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My life as a 1950s housewife

In pursuit of happiness, we asked mum Carrie Cox to live as a 1950s domestic goddess for a week.

Carrie Cox

Most of the time I feel exhausted. A working mother of three, I sometimes wonder if the days before women were expected to juggle kids, career, relationships and fitness were easier. Say what you like about our grandmothers, but they looked happy.

After listening to me whinge one evening, my husband gave me a tattered copy of The Good Wife's Guide, a how-to book for happy '50s housewives. I laughed before realising he might be serious. Then, as if reading my hubby's mind, I was invited by that's life! to try on the housewife guide for size.

Could this be my ticket to happiness? I wondered.

I agreed to stick to the rules for a week, taking orders from my hubby, cooking from scratch and keeping our home pristine. Surely it couldn't be any harder than my life now?


Working from home, it's not unusual to still be in my trackie-daks at lunchtime, but not today! This morning I ditch my jog (a man should not have to wake up to a sweaty wife) and set about making myself look pretty.

It's not easy. After much head-scratching I opt for a dress (yes, I own one!) pearls and a ribbon in my hair. I go into the kitchen and the kids laugh. The eldest makes me promise not to drive her to school. Hubby grins and gives me a playful pat on the bottom.
I refrain from punching him.

Doing the dishes by hand after breakfast, it dawns on me I'll have to wear the dress all day. Already I'm uncomfortable. But The Good Wife's Guide is very definite about the need to greet your husband in the evening looking prettier than you did that morning.

In the meantime, I decide to busy myself with a feather duster - but alas, I don't own one. I rent The Stepford Wives on DVD instead and kick back with a glass of wine. Well, the Guide says I must be 'gay and interesting' for my husband and that's not going to happen sober.

Thankfully, my husband rings in the afternoon and says he won't be home until late. Off comes the dress and lippy. And I'm deliberately not unhappy because, as the book says, 'Never complain if he comes home late. Try to understand his world of strain and pressure.'


Today is all about housework. In the '50s, housewives seemed to take pleasure in domestic duties and I suspect my hatred of housework is just a case of poor attitude. If I approach it in a happy way, maybe I'll have a rollicking good day.

So I sweep (not vacuum), mop (but not with my electric-steam version) and clean the bathroom, applying elbow grease with a fake smile. Things sparkle that have never sparkled before. I honestly feel proud of my work and wonder if anyone will notice.

I want invite my neighbour over just so she can see my handiwork and feel her own efforts wanting. Were '50s wives this competitive? Most of all, I want my husband to walk in and declare himself the happiest man in the street. But my kids have other ideas and by the time he gets home, the house looks like a bombsite and I'm screaming like a banshee. Tomorrow will be better, I vow.


It's shopping day and I'm feeling excited! Gone is my usual list of processed foods and in its place I'm ready for some home baking.

I waltz around the shops buying flour, eggs, butter and raw ingredients. I also invest in a duster and an apron - until today, the only apron in our house had large plastic breasts on the front.

At home I start baking, patting my cheeks with flour to keep me in the mood. I bake enough muffins to sink a ship and finish just in time to 'take 15 minutes to rest so you'll be refreshed when he arrives home.'

That night I resist the urge to tell him about my day and instead listen eagerly to his tales of corporate skulduggery and gossiping secretaries.

After a while, I shove a large muffin in his mouth.


I haven't used my car in days. I've taken the kids to local parks and walked everywhere. I'd have lost weight if I wasn't eating so many homemade cakes.

I need an opportunity to show off my new talents, so I invite the family to dinner. Normally this would involve pizza and beer, but instead I serve casserole, dumplings and a vegetable bake, all with a cheerful twinkle.

My family, predictably, exploits me. If I have to get my brother one more helping of homemade lemon meringue pie, I'll throw it at him.

My husband, meanwhile, is growing amorous, apparently turned on by my slaving. When the family finally leaves, he gives me a come-hither look and I try my best not to look exhausted.


This waking-up-pretty routine is starting to grate. Surely 1950s housewives had daggy days?

I open the fridge and discover leftovers - an easy night ahead! But this is not the thinking of a domestic goddess. 'Plan ahead to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return,' the Guide insists. 'Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the welcome needed.'

As it's my last day as a '50s housewife, I take some time to reflect. Frankly, I'm exhausted. I've walked miles. I'm no happier, but my husband and kids are. They've loved the home baking, park visits and the amusement of Mum looking ridiculous.

My husband, who's had a hard week, appreciated my extra attentiveness and the sense of calm each evening. The family is happy, even if I'm not, but a little selflessness is good for the soul.

Now for a beer and a well- earned rest.

retro housewife1950s wife rules

Have dinner ready - plan ahead to have a delicious meal waiting.
Take 15 minutes to rest - so you'll be refreshed when he arrives home.
Clean and clear away the clutter - your husband should feel he's in a place of rest and order.

2000s wife rules

Make dinner when you can - takeaway pizza or a frozen meal is fine.
Get comfy in your trackies - you deserve to relax after a long day at work/session at the gym.
Invest in some storage boxes - no need to clean, just chuck everything in.

Share your thoughts and comments on what it means to be the perfect family woman below.

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