I adhered to 1950s housewife etiquette for a week without telling my husband. Here’s how that went

I adhered to 1950s housewife etiquette for a week without telling my husband. Here’s how that went
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My husband and I have been married a little over a year but run our dual-income, no-kid household with something of a roommate dynamic.

We manage our finances separately, we purchase and prepare our own food and we’re both in charge of our own individual laundry. We split the bills and the household chores and the pet care duties. Despite our mini zoo of four animals, we keep a fairly clean house with different standards for what that means — I am more neurotic about tidiness, order and eradicating clutter while he’s better at thoroughly cleaning our germs, dirt and dust.

Suffice it to say, no partner is in charge of taking care of the other — financially or domestically. It’s about as equal a partnership as you’ll find.

We’re a pretty good team and are in no way traditional. Our situation looks absolutely nothing like that of our parents (both our moms stayed home to raise kids while our dads worked) and we’re a far cry from the old mid-century standard of marriage gender roles.

That’s why when I decided to secretly adhere to some old school 1950s housewife etiquette rules I saw circulating on Facebook, I thought it would flip our life upside down.

Boy, did I miscalculate that.

After five days of running around trying to work full time and “make my home a place of peace and order where my husband can renew himself body and spirit,” my husband hadn’t even noticed.


In the end, it only flipped my world upside down and resentment consumed me.

Because he had no idea what was going on, I felt like I couldn’t be as mad at him as I wanted to be. I just counted down the days until I could return to our real life where I don’t pick up spilled dog kibble one piece at a time by hand because I can’t run the vacuum for fear of disrupting the tranquility I’ve manufactured just for husband.

It’s all so painfully funny I could cry, and I did — twice during my little housewife experiment. I kept a diary to track each day and need a therapy session to unpack it all but I’ll write about it on the internet instead. Here’s how it went down.

But first, the rules…

Tips to look after your husband

Let’s start by saying no one has been able to prove that these rules ever really existed as written in a 1950s home economics book. They very well could have been produced five years ago and designed to look like a replica. But the fact that they exist in any form at any point in time suggests that someone, somewhere — now or in the past — felt the need to outline a wife’s “ideal” behavior.

I’ll play along with that.

Let’s also point out that I’m fully (FULLY in all caps) aware that this experiment is easy in a kid-free household. I get it. I can’t relate. I can’t even get my puppy under control and do all these things.

Have dinner ready. Because “men are hungry.” True. Same.

Prepare yourself. They suggest touching up your makeup and putting a ribbon in your hair. I settled on just showering and getting dressed.

Clear away the clutter. I am extremely down with this and do it for my own sanity but they suggest doing it so “your husband will feel like he has reached a haven of rest and order.” Stab me.

Prepare the children. You’re supposed to make sure his “little treasures” are “playing the part” by cleaning them up and combing their hair. We don’t have kids so I made sure our two cats and two dogs were looking like Baby Gap models.

Minimize all noise. Somehow you’re supposed to do the laundry, wash the dishes and vacuum without him ever knowing any of that has happened because the noise from the machines would be unpleasant for his delicate man ears. Add for me working full time and this got hairy.

Don’t share your problems or complaints. Because your problems are “minor compared with what he might have gone through that day.” LOL, ok.

Make him comfortable. They suggest taking off his shoes and offering him a cool or warm drink. I offered him so much water I think he thought I was trying to discretely poison him.

Listen to him. This is a normal thing any couple should do but the “let him talk first” bit can go straight into the trash.

Make the evening his. “Try to understand his world of strain and pressure.”

Day 1 — “He won’t even notice I’ve done anything different today”

He works 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. so I skipped the office and worked from home so I could mop floors, diffuse aromatherapy oils, light candles, clean up after our zoo and fold his laundry before he got home at such a bizarre hour.

It’s all stuff I/we do anyway but the trick here was I had to do it in a race against time so all the effort was hidden and all he saw was the perfect home.

Managed to shower, get dressed and put on makeup even though I usually prefer to be a slug when I’m not in public.

Lied and said the puppy did not poop in her crate even though she did so as not to burden him with my problems. Offered him water; didn’t want it. WTF.

Sat out back together with the dogs for a few minutes and then I left him to take a nap with the puppy. Did not take his shoes off. Not gonna do it.

Knocked out two more hours of work later while he was at the gym. That’s another thing about this week. I usually work nonstop with a phone or laptop in front of my face and have to make a point not to do it in front of him.

Frantically threw together a taco feast for dinner. He won’t even notice I’ve done anything different today.

Day 2 — “There appears to be a trade off — my sanity or these rules.”

Got into a better rhythm today and managed to spend half a day in the office but there appears to be a trade off — my sanity or these rules. Got home with just enough time to run around spraying air freshener, vacuuming again, bleaching counters and picking up dog toys to create a spa-like oasis right before he walked in.

Felt better personally and professionally but my housewife work was rushed and mediocre.

Made another feast for dinner but he wanted his questionably edible old fried rice from last week so I just let it slide and ate alone.

Offered water again; still doesn’t want it. Think he thinks I’m trying to poison him like in our favorite show Forensic Files. It’s the women who get murdered 99% of the time but on the rare chance a wife turns on her husband, she almost always poisons him. We’ve seen about a 200 episodes. Trust me. I looked suspicious with all the water offers.

Gave him the last bite of Rice Krispie treat and tried to elbow him out of the way to clean the pans but he did it anyway. Still no possible way he knows anything is up.

Day 3 — “I’m gonna need therapy after this, I swear.”

Here’s the day it all unravels.

It’s his work-from-home day. I’m working straight through 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. with back to back to back events and meetings and he has no idea any of this is happening so good luck to me and my stupid scheme today.

Left the house as tidy as I could without being able to run any of the major appliances in his presence. Came home at 7 p.m. with 3 more hours of work ahead to find the house in shambles — muddy paw prints everywhere, clutter, general disarray. His 12 hours of househusbandry compared to my 48 hours of housewifery are straight garbage.

The muddy rug that sent me over the edge.

Kept myself eerily calm and insisted on making pasta even though he offered to handle dinner. Went upstairs afterwards to quietly fume and finish working in my office.

Headed back downstairs at 10 p.m. to vacuum, mop, do dishes, put dinner way and (experiment be damned!) completely unload the last 72 hours on him. Snapped and yelled over the vacuum, “Go upstairs. I can’t be around you.” WHEW, GIRL. That’s definitely a housewife demerit.

Day 4 — “Complained to my sister about how horrendous it is to do all this stuff and she goes, ‘Oh, I do that stuff.’ (!!!)”

Rage cleaned last night so I’m running out of things to do. Tackled little things he’ll never notice like cleaning the big appliances, refilling soap dispensers and washing the muddy rugs from yesterday.

Again, these are normal things I/we do but not one person solo and not in the middle of the work day so the other person can come home to a nice home.

Ran through the same charade of tidying, wiping down counters, vacuuming (I’ve vacuumed a thousand times this week) and putting away dog toys before he got back.

Made dinner and brownies as a peace offering from last night but decided to keep the brownies for my own damn self. How has he not questioned any of this yet?

My sister called and I told her what I was up to. I complained about how horrendous it is to do all this stuff and she goes, “Oh, I do that stuff.” (!!!) Promptly shame spiraled out of control thinking about all my many inadequacies.

Day 5 — “Time to let him know he’s been living in a different household with a different wife he didn’t notice all week”

ALRIGHT THIS IS THE END. Checked over all my housewife rules to see if I’ve at least attempted them all but I am not taking his shoes off for him. Not gonna do it.

Planning on dinner out tonight and I guess that’s where I’ll let him know he’s been living in a different household with a different wife he didn’t notice all week.

But I couldn’t wait for dinner.

My work day got moved around so it was the first time all week I wasn’t perched on the coffee table waiting to greet him. (I’m still stunned he didn’t notice that’s not my normal behavior.)

Instead, I stormed in a few hours later with a very dramatic “HAVE YOU NOTICED ANYTHING DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS WEEK??” that I’m sure sent his mind racing for any possible anniversary or holiday he could have missed.

He, of course, did not notice anything different about the week. I don’t know if that means I did a bad job of being a housewife or if perhaps I did a great job of what appeared to be the #1 housewife rule — make it all look effortless.

I tagged him in, told him to get pizza for dinner and left the house because I’d been in it enough this week.

Come Monday, I was in the bathroom blowdrying my hair when I heard the door crack open. “Are these clothes dirty?” he asked with a basket of my stuff in hand.

“Yep,” I said. And order was restored to our life.

Our wedding photos were shot by Amore Vita Photography

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