The MidCentury Housewife: Memorable Motherhood (A Mother’s Day Special)

Another extraordinary component we would like to explore about the midcentury wives is their experiences as (often young) mothers. Despite the considerable lack of real health research that supported the notions that butter is awful for arteries, tetra-chlorides in clothing detergents are a terrible ingredient, and that spanking children in public is actually humiliating as opposed to effective; these women did all they could to produce a breed of childhood that remains the nostalgic reverie of tens of thousands of baby boomers today.

What was it that made this golden age of childhood so memorable? The answer to that question, no matter what year, decade, or century it is, will always be: Mom.

There are several components of timeless maternal methods that started in the middle of the 20th century. Strongly-encouraged outside play, independence, a gentle touch, and a firm teaching of what is earned versus what is given all mesh to create the image of the midcentury mom. These may seem like the very basics, but without the adornments of materialism and modern luxuries, but these are what make moms so memorable.

Take for instance one classic situation; the children are instructed to go outside to play after their homework is finished- there would only be the rule to be home in time for dinner or before the streetlights went on (whichever came first). Unless the rain is falling, mom made sure they would at least spend time out of the house to prepare dinner. Once dinner was made, mom in her apron and the children with their hardy appetites would convene, talk over a warm meal and discuss the day. Should one of the little ones refuse to finish dinner, that’s all that would be offered through the next day’s breakfast. A balanced diet was ensured. But at the end of the day, though her rules were unbreakable, her kids could always count on mom to attend to each of them, tucking the children into bed, one by one.

Always available to offer advice, hem pants too long or skirts too short, stitch up a favorite teddy bear, or cook warm soup during winter’s unforgivable season of sore throats: moms had to have it all to offer. It wasn’t a competition per se, but becoming a masterful mama meant that she could be counted on again for future generations and for friends and neighbors. Eager to share understanding and warmth, midcentury motherhood was no exception to the housewife’s ultimate desire to achieve excellence in her role, no matter how many roles she played.

Moms make the best memories. Period. This Mother’s Day, we salute all our reader-moms and readers’ moms for their timeless and truly unconditional sharing of love.

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