Happy July! Today seems like an excellent day to announce my new half-year project — The 1950s Pregnant Housewife Experiment! I have loved the 1950s Housewife Experiments since I found Jen But Never Jenn and her original experiment, back in 2010. She created a lot of ideas and lists for her experiments that others have used, and her chore list for her vintage day STILL floats around, scaring modern housewives with the sheer number of tasks.
On the other hand, I loved her experiments and her lists so much that I have been collecting vintage homemaking books ever since. I now have a really impossibly large collection of housekeeping, cooking, etiquette, decorating, crafting, marriage, and parenting books. And I have finally decided to try my own 1950s Housewife Experiment.
However, I am decidedly NOT a childless housewife who can follow a newlywed routine for cleaning and newlywed menus for cooking (Jen’s main guide was The Bride’s Reference Book from 1949). I have 7 children. They homeschool. I feed 9 people three times a day. And I found out that I am pregnant with my 8th child. So, instead of following Jen’s lists and schedules, I will be making my own, based on my vintage housekeeping books, vintage cookbooks, and vintage parenting books. This will be my 1950s Pregnant Housewife Experiment!
For the last half of 2019, I will be doing full vintage. My reference guides will include:
- The Better Homes and Gardens Baby Book, Modern Home Medical Adviser, Mother and Baby Care in Pictures, and some other expectant other manuals;
- America’s Housekeeping Book, The Art of Housekeeping, The Good Housekeeping Housekeeping Book, and some other housekeeping manuals;
- The Handbook of Beauty, Individually Yours, Modeling for Motherhood, and many other marvelous beauty and style handbooks;
- A small collection of women’s magazine from the late 1940s through the late 1950s;
- A collection of home economics textbooks from the same period.
Squee! Just looking at the names of my favorite books makes me happy!
From these, I have gleaned essentially the same rules as Jen used. My rules, however, are somewhat modified, since the goals of a mother were different than those of a newlywed. My goals for these two weeks are:
- Make home life as relaxing and enjoyable as possible for, and be appreciative, admiring, sympathetic, and supportive of The Mister, to express gratitude for his continuing as breadwinner and head of the household.
- Avoid a slide into dowdiness and being a disheveled wife by devoting time to maintaining beauty, health, happiness, and a feminine appearance — with just a touch of glamour to appeal to The Mister and avoid an “old-marrieds” rut.
- Provide a proper environment, guidance, and training, from infancy to adulthood, in etiquette, grooming, health and hygiene, character, citizenship, religion, and education.
- Keep a clean, orderly, and attractive home, always ready for hostessing, hospitality, and celebration that entices the family, especially teens and The Mister, to spend time at home in the evenings and on weekends.
- Plan, prepare, and attractively serve tasty and nutritious meals and snacks that entices the family to enjoy “a date with your family” every evening for dinner.
- Handle the housekeeping allowance as thriftily as possible, without waste or unnecessary extravagance, and without parsimony, including activities such as mending and maintenance which prolong the useful life of our current possessions.
So, I will be following the full vintage ideal as closely as possible, without spending too much extra money. I will post twice-weekly updates, and share them to social media, but other than my 2-hour daily blogging time, I won’t be online (except for using it as a radio, and anything my husband needs me to research for him). As closely as possible, I will:
Try to Keep House Following the Standards for a 1950s Housewife
I will make meals based on the menus from The American Home Diet. Although this book is from the 1920s, it is recommended in The Art of Homemaking from the 1950s, because of its excellent collection of lunch and dinner menus for every day of the year. Since all that meal planning is done for me, I intend to use those meals for my lunches and dinners, and follow a basic breakfast plan. I also have week of nursery meals from one of the baby books, and another from my Encyclopedia of Cooking, and I will be using those menus for my toddler, preschooler, and kindergartner.
I will clean and cook based on my vintage manuals and methods, and using what the vintage housewife had available to her — mostly. My refrigerator is better. And I’m using a modern washing machine. I don’t have a dishwasher or a microwave, so those are no problem. I will be using my vintage sewing machine. And I am not giving up KitchenAid. Since KitchenAids became available to the public in 2019, I am using it in this experiment! Oh, and my husband likes his coffeemaker, so that will be staying also.
Follow the Schedules and Routines Recommended by Some of the Experts
Try to follow vintage schedules and routines. I have discussed with my midwife the vintage exercise and diet regimens for pregnant ladies, and she OK’ed them. Also, I will be following a vintage beauty routine and wearing as much vintage/retro clothing as I can. And I will be using vintage housework routines and the daily maternity schedule.
I also will try to sew at least one project while I do this experiment. Mid-century housewives who sewed averaged 21 projects a year. That’s about 1 project every 2-3 weeks. I should be able to finish at least one project in 6 months! I don’t have a full vintage maternity wardrobe, or a vintage layette, so those are on my list. Also on my list are school clothes for my other kids this fall.
Avoid Disrupting the Rest of the Family
My husband and my kids won’t be following the vintage experiment. They will be eating the food, but they will still be doing their own chores, their own summer reading, and spending a lot of time outside.
My kids already have a summer routine to their days, which won’t change much. I will also avoid disrupting my husband’s routine. I won’t be watching TV with them — but I don’t do that anyway. And I will be listening to music from the time, but not if it irritates my husband. And everything will carry on smoothly (At least until August, when the kids are getting a behavior boot camp and some vintage character training! But I haven’t told them about that one yet!)
In September, my kids will be going “back-to-school,” and the schedules will shift a bit for that. I will be blogging about the back-to-school schedules and curriculum in August, but they will be following vintage routines for schoolkids and younger children, and they will be using a minimalist approach and vintage books. So, we will see how much that disrupts the maternity project.
What I Hope to Get Out of This
I would like to see if vintage pregnancy advice can still help women to have a decent, healthy pregnancy. Most mothers would probably benefit from the simple, uncomplicated routines and advice that vintage books dispensed.
I really want to follow this project all the way through my pregnancy. Also, I want to see if vintage parenting advice, including scheduling, can be helpful for modern mothers and new babies. Scheduling babies is as much of a flashpoint between moms as old-fashioned parenting and discipline. So, I intend to seek out vintage advice and try to follow it. Hopefully, this will help other mothers wondering about these methods.
Since this is my 8th, I am not worried that I won’t know if something is wrong when I follow this advice. I will be able to figure out any problems, and end the experiment if it isn’t in the baby’s best interest. I also have a good relationship with my doctor, and she sees all my children as well. She will be able to keep an eye on the health side of things, as will my midwife.
And there it is! My 1950s Pregnant Housewife Experiment for the last half of 2019. I will link to the whole series of update posts from this page as I post them. I hope you enjoy following along with my mid-century pregnancy!