Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Husband's Return Home

Today I stumbled across these tips from 1955 on how a housewife should welcome her husband home. To summarize, in case you don't feel like looking to the left and reading the column, the advice runs as follows:

- Be sure to have dinner ready.
- Take 15 minutes to freshen up before he arrives.
- Be happy to see him.
- Make your home a sanctuary for him to return to.
- Don't complain when he walks in.
- Cater to his comfort.

I can feel my feminist friends cringing with distaste.

I chose the picture above because I think it perfectly embodies the image that many of us have of this 1955 housewife, putting on the plastic smile to please her husband even if inside she feels like slugging him, or perhaps taking a leaf out of Nora's book and leaving the "Doll's House" for good. This housewife is a robotic slave to her husband's every whim, completely disregarding her own feelings, desires, and thoughts lest her husband become disappointed with her. She strives to put on a good show and to heck with her repressed reality! Well, if this is what being a housewife is like, no wonder the Women's Rights Movement has worked so hard to abolish it!

Thing is, that's not what being a housewife is like at all... Even if you follow this advice list to a T. See, the important issue here is motive. Are you following this advice to keep up your image for the neighbors, or are you doing it regardless of what they might think? Are you striving to ensure your husband's comfort because you love him and appreciate the work that he does to provide for your family every day, or are you simply hoping against hope that it will keep him from walking out the door with someone younger and prettier?

For a Christian, the motive for everything should be to honor God with her whole being, and to love others sacrificially. When this is the motive behind the advice for how to be a good wife, the entire focus shifts, and the picture becomes one, not of enslavement, but of Christlike sacrificial love and care. Let's take a look at the list again.

- Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. Now, this first piece of advice can probably be adapted a bit for our modern times. The central idea behind having dinner ready when your husband walks in the door is that many husbands walk in the door hungry. I know Brian does. If dinner isn't ready--and let's be honest, with a new baby that is sometimes the case--he drops his laptop and bag and heads straight for the pantry, foraging around from something to snack on. Which, naturally, leads me to half-jokingly chide him about ruining the supper that I'm preparing. But, what if you don't like having dinner at five o'clock? Why not have tea and a light snack, as we often do in our house. And, don't just be a waitress; share this meal with your husband and children. Take a few minutes to unwind with each other and catch up on how your days have gone. Then, when you're both refreshed, you can start preparing for a later dinner. And, there is something to be said for the second bit of the advice: Plan ahead. You know your family's going to have to eat. You know that life often gets in the way--so plan. It's good, solid advice.

- Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you'll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up and put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. Remember your motive, ladies! A glossy finish isn't the goal. As we are told in 1 Peter 3:3-4, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment...Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in the sight of God." Taking the time to refresh yourself before your husband comes home means that you can be there to weather the storm of whatever he may be walking in the door with--disappointment over a failed meeting, road rage from rush hour traffic. Now, that doesn't mean that anything you're dealing with is unimportant. Maybe you've had the worst day ever and you're barely holding it together. That's okay. But, that's what the refresher period is for. Giving your husband even five minutes to vent to you and wind down is going to mean that he's much more able to give you the sympathy and support that you need. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." A God-centered attitude does not say, "Why should I deal with his problems first when I've got problems of my own." Rather, it says, "I've had the worst day. I know I'd really love an ear and a shoulder to cry on. If my husband's had as rotten a day as I've had, I'd love to be able to be there for him, because I know I need him to be here for me!" That's sacrificial love. Now, don't get me wrong, husbands should be sacrificially loving their wives, too, but this isn't a list of advice for them. Maybe I'll write one of those another day.

- Be happy to see him. Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him. A lot of women complain that, after the honeymoon is over, the spark sort of goes out of the marriage. This bit of advice right here is an antidote to romantic apathy. Remember when you were dating and you waited by the window until you saw his headlights turn into your driveway. You jumped up, touched up your hair, and were ready at the door to greet him, eager just to see him again and excited to be spending time with him. Well, that's the spark. Marriage doesn't kill it, but sometimes in a marriage relationship, we neglect to strike the flint together, we just assume that the fire won't die out. But, that sort of thinking is foolishness. Just like with a real fire, you need to give it some attention now and then to keep the blaze burning. If your husband greeted you this way, how would it make you feel? Now, wouldn't you like to do the same for him?

- Your goal: Try to make sure you home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where you husband can renew himself in body and spirit. And, why stop with your husband? This should be the goal of every homemaker for every person who enters her house--including herself! The home is meant to be a sanctuary. In recent years, it seems we've forgotten that, and many homes, perhaps even some that you've lived in, are anything but peaceful, orderly, and tranquil. But, that doesn't mean that you can't reclaim this for your home. Remember, it's not about appearances. Everyone has different standards of peace, order, and tranquility. Your ideal home may look very different from another woman's. You don't have to be June Cleaver. Your home doesn't have to be featured in Martha Stewart Living. Peace, order, and tranquility will help everyone in your home--yes, that means you, too--live happier, healthier, more balanced lives. Who wouldn't want that for themselves and the ones they love?

- Don't complain if he's late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through all day. Well, I can't say that I support the idea of a husband staying out all night. Not only is this callous and inconsiderate, it's downright irresponsible. A husband may work outside of the home, but that doesn't mean he has no duties within the home--he has a great many! But, we can take a different spin on this rather lopsided bit of advice, and read it this way: Give him the benefit of the doubt before you light into him. You'd feel just wretched if you had been out grocery shopping only to have your bag rip on the way to the car, groceries spilled everywhere, children screaming, only to discover a flat tire when you got to the car; then, tired and angry you walk in the door only to have your husband say accusatorily, "Where have you been?" You married this man because you thought well of him. Why should you think poorly of him now? This is not to say that husbands are always innocent and never do anything wrong, but why not give them the benefit of the doubt?

- Catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction. I have a habit in the evenings. I always ask my husband to bring me a last glass of water before bed. Even if we've both crawled into bed already. And, he always does without complaint. It's a silly thing; I could just as easily get it myself, but having him bring me that glass of water makes me feel cared for. I never take it for granted that he does it, and I always thank him when he brings it to my bedside. And guess what, he actually does get personal satisfaction out of it. He loves to do something to make me happy and hear a thank you and see my smile when he does it. The same is true of all the little things I do for his comfort, whether it's bringing his slippers over when he gets home at night or putting the kettle on for him when I can tell he's getting chilly. I don't always get a thank you. Sometimes he doesn't even notice all the little things that I do, like sorting and filing the receipts he perpetually leaves cluttered on the top of his dresser. But, when I do these things, I get pleasure in knowing that I am making my husband's life more pleasant, and that by serving him, I am serving my God: "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men..." (Colossians 3:23).

Personally, when viewed from this God-centered perspective, I find this advice--well, most of it--to be valuable indeed, and I strive to follow it when my husband returns home from work in the evening. It's just one moment of the day, but it's a good landmark point to check in and see if I am caring for my husband as I would want him to care for me.

"Lovers and Flowers" by Marc Chagall


  1. Hey, Bethany! I found your site via Ladies Against Feminism and I love what I've seen so far. You have a whole lot of wisdom for such a young woman. I am 36, have been married for over 13 years and have an 8 year old child. God's still working on me and sometimes the sanctification process is painful and frustrating. I don't have a lot of support in my role as a stay-at-home wife and mom from friends, family, and church. My husband does support me. I am seeking out Christian women on the internet for encouragement. I'm adding your site to my faves. Thanks and blessings to you and your family!

  2. Caroline,

    Thank you so much for stopping by. I'm glad that my site has been an encouragement to you. I completely relate to what you said about a lack of support. Being a stay-at-home wife and mother is not very common around here, even among Christians, and especially for a woman my age who is college-educated. I find a good deal of my support from ladies on the Web. Isn't modern technology amazing?

    Also, I don't mean to be nosey, but from your comment, it sounds like you have an only child. I don't know if your family situation will remain that way, and I don't know whether you are an only yourself, but my husband and I are both only children, and I'd be happy to offer any support or advice for what it's like to be an only child. I actually had a really good experience growing up and have never considered myself a "lonely only".

    I hope to hear from you again, soon, as we both work out this sanctification thing that being a wife and mother seems to supply in full force. :)


  3. Hello Bethany, I have recently found your site and have really been enjoying it. Currently, I am 18 and going to college while living at home, but I would like to be a wife and stay-at-home mom one day if that is God's plan for my life. So it is very encouraging reading your blog as I try to "prepare my heart" for this future role.

  4. Yes, Bethany, my son is our "one and only" and will always be. I am the youngest of two children and my husband is the oldest of two. I know very few "onlies" and I would love some encouragement. My son is happy, well-adjusted and has a big heart for the Lord. He likes being an only child just fine but sometimes (probably from societal messages, both secular and Christian) I feel like I've done something wrong!

  5. I just stumbled onto this post... glad I did! I think I'm the only one of my friends and family who didn't burst out laughing when that article made its rounds through our email lists.

    Personally, I loved it - all I could think was, "Wow, this is really good advice! How great it would feel if I were treated like that when I got home!"

  6. I linked to this from a more recent article, but I had to giggle when I saw the original list. My grandmother had hung it on her fridge DECADES ago as what she did NOT want her daughters to be and do...she was a staunch Catholic mama of 7, who believed the same things you do, Bethany. And while she was the most caring, sacrificial person ever, she never advocated any of her children becoming doormats (as the original list suggests).

    Personally, Feminist or not, it gives one human great pleasure to know that they are somehow making another human (usually their spouse/mate) more comfortable, happy, etc. I know in our home, when I'm pregnant, a footrub and a glass of water go a long way in quelling my venomous tongue and poor spirit at the end of the day. And "American Style tacos (you know...Old El Paso style) with crunchy taco shells will make my husband happier than a clam for HOURS.

    And anyway...why would you marry someone that you didn't want to try and make happy from time to time? That is just beyond me. ;)


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I ask all visitors to respect this as a place of peace. Disagreements are welcome, but please refrain from posting any ungracious comments. Thank you, and God bless.