For Better and For Worse

Yesterday, I did a post on how backwards all the old ads seem to be. Two things came to mind. First, I don’t know that ads these days are any better. Oh, sure, women are seen as equals in the home and workplace, and that’s an obvious improvement. But women have gone so far to make themselves noticed that we’ve been put back right where we started. Don’t follow? Women in the ads from the 50’s were shown as mindless objects that served to gratify the needs of men. Make dinner, clean the house, get him a beer, have his baby, retain a perfect figure, know your place. Women in the ads today are worse. At least in the 5o’s, the women were expected to be capable of doing those things. The most successful ads today are of women in very little clothing. It doesn’t really matter what they’re doing. Unless it’s wrestling other women. Then they might get even more popular. They are simply sex objects that serve to gratify the “needs” of men. It doesn’t even matter if it relates to what the commercial is trying to sell. Because sex sells. If you don’t think that’s true, then ask anyone why Go Daddy, a company that sells domain names and web-hosting, has such a successful ad campaign. They’ll tell you it’s popular for it’s sexy commercials, especially getting hype during each Superbowl. I won’t post pictures as support like I did yesterday. The ads from the 50’s were awful but funny. The ones from today are degrading in a whole new way.  The one similarity for the vintage ads and the modern ads is that both society and women dictated they were ok. Society said it was just the way things were. And women consented to portray all of this in the ads. That’s still the way it is.

The second thing I noticed is that from the outside looking in, a lot of people might see me the same way they see the 50’s housewife. But I don’t see myself that way. Women seemed to be seen more as servants than as partners in a relationship with their husbands. Their place was by the stove, with the baby, or cleaning, and that was it. Now here’s the thing that really hit me as I looked over the post again. I would love to be a stay-at-home mom someday. I have absolutely no problem with women handling the cooking, the babies, and the cleaning. So what’s so different between me and a 1950’s housewife?

Well, for starters, I don’t mind handling those things because I love my husband and want us to have a nice, clean place to live and yummy food to eat. Currently being unemployed, I see it as my job to get the errands done, the house cleaned, etc during the work week. The first difference being that I do these things out of love, but I don’t do it because society dictates that I should. If anything, I fly in the face of modern feminisim by wanting to stay at home to raise my kids someday. Just like Tom works hard to bring home a paycheck because he loves me and wants to provide for our little family, I work hard to have a nice home because I love him and want our house to be a place we enjoy spending time together. And I cook because Tom can only prepare about 3 things to eat, and I enjoy cooking. So why not?

The second difference is Tom and I are more like partners than servant and master, though I do see him as the head of our home. We both work hard during the day. We both enjoy doing what we want to do at night. When we were both working full time, we shared more of the responsibilites. And even without a paying job, there are days that are so crazy that I can’t get it all done. When I was at a paying job, I left my work at a certain time of day and resumed it the next morning. When your job is at your house…you can’t get away from it. You cook and then you need to clean again. Laundry is always there. Dishes. Muddy paw-prints on your just-mopped floor. Bathrooms that need to be scrubbed. And because you’re the one staying at home, it generally all falls to you, no matter how busy your day or how tired you are. It’s nice to come downstairs from doing something and see that the dishes that I hadn’t gotten to yet were all taken care of already. And the best part is that he isn’t doing it as a favor to me. He lives here too. He eats off those dishes too. He knows how to do the dishes. And he is my partner in this marriage, so he pitches in. He doesn’t do it for a thank you. He does it because it needs to be done. And I’m telling you, almost nothing makes me feel more loved than having my husband take care of one of the many things on my list without expecting any thank you or anything in return. That makes me want to thank him and let him know how much he means to me.

The third difference is the mutual respect. Tom has a tough job. He has a lot of responsibility, he has multiple things to juggle at once, and he’s worked hard to move up at work. I am so glad he’s the kind of guy who will work hard to provide for our family. Every time a bonus comes in or he writes an online article for some extra income, we excitedly discuss how that will help in whatever area we apply it to. Most people who are in limbo with the job situation don’t get that kind of gratification. It’s easy to forget that they’re working too. We no longer receive a pay check. We don’t get a pat on the back from our bosses. It’s easy to feel like you’re draining resources and not giving back to your family with a paycheck or bonus or promotion. Tom doesn’t ever make me feel like that. He doesn’t see me as lesser or as someone who takes. He notices when he gets home from work and the kitchen is extra clean. He notices when the bathroom is squeeky clean. He notices when I’ve vacuumed and swept and mopped. Like I said, it’s not about getting a thank you. But every now and then, when he comes in and says, “the kitchen looks really good” or “man, the bathroom is so clean!” …it just makes me feel appreciated. Likewise, when he feels like he can get so much more of what he wants to do done after work instead of doing something like cleaning, it makes me feel good. Because I know that what I do during the day lets us both do what we feel like doing after the workday is over.

I don’t think the women in those 50’s ads felt like they could get away from what society dictated they should do, felt their husband would be willing to pitch in around the house, or felt that their husbands would see their work as being of anything worth mentioning with appreciation rather than with expectation. Therein lies the difference between a 50’s housewife and 2010 housewife.

What do you think? Are ads better today? Are stay-at-home spouses appreciated? Looked down on? Maybe in some of our society, but not in this home.

~Meghan

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