Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Managing the Home

Photo from BHG
The local Dollar Tree store yielded several impressive books this week. I was surprised that books I had been wanting,which normally would have cost me ten to fifteen dollars elsewhere (even on the web), were brand new for only a dollar. One such book is called "Finding Betty Crocker" by Susan Marks, and the other was "The Business of Bliss" which was a publication of Victoria magazine. Both books made me feel right at home.
The era of Betty Crocker spanned from 1920 until the present time. One question that was posed to the Betty Crocker company, during wartime, was: "Please tell me how I am supposed to manage looking after four small children, keep the house clean, cook for my husband when he arrives home, and still be cheerful."
The Betty Crocker company bought a radio station and hired various spokeswomen to read questions and give answers. Homemakers were the greatest recipients of these broadcasts, because the radio helped them make connection with the outside world, a feature that was eagerly embraced by farm women all across the nation.
The answer that Betty Crocker (not a real person, but an industry), gave regarding the oft asked questions about managing the home, was as appropriate then as it will be today.
First, she said, get yourself dressed up, put on your makeup and arrange your hair nicely. Wear an apron to keep your dress clean, and put a pretty dish towel over your shoulder, so that you can reach up and wipe your hands or use the towel for any little spills, to dry a tea cup or take something out of the oven. Women wrote letters that were read over the radio show, saying that it did them no end of good to get dressed up in the morning, even with small children around, and even when they did not expect that anyone would see them during the day. No matter how late of a start you get, I think this is such an important step in homemaking. It gives the job a good beginning. It sort of makes you stand at attention when you look like you are prepared for company, or dressed to receive guests, even if you are not. If you never see anyone, at least you will have something to write about in your journal.
I am sure every woman develops her own preference and style of home making, and I have heard women talk about things that really work to get them motivated, to put them in charge of their homes, and to bring them the most satisfaction and happiness.
Getting out a favorite tea set and making hot tea, pulling out a pretty notepad and pen, and making a list of things to be done, is so important in getting ahold of the day. If your house feels very out of control, this step is even more important. The elegance and orderliness of this act seems to settle the mind. Once a list is made, it gives you a guideline to follow.
A common list to follow, would be something like this:
- personal appearance
-tea and list
-clean living area
-put in laundry
-clean bathroom
If you are particularly discouraged, dress up. This habit will bring some interesting responses, such as: "Mom is all dressed up. She must be going to clean house." When you are working, listen to pleasant music that paces you a little, but also is reassuring and soothing.
The job list does not have to be the same every day. Three are only a few main things that must be done, if you are pressed for time: the dishes washed, the laundry caught up, and meals. Children can always help with something, to save you steps and save you time.
Women with children need to incorporate the needs of the children into their homemaking and house keeping. Children will need to have their hands washed, or drinks of water, diapers and clothing changed. It is important to be available for those needs at the time they are needed, because that is one of the purposes of staying home. You can stop whatever you are doing, tend to a child, and then continue where you left off, whether it be cleaning the floor, washing dishes, or putting a room in order. Keep your list nearby or in your apron pocket and when you have been interrupted, say "Let me see...where was I? and look at that list." This will keep you from being so distracted that you end up wandering around in circles, never accomplishing anything.
In a normal home with children, it might be possible that you will only get one thing on your list completed, but that does not mean that you throw up your hands in despair and give up. Each day, you will get a little better at it, until you finally have the home in control. Children need to be "on your side" and need to know their mother's hopes. Tell them what you want to do, and ask for their help and their encouragement, so that you are all working as a team. If mother is happy, everyone will be happy.
Children need to be taught to do some things on their own, so that mother does not have to stand over them every minute, using up the time she needs to get the house in order. Some children can follow her around from task to task and watch her or help in a small way, and older children can do huge tasks such as vacuuming or cleaning a bedroom.
The other book that was purchased from the dollar store, "The Business of Bliss" was about having a business from the home, but I got a lot of ideas about it for homemaking. I observed that things that make a shop appealing are: soft sounds, pleasant scents, low, indirect lighting (in other words, not over head lights), and household necessities (furniture, dishes, etc) which were necessary but still beautiful. A shopkeeper with a home business chooses her own hours and if she is not feeling well, or has other things that need attention, she does not have to be open. She can choose what she wants to sell and what style she likes. I believe this feeling can be translated to the home.
When a person first enters their home, they should feel excited to be home. If a homemaker will teach her children to get the house ready for their father's arrival, she will never regret it. Instead of having the father come home and have to hunt for everyone, they can all be expecting him, having gotten the house cleaned up, their clothing neatened, hair combed, and greeting him at the door. This will set the tone for his arrival, which is something he will really look forward to.
If the beginning of the day is used to prepare for the end of the day, you will find that you can get a lot more accomplished. Just imagine what you want it to be like when your husband comes home, plan for it, and work toward that end. You will find that you accomplish more useful things during the day when you are acting as though you are expecting someone at a certain hour.
It was interesting that "Finding Betty Crocker" originally spoke to women at home whose husbands were overseas in the military. These women must have suffered extreme loneliness, yet they thought it was important that their houses looked nice, their children had good habits and learned to work, and that they, themselves were well dressed. The Betty Crocker radio shows tried to keep up the morale of these homemakers, stating in many broadcasts, that what they were doing was more important than any other type of work.
This book addressed the problem of the men being away for long periods of time,and that is something I will cover at a later date. There are many things that can be done during the times that husbands are away at work, or away overseas, that will make the wait seem smaller and the time more worthwhile.


Anonymous said...

Lady Lydia,

This post is so helpful, I'll be saving it to read again and again.

I read the post about the lady you met at the tea house.

I really liked seeing your picture.

You are very pretty! :-)

Thanks for all your encouragement!

Kristi said...

Thank you for this post. My husband has just been released from active duty in the Army and got back from a 15 month tour in Iraq a year ago. During that time I let the house go, I let myself go. I let our children run wild and watch too much TV. Now that he is home, I have to look back on that time with so much pain because I had a wonderful opportunity to really take charge of myself and the running of my household to plan for my husband and I didn't. The house wasn't even sufficiently clean when he came home. Now it has been a year and I am still trying to undo the bad habits learned during that time!

Mrs. Anna T said...

Thank you so much for this encouraging post, Mrs. Lydia. It's highly important to read this now, for me, as I'm heavily pregnant and struggling to find motivation. I'm also looking forward to your posts about husbands working long hours/being overseas. My husband works so much, and I live in an area where we hardly know anyone. During the day, I keep busy - but it gets dark so early, and evenings are sometimes so long until he comes...

Stephanie W. said...

Earlier this year, after reading another woman's blog post about the "Finding Betty Crocker" book, I decided to purchase it. I could hardly put the book down! The "Homemaker's Creed" was the first thing I looked up. The last part of the book where it spoke more of the modern age wasn't as interesting, but that is a small part. I would definitely recommend this book to all homemakers! At the time, I purchased mine from the Betty Crocker online store, where I purchased a couple other nostalgic books of theirs. Thanks for this post!

Jessica said...

I look forward to your post about the men being away for long periods of time. My husband is leaving for the Middle East this Friday for 6 months. He will miss all but one of our birthdays, Christmas, our anniversary, and the birth of our 6th blessing and 2nd son. I am at peace because I know that God will take care of all of us, and he will be in a "safe zone"; nevertheless, it does get lonely at times.
Thank you for this post.

Mom of Five said...

During this time of year, when the weather wants to be poor when we wanted it to be fine, we tend to get a little antsy and even get the blues. Maybe a little more dressing up will do the trick. :)

Anonymous said...

I have benefited so much from reading your blog the past 3 years or so and I am sorry that this is the first time I have even made a comment to say thank you for how you have blessed my life.

I could really relate to Kristi's comment about regret. I have made alot of mistakes in the area of homekeeping. But even worse are the mistakes I have made in failing to dwell peacefully with my husband. My biggest downfall is jealousy and insecurity. I get too easily upset at the thought that he has looked at another woman. Having this weakness is so hard to avoid due to the indecent way so many women dress in our society, it seems I am almost daily confronted with this struggle. This has caused alot of strife in our marriage and I am seeking how to overcome being that way. My husband has been faithful to me the past 15 years, so he is not the problem, it is my own insecurities that cause this. Do you have any advice on how to overcome these emotions that just seem to rule my life? It is a vicious circle: I get the house in order only to find a day or so later confronted by the struggles I deal with in my marriage. This often debilitates me causing the house to fall apart. Then I not only have a poor relationship with my spouse from arguing but the house is in chaos. I was hoping
you may have some advice for how to maintain a peaceful relationship with your husband when you feel such horrible emotions inside like jealousy and suspicion.
Thanks again for all the beautiful and inspiring messages you write.

Nicole said...

Great post! I put the Betty Crocker book on my wish list.

Here's my thing about dressing up to clean: I don't do it because I can so easily ruin my few nice pieces of clothing. I don't know if I am super messy or what, but when I'm cleaning the house, I usually get my clothes wet and/or dirty, and that's with an apron on (especially doing the kitchen and the bathroom). Part of it I think is that I am so short (five foot nothing) that leaning over counters, sinks, and tubs I just get my clothes wrecked.

That being said, I try not to be so casual that I'm basically in pajamas. I do put jeans and a tshirt on, something that I wouldn't be totally embarrassed if someone came to the door, but I'm not likely at this stage to put on a dress for cleaning the tub. I don't really own any "house dresses" anyway, maybe I need to get some clothes like that, but I pretty much have work clothes and then tshirts and jeans.

But then again, my husband likes me in Tshirt and jeans (I think it reminds him of when we first met, he says it makes me look like a "cute college girl") and I'm comfortable that way, too, so I'll probably stick with that.

Great tips, though, about putting on music, etc, to set the mood for cleaning. I find, especially in cold weather, if I put some cider on and some Christmas music I'm all set to make the house look as cozy as it smells and sounds. :)

Lydia said...

I don't think I ever suggested that anyone get dressed up to clean a tub, but if in general a woman dresses up to face the day, she will find a different attitude toward things like cleaning the tub. You probably would not scrub a tub each day, so it gives more credence to dressing up for an ordinary day at home. I always fail to see why young women find it so difficult to dress up for the home, when women long ago, did do it, even in "my" time. The manufacturers put hoards of these grunge styles (jeans tee shirts, sweats, etc) on the market and they are cheap and easily seen, and a whole generation of women have grown up in them and they do not feel comfortable in anything else. I tried to adjust to that style when I first married, thinking that I would only clean the house in it and not go out. It did not work out that way. When I needed something in a hurry, I forgot to change, and rushed back and forth in these clothes. I can understand if a person is painting their house and has to go to the paint store for more paint, but for normal every day life, it is sad to see how bad the homemakers look in public, especially when you have seen a generation that was not like that. Photographs of the past, even of the depression era, show women, though poor, looking a lot better than anyone today looks at home. It doesn't matter I suppose what we look like, but the Betty Crocker book reminded me how much they encouraged women to dress with dignity and be feminine. My husband never liked me to wear jeans, and his father never wanted his wife to wear pants. Both men said if we would honor that, they would see that we always had everything we needed to wear. A lot of women think they have to wear the modern style of dresses, which seem to be getting shorter, and so they feel undressed, cold, or not put together, but there are longer skirts that are not much different in length than long pants or jeans, which are just as comfortable. If young women would just test the difference, making note of their mood or progress or creative ability when they are dressed up and have their hair fixed, etc. compared to the more casual jeans and tee shirts, they would be able to determine the difference. While I do not dress up to clean a tub or toiled, I noticed that the maid services in some exclusive hotels do require a certain uniform look. These women have their hair fixed, wear makeup, a type of dress pant, or longer skirt or shoe, and a full length apron over that. They are expected to look professional. In the apron and the crisp white blouse, they are still able to clean tubs and toilets and make beds. Since they are seen by the pubic, their appearance is important. I think even if we are not seen by the public, we have an impact on our children and the people around us, even those at the grocery stores, and it does improve the way we serve our homes. The full length aprons cover the entire garment. Nonetheless, each woman will find her style and send the message she wants to send to her family and to those on the outside of her home.

50s Housewife said...

Wonderful post! I'm going to stop by my local Dollar Tree today to see if they might have these books.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I have a question more than a comment. I am a housewife (to a husband that works long hours) and a mom to 2 small children (ages 2 and 3)--I am also a RN who works PRN (maybe one evening a week, to help with the household finances). Anyway, though I try so hard each day to keep the house up, make meals and do the shopping, I have a very hard time keeping up (franky, most days I don't). Generally, as the kids play they make a mess, and I am often torn between playing with them and trying to accomplish my tasks to keep our house in order. So, often times I just give up in frustration and nothing gets done.

My question is, how do I get it all done? I so badly want our house to be in order, I want my husband to come home to a nice meal and a clean home. I take my homekeeping seriously and want my efforts to reflect the way our home looks, but it rarely does, which is very frustrating for me.

Any advice or tips you could share would be greatly appreciated. I really love your blog, and so enjoy your thoughts on keeping the home!

Anonymous said...

I make cotton dresses-- the newer and less-faded ones are for Going-Out days; lunch with the husband, doctor visits, playgroup, and so on.

The older ones (still plenty of life left, but not as crisp as they were last year, say) are my "housedresses."

To finish it off, I wear tights or socks (depends on the weather) and plain lace-up shoes. It is actually more comfortable than pants!

They do need to be about mid-calf to be really comfortable and practical for getting kids in and out of cars, playing on the floor, etc.

Shorter skirts are best for either office work or posing leisurely at parties. No wonder lots of women feel like dresses are impractical for everyday!

I do sympathize with the women who get stuck in jeans and sweats-- it's HARD to dress well everyday on a budget if you don't have the DIY skills to avoid it!

Anonymous said...

There's a copy of the Betty Crocker Creed at this link if anyone is interested.


Anonymous said...

Honestly, I don't really get involved in playing with my kids. (Mine are 3, 2, and seven months.) If I've got the energy and inclination to play along, then I will for a few minutes.

But mostly they are expected to entertain themselves and each other. They come show me things they're doing, and I'll smile and talk to them about it, but I'd rather compliment their block-building from the kitchen than actually have to sit in the playroom with them all morning. *blush*

Sometimes I'll intervene if a squabble breaks out, and sometimes I will let them work it out themselves.

JMO, though. I know lots of people consider it very beneficial to play with their kids as a form of early childhood education... but my early ed philosophy is pretty laissez-faire.

But I know lots of people who disagree with me on that. :)

Ask for husband what he would rather have you do with your time.

He may honestly prefer to have you play with the kids and be willing to pitch in with the resulting domestic pileup-- I've known dads who felt that strongly about it!

Lydia said...

to those who want to do their hard dirty work without dressing up, they can take a shower and change clothes when their work is finished, light candles, put on a fragrant meal. I sometimes attack a really hard job without preparing my appearance, knowing that I am going to bathe and dress afterwards.

Nicole said...

Lady Lydia,

I wonder if you thought my comment was aggressive or critical in nature, because I felt that your response was a bit defensive. But then again, you can so rarely tell tone with something as flat as internet writing, so I could be wrong. But either way, let me be clear by saying I was simply taking part in the discussion, and not trying to be critical of your suggestion to dress up, which I think is a good one.

I do take your point about changes and the loss of femininity in our dress, but I am not as big as some women are on believing all women must wear skirts or dresses in order to be feminine. I believe I can be feminine in jeans and slacks. Granted, not grubby jeans and some old beater t-shirt that's too big with holes in it and my hair a mess and slippers on... but if I have a nice pair of jeans or slacks on and a nice top and my hair done, I think that is feminine.

I think, with all respect, that your standards for what is appropriate as far as femininity and masculinity are based on Victorian and early 20th century standards. And there's nothing wrong with that. But for me, I look over a broader scope of the history of what Christians, and before them, Jews, believed was appropriate clothing for different genders, and I see too vast a change in traditions and mores to narrow what is feminine to skirts of a certain length. Men, for instance, wore clothing at the time of Christ that would be laughable in this day and age for men and certainly not considered the masculine norm.

Ultimately, a scripture calls us to be modest, my concern is that, in comparison to the society around me, that my dress be modest, and yes feminine, but I think we each have different convictions on exactly what that looks like. This of course is not a license to dress however, but certainly if we look over time, we see that standards have changed. For instance, if you are a lady who wears skirts that show your ankles, in Victorian England you would have been a totally immodest woman and taken for a who-knows-what. But most women I know today, who feel led to wear skirts for femininity and modesty, don't feel led to cover their ankles. And this is simply one example, and I'm getting off on a tangetnt, but my main point is that I think we need to be careful not to become legalistic as Christian women in defining what is feminine dress. I see the Biblical mandate to be modest in our dress, but no specific guidelines about garment types.

I think in the end we agree on the principle, that you should not just slumpadink around in your jammies all unkempt while you are doing your housework, that you should care about your appearance for your family and yourself, and that it impacts your ability to get work done. I think we simply disagree on the particulars of what "dressed up" is.

Either way, loved the post.

Lydia said...

armchair housewife, I did not want anyone to assume that I insisted on dressing up for the sloppier and dirtier chores but I did want to say what a difference it makes in approaching and completing those jobs if the woman has fixed herself up for the day just as if she were going out to do something special. It is amazing what a difference a dress makes, and women in the last decade even wore dresses at home. The Laura Ashely style which was more from the 30s and 40s rather than Victorian, ws quite popular amongst homemakers and young mothers. Many homemakers in the 50's wore dresses and were not called "legalists"---nor were the Victorians called "legalists" at the time. I am not being legalistic, but just expressing the fact tht there could be a difference in the attitude about homemking if women dressed femininely and bautifully. I didn't mean to refute anything you said, as I was hoping no one would think I was recommending getting dressed up to clean a toilet, or wear a particular color or a particular style that did not suit their figure or lifestyle. Everyone decides what works the best, and it would be nice to compare the results ;-) There were many people who grew up never seeing their mothers in jeans, but it doesn't mean it was a religious issue or anything. As I said in my comment, women used to wear feminine clothing at home, and they weren't pressing any kind of "issue" or controversy. In fact, at the time, pants were very controversial. It is sad that people can't wear these clothes without fearing someone will assume it is a religious issue or a problem with legalism.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Lady Lydia and Fellow Readers/Commenters

My heart goes out to you all. Lydia, I chuckled heartily about your 'closet' (Wardrobe for us in Australia, NZ or UK); Ehm, I know all about 'shut the door and come back to it later!! :-)

As for trying to do the grimy chores if one has no old housedresses to do the dirty work in, I've had to in the very recent [past, due to limited wardrobe, have to conserve my skirts/dresses carefully (and have spoilled some with bleech splashes etc arggg!!) I can genuinely attest to the 'do the dirty work then shower/clean up, re-dress etc). That way, it's easier to look after the garments you want to conserve It's a work in progress, one step at a time. As for dresses/skirts, I love the longer styles, and coming into our Aussie summer, they're cooler I find than clingy pants or shorts, still practical and gentle on one's appearance. team these up with the right underpinnings, undershorts and petticoat of summery cotton) and the comfort level is brilliant. I've struck out and gone for a distinct look (King's Daughters_ though I know this isn't for everyone and even here have been able to suggest alterations and work in colours/styles with the girls to get something that's utterly functional and easy care while being nice). Oh, but the exchange rate REEEAAALLYY hurts at the moment !!! They sell patterns though, and Lydia has oft shared resources about where to get good patterns etc if the sort of thing I've gone for doesn't speak to you... I couldn't even sew on a button (Vision impared of the guide dog using, Braille reading variety) so will never be able to make my own; but for those who can, running up dresses, skirts, etc can save $$$ and you can get the look you want, or find and work with one who sews locally; blow for blow, it will often come out comparible with purchasing or even cheaper.

There are a thousand and one ways to skin a cat.


Mrs. E.,

Lydia said...

Sarah, I used to wear a sweat pant outfit when cleaning, and then shower and change and fix dinner before my husband came home. I eventually had to get dressed up first thing and then learn to clean more carefully, wearing an apron, because I found that it was too rushed when it came time to change, and that it took quite a lot longer to shower and re do my hair, etc. If I did it already in the morning, it would take care of it for the day. Also I noticed that my accomplishment at home was so much better when I felt ready for the end of the day. Heavy cleaning is not an every day occurance, so most of the time, I am able to be dressed up. If I have to go somewhere suddenly, I do not feel that I must change my clothes first. I was generally trying to relate what this book about Betty Crocker had said about the dignity of the homemaker. I did notice that when I changed over from every day jeans to every day skirts, that I was happier and had more energy. I don't know why that is, but I did my own research with my own self, and I think others could make interesting comparisons in their own homes. The days that the house looks nice and the lights are lit and the smells are wonderful, and the homemaker has her hair looking nice and pretty clothes, all seem to give more of a feeling of love in the home.

Mimi said...

How lovely!

When I was a child, I had a Betty Crocker cookbook for children. I was convinced that Betty Crocker and the children in the cookbook were real people. You mean they're not? LOL. Would you believe that I still use that little cookbook today! I still enjoy the recipes in it. I am so happy that they're printing reprints of it now.

What great finds you got at the Dollar Tree.

Annie said...

I so enjoy your blog and thank you fro sharing from your heart! I look forward to your post about the husband being gone for long periods of time. My husband leaves soon for 3 months for training with the Air Force. I have a two year old and am expecting in June. I am concerned, even worried how this absence is going to affect my son. I keep giving it to God but then taking the worry back.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Betty, I mean Lydia, Thanks very much for the great article and excellent comments! I love the image (and practicality) of a feminine, well-groomed, fresh housewife loving her family by doing her best to create a beautiful and peaceful home. Any book that helps with this goal and inspires is a real 'find'. Please feel free to share more as time and inclination allows. Love from, Linda

Karen said...

I agree with Goldilocks above.

I want my daughter to see what a housewife & mother does all day - and that means I cook & clean. Of course I stop to look after her needs (meals, snacks, cleanliness, safety) but she has learned to play by herself. She makes up her own games and quite enjoys them. People have commented that I am "lucky" that my daughter will amuse herself. Well, I don't want a clingy whiny child, so I set an example for her. I don't cling to her, I don't whine to her about all my work - I adopt a brisk, pleasant and cheerful demeanor at home and I hope that has made the difference to her. I want to stress here that I am not "ignoring" my daughter; far from it. We are in each other's company all day. Somedays she may not feel well and of course I curtail my tasks. Throughout the day I am right beside her and stop often to read a story or talk to her.

Personally I would get depressed very easily if I let the house go and just crawled on the floor all day with my kid.

Through practice and good routines, I think I have gotten a handle on caring for the house and looking after a toddler.

But we have to not forget our own appearance or the "care & feeding" of our husbands! (Still developing these skills!)

It is a delicate balance. It takes practice and diligence and that is why the tips on this blog are always much appreciated!

Lydia said...

Thanks for everyone's comments. It does not matter so much what a woman wears as the dedication she has to the safety of her children and the health of her husband. Dressing up a little more just seems to boost the mood and make everyone else feel a little more festive. I don't want to be accused of legalism or anything like that, and I hope you aren't too distracted by my picture on the left of me in Victorian costume. It was a staged picture, but it reminds me that our grandmothers and our ancestors did wear those kinds of garments, and it was the ones in pants and tennis shoes that would have been considered radical. Today it seems to be just the opposite. I think everyone should be free to dress up if they like and not be ridiculed, but in reality it is not always the case. I grew up on a homestead in Alaska where we had to wear snowsuits and jeans and when summer came I was always so happy to dress more femininely, in skirts or dresses. There are a few pictures of me in the book "Just Breathing the Air" which I wrote about my childhood in Alaska in the 1950's. In this book there were hardly any pictures of my sister and I in pants, because the only time my parents took pictures of us in a special way was when we were going to church, and we were always dressed up then. I always liked dressing up because it was so different from our normal homestead lives of fishing and hunting and gardening. I loved the fabrics and the colors--so different than jeans. I was so enchanted with fabrics that when a chance came to enroll in a sewing class, I took it, just so I could sew all the pretty skirts and dresses that I wanted. I have always thought there were not enough days in a week to wear all the pretty fabrics that are available, and since I took the sewing course, I've been enchanted with dresses and skirts. I also enjoy the paintings of the past, that show women so gloriously dressed, even the poor women, in skirts. I use a lot of the paintings from the 19th century on this blog. I just want to know who decides what the fashion is and who decided that there would be a generation of women who had never worn a dress in the home, or who didn't know anything outside of pants and tennis shoes...I mean, who dictates that, and do we move with the times, or are we allowed to wear what we please without being called wierd or legalist, or whatever? I just always thought it was fun to wear a dress at home. It all began when my husband and I married. I realized we weren't very well off, and would not have much chance to dress up and go "out." Since I had learned to sew, I was able to create dresses that made each day a kind of celebration, or a special occasion, and I wanted to wear them. I understand that not everyone wants to do this, and I'm not trying to dictate.

Lydia said...

Also there was a matter of money. I could choose a pair of jeans, or fabric for four dresses and skirts. The cost of jeans would buy a lot of fabric, especially if I got it for a dollar a yard. I figured I could have a wider variety of clothing if I sewed skirts and dresses. Underneath them, I do wear pants! There are nice leggings at WalMart that are the "pants" underneath my dresses. I don't want to sound defensive about it, nor do I want to insist that everyone must dress as I do. One of my reasons for changing to skirts was my children. When they were little, they only saw my knees and I thought it would be charming to have them tugging at my skirt, hiding behind it, and looking at the prints on it. When my youngest son was little, he fell asleep on my lap one time and when he woke up he told me how he liked the print of little panda bears on that skirt. Children do notice these things and it can help form their taste for art and color, etc. That is one reason I thought skirts were so much more interesting than pants. My husband did not want me to wear pants, as his mother never wore them, and he really motivated me to wear skirts and dresses. He said if I would not wear pants, he would buy me as many dresses as I wanted. I knew how to sew, and I made it easy for him by sewing all my clothes. I do not think everyone can do this, but I just wanted to explain where I came from.

Anonymous said...

Of all your wonderful posts, which I read daily, sometimes more than just daily, I have to respond to this one! Reading about Betty Crocker made me feel proud! You see, back in the dark ages (1975) I earned the "Betty Crocker Family Leader of Tomorrow " award for our suburban high school. I got alot of teasing with this award as it just wasn't "cool" to be aspiring to the rank of homemaker even back then. I did alot of interesting things in the years between high school and marriage but nothing, nothing, has been as satisfying as being a daughter of the King, a wife, and a joyful mother of six blessings. Does the Betty Crocker foundation or whatever still sponser that award? Thank you so very much, Lady Lydia, for the time you take to encourage, inspire, and educate the rest of us!!! TMG

Lydia said...

I really did not mean for the post to be about pants verses dresses, but the reason I suggested dresses and skirts is because of the effect they have on the wearer and the people around them. There is something quite feminine and charming about the swish of a skirt, especially to the family members. Children tug at their mother's skirts, cry on them, wrap them around themselves when they are shy. Skirts offer an endless variety of color and prints and styles. Skirts can be festive on days when you need a little extra encouragement. I am not trying to be legalistic about it, but I notice how my mood changes when I wear them as opposed to hanging around in my pyjamas. Also, in my own case, my husband did not like pants and he said if I would not wear them, he would supply me with all the skirts I wanted, or all the fabric I needed, to make the skirts. That is the kind of fun motivation that I have, and I made him keep the bargain...over and over and over, for the last 36 years.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lady Lydia,
Thank you so much for a another very lovely, and inspiring post.


Lydia said...

The "dressing well" issue is interesting, as one of the points of the Betty Crocker story was that it would increase enthusiasm and encourage confidence for the job of the home. I did notice there was more depression in homemakers as time went by, and it happened in the era when so many of them were wearing sports clothes and sweat pants--or whatever you call them. I think the job of homemaker ought to be re-dignified by dressing up. It would be nice if people would be able to say, because the homeaker was so distinctly well groomed, that "there goes a homeamker." The way you dress seems to reflect how you feel about your work. One class I took in homemaking when I was first married, told of the message we give ourselves by our clothing. Pyjams say "we are going to be casual today," and more structured clothing give a dignity to the job.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, Mrs. Sherman. I believe it's one of your best...so inspiring to the new homemaker, as well as a boost to those of us who, though experienced homemakers, can appreciate the reminder of the dignity that trying a little bit harder can bring (such as you mentioned...leaving the really grungy clothing for the worst of jobs, keeping a proper attitude, trying to see the end of our day from the beginning & formulating a rough organization for it). There is much to be said for our foremothers & the way they approached all the tasks that make up housekeeping. And no, I haven't watched too many old movies, either. These women really existed, in the flesh. I was brought up by one! She seldom wore skirts around the house, but I thought she always looked clean & neat. And when she went out, even to the grocery store, I thought she looked lovely. :o) Right before my dad came home from work, she'd run a comb through her hair, put on fresh lipstick & maybe a bit of cologne, & make sure that supper was started & the table set. She wanted him to feel welcomed when he walked through the door....those are good & useful memories for me, & I am trying to pass on a similar experience to my own children.

To your commenters who have expressed frustration, or regret at time wasted, I hope you will take heart at reading Lady Lydia's words. Try her suggestions. See if a jean skirt doesn't give you the same feeling (workwise) as a pair of jeans. If it doesn't work, perhaps it's too long or too short. Or maybe a pair of twill or gabardine pants are the answer. Instead of just throwing your hair back in a ponytail & calling it good, tie a little vintage hankie around the band as well. Get a load of laundry in the washer, put on some music you like....next thing you know, you are inspired by your surroundings instead of being depressed by them. Your children will feel this difference too. Everything will not run super smooth, maybe, but it will create a positive momentum, & that can only be a good thing. And then tomorrow, perhaps add one more thing.

I did read the book "Finding Betty Crocker" & so enjoyed it. I would love to have heard some of those radio broadcasts....I know they spoke to a very large audience back then!

Many thanks for providing such good reading today-

Anonymous said...

I thank you for your inspiring post. And I am looking forward to your post about husbands who are away. I spend 4 months of each year at home with my children, while my husband is 1200 miles away running our family business.

Elizabeth-Plain and Simple said...

Thank you very much for sharing this wonderful and inspiring post.


Lydia said...

I would like to thank everyone for the time they took to comment on this post. I am going to move on to another subject soon. For those who think I dress Victorian, I dressed that way for the photograph on the left, and in fact when I wore that outfit, it was so comfortable, that I forgot I was wearing it and continued to wear it the rest of the day after the special photograph. With that outfit, there was no adjusting or tugging, or things moving around, like many garments today and it was so comfortable, even with crinolene, that I didn't know I was dressed any differently. Those of us who were children in the 1950's know that clothing used to feel a lot different, and that the garments today, although "comfortable," do not feel much different than pyjamas, due to the weight of the fabrics and the weave. Permanent press has made a difference in the texture of clothing, giving a more casual effect, but I think in general, it doesn't matter what era we live in because there will always be something pretty to wear and it makes such a difference in the home. When we had to wear jeans a lot in winters on the homestead, we figured out ways to trim the cuffs and pockets with lace and ribbon and make them match our blouses and shoes.Now you can get leggings to wear underneath the skirts, similar to the garments worn for warmth in previous times, which makes dress wearing much more comfortable. I have just watched some scenes from 1900 captured on film, and will write about some of it soon.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Lady Lydia,

Excellent thoughts to consider. I'm reminded of that old chestnut 'Dress for success... You've inspired me to go, 'sort out' and sieze the day - the house is a'callin'... and I can relate to your observations that 'straightening up' to meet the chalenges of the day at hand can give us that bit more pep to get in and do it. very Recently I have been given a servicable full length apron - very useful; I've just got to remember to put it on!! :-) It's a work in progress and a fascinating one at that.

As for clothes feeling different, this is just as true of clothes of the '80's. Skirts were different then, longer, fuller, even pencil skirts were long and comfortable, blouses were good and straight cut, of nice fabric; none of this stretchy stuff that womens' blouses seem to be made with these days, and even the underpinnings were much better and more varied...

I think the '80's was the last stand of true modest femininity in mainstream clothing; very lovely; yep, there was stuff that one might shy away from wearing, but the selection was so broad that everyone could find something nice and even teen shops sold beautiful calf length or longer skirts, blouses with lace trim and the like, vests, halfpenny jackets etc. Yes, there was all that fluro stuff, but the clothes did feel so much more comfortable and didn't need one to constantly be pulling or tugging to keep things straight.

Oh, and one could by cotton and linen - easily.



Anonymous said...

"For those who think I dress Victorian, I dressed that way for the photograph on the left, and in fact when I wore that outfit, it was so comfortable, that I forgot I was wearing it and continued to wear it the rest of the day after the special photograph."

Wonderful article. I enjoyed this post. You have such elegance, Lady Lydia.
Isn't elegance forgetting what one is wearing? - Yves Saint Laurent
Blessings, Karen

Anonymous said...

Lady Lydia,

I so loved this post as the other writers have.

I wasn't so much as inspired about the talk of "dress" as I was the plan for the day. I get so overwhelmed with the amount of work there is to do. I think sitting quietly with a cup of tea and setting my plan sounds lovely.

It's not early, I've already got all the children off to school and been out to the grocery store for today, but I'm off to shower and dress and lay out my plan for the rest of the day. Better later than never. :-)


Anonymous said...

I left a comment a few days ago about feeling overwhelmed about trying to keep up with two toddlers, and keep my house up. From reading all these comments, I am looking at my "job" in a new light. I always felt it was my duty to entertain my children through out the day, rather than making the house my first priority. I even discussed this with my husband, who confirmed what several of you said: let them learn to entertain themselves! I am not here to serve them! So for the last two days I have tackled things very differently around here. Because of it, the kids are playing nicely in the playroom, keeping each other company, I have finally gotten the laundry caught up, and I have homemade bread rising in the kitchen! PS I especially love "dressing" for my job at home, and have started wearing my apron while I clean and cook. My three year old daughter thinks this is very cool, and wears hers while she helps me cook and clean! So thanks again!!

Unknown said...

An interesting parallel that occured to me as I was reading about preparing the house and being expectant for the arrival of the husband/dad at the end of the day: this is a reflection of our lives. We should have our soul's house in order and look expectantly for the Lord at the end of our days.

Lydia said...

gaggle: what a wonderful comparison, and so true.

Lydia said...

So glad for you that you are able to work around the children and not feel they have to have 100 percent attention. I remember hearing a young mother talk about how she used to think she had to wait til her children took a nap before she could even get dressed and get the house cleaned up. One day she decided to go ahead and work "around" her children and she said they did just fine, and even acted like they were helping. After that, she made the children adjust to her schedule instead of catering to them all the time.She was still a very flexible mother, but was happier that she could do what she wanted to do in the house.

Elizabeth said...

This is an excellent post and very true...AND also something with which I often struggle.

Thank you. I am resolved to do better. Actually, I am doing better, because I change as I grow, but I am resolved to do even more better (English/grammar?).

Lady Lydia, if you enjoy Christmas stories for the season, I am sharing some on my blog. There are about four for the month so far. You are welcome to share them with your loved ones.

God bless,