
There seems to be a misconception (perhaps created by the above article) that women would complete their daily domestic duties dressed like Betty Draper in a dress and heels, hair expertly coiffed and nails neatly manicured with a full face of makeup on. If we read interviews with women who were housewives at the time  (such as this one) we can see this is rarely the case and is in fact an unrealistic image represented in the advertising of the time.

As for actually completing the domestic duties well I have to admit that I am a little OCD when it comes to having a nice home. I like to have a clean tidy home for the hubby to come home to and on a personal level I find that living in a neat and clean come has a calming affect.

However as I mentioned above I don't complete all the tasks that would be expected of a 1950's housewife. The hubby and I happily share the workload.

Financial Matters and who 'Rules the Roost':
We are lead to believe that in a 1950's household it would be the husband who controlled the finances as he would be the 'bread winner' and the wife would have little say in the matter. Generally the husband would give the wife an allowance for groceries and household goods that she would have to manage. However this was not always the case many young couple relied on the wives income to save for expenses such as furniture for the marital home and when it comes to controlling finances whilst the vast majority of stay-at-home wives were given a sum from their husband's weekly pay packet and were expected to run the house, and feed and clothe themselves and later the children, out of it, in some households the man handed over his unopened pay packet to his wife who then gave him back what amounted to his pocket money.

In our family although the hubby is the 'bread winner' (and maker!) in our family we both have control of our finances but it is me who budgets which bills are going out which weeks and how much we can afford to put into savings. We allow ourselves an equal weekly allowance each to spend on frivolities such as clothes, computer games etc.

It shocks me that even in modern times there are women that have no idea about the family finances and are completely reliant on their husbands when it comes to financial matters. Whilst I trust my hubby implicitly when it comes to money I like to have the reassurance that should anything happen to him I can manage our finances.

As for who rules the roost well in the 1950's household it would traditionally be the man that was head of the household but being the stubborn modern woman I am I couldn't abide by this. That's not to say I don't respect my husband I most certainly do and I ensure I take the time to listen to him and value his opinions. However our household is a democracy built on the love and respect that we have for each other and each others opinions. In the 8 years we have been together we have never had a fight as we believe in honest and open communication in all things.  

Family time:
I like to ensure that the hubby and I eat our meals at the table as the average 1950's family would have. This way we can spend the time actually enjoying our food whilst conversing with each other or listening to some music instead of sitting like zombies in front of the TV and shoveling food in our faces.

We also ensure that we spend quality time together in fact we spend a lot more time together than your average couple and given the choice we would be ecstatically happy to spend all our time together.  Whether this time be snuggled up on the sofa watching our favourite shows or on a planed day trip out we enjoy and cherish the time that we have together and always try to make the most of it.

So in conclusion to this long rambling post (sorry readers!) whilst I enjoying the 1950's subculture I do not feel we could live the full 1950's lifestyle as the life of a 1950's housewife was far from the idyllic image we see in advertising and TV from the time. These days we have a nostalgic view of the 50's. Having said that there are elements of the 1950's family life that I feel are valuable and so we try to live a lifestyle with the best bits of the 50's without forgetting the true way of life in the 50's and not the rose tinted view were are presented nowadays.

I would be interested in hearing your views on living a 'vintage' lifestyle so please leave comments here or on the Facebook page  

1 comment:

  1. If there was something I want to live with now from the 50's, it's the strong family ties and the aesthetics, which both pretty much gives us a homey air more than what the modern interior design of homes and offices and the regular activities most families do, which may become an "anchor" that my kids can go back to when they grow up.