Sunday, July 12, 2009

The school of marriage

A few days ago, I received an email from a lady who quit the work force to be home full-time. She did, however, meet some challenges in making the transition, and asked me about learning the traditional duties of a wife. Here is part of my reply:

What does it take, really, to be a good wife? Just like you, I'm learning "on the job" and slowly discovering the answers. While growing up, I didn't have a good training or example.

One of the challenges of women who are used to working outside the home and then come home, is that they usually had someone else manage their time for them. At home, we become managers of our own time, and sometimes it takes a while to build a working routine, especially if you come home when you already have little one(s) around. Most of the homemaking tasks aren't very complicated or difficult, it's scheduling them on a regular basis that's the trick.

See a post I wrote a while ago: how to become managers of our time.

Of course, many young women these days don't even know how to cook or iron, I had no clue until I was about 20. Fortunately that's something that can be learned on the job. If I had to name just a few practical things a wife should know how to do efficiently and well, that would be laundry and ironing, cleaning and keeping clutter at bay, cooking (knowing how to put a healthy, wholesome and nutritious meal on the table - it can be a simple meal) and baking, mending clothes, and keeping a garden if you have one. There are many other things but they are less than essential in my opinion (such as, you can survive without being very good at sewing or canning). But again, scheduling does the trick. There were times when my husband went without clean socks, not because I can't do the laundry but because I didn't find the time to do that.

Being a good wife is far more important than being a traditional wife (though the two often overlap!) Another woman, or a book (unless it's the Bible), or a counselor cannot really teach you how to become a good wife. Only you are your husband's helpmeet and only you can adapt yourself to his unique needs, which are different for every man. Some things might be good and traditional and womanly, but less than important to your husband. I used to be very annoyed when I couldn't get a crease out of a shirt while ironing, until one time my husband came to me and said, "thanks for ironing my shirt, it looks great" - while in fact that shirt wasn't ironed at all! I stopped fretting right away. On the other hand, my husband likes the refrigerator to be very neatly arranged, which might not be important to another man.

Naturally, communication is the key here. By asking your husband what he wishes to find in a wife and mother at home, it will be easier for you to know which skills and abilities you should focus on.

Check out this post, where I elaborated on this subject a bit. It was meant for a young woman who was engaged and preparing for marriage at the time, but I still think you will find it interesting.

9 comments:

Otter Mom said...

I think a lot of it is just "on the job training." Each person is different, and that applies to husbands as well as wives. My husband couldn't care less if his shirts aren't ironed, as long as they are clean he's happy. But I like to take care of him, so I iron his shirts for him. He does notice, it's nice when he thanks me but I think I'd still do it even if he didn't notice.
We all have to learn, being married isn't something we are born knowing how to do. The young woman who is preparing for marriage will have her own learning experiences, and she'll figure out what works for her and her husband. But I do think that a lot of people, probably mostly women, have unrealistic ideas of how a marriage will be or should be. I did, when I first got married 24 years ago. But we learn as we go.

Bethany Hudson said...

Wonderful advice, Anna. I completely agree: the most important thing is to strive to be a good helpmeet to your own husband. Learn what he needs from your home life, and work to provide that for him.
~Bethany

Joie said...

What if you like something done a certain way but your husband a. doesn't care or b. like it done another way but it has nothing to do with, say, his clothes - i.e. it's a household issue?

Michelle Potter said...

I completely agree about the importance of doing what is important to YOUR husband. I used to get so frustrated because I would clean all day but not quite get to the dishes (my most hated job because no matter how often you do them, they always need doing again!), and my husband would come home and be upset as though I'd cleaned nothing at all. The kitchen mattered most to him because he likes to cook. Now it matters most to me!

Something else that I had trouble with was learning which jobs to do when. I had learned a very nice system for keeping a to do list and schedule, but I'd gotten stuck because I didn't really know what to put ON my list. I ended up just doing the most basic things over and over again and being frustrated about what wasn't being done. A resource that really helped me there was FlyLady.net. This website is excellent for telling you what to do when, for learning good habits and building routines that help your house stay under control!

Anonymous said...

Three words: Wrinkle free clothes.

My husband and I both refuse to buy anything we would ever have to iron.

-- Pendragon

Anonymous said...

What if you like something done a certain way but your husband a. doesn't care or b. like it done another way but it has nothing to do with, say, his clothes - i.e. it's a household issue?

I may not be very traditional, but I can actually relate to this. Believe it or not, my husband does not think the house needs to be cleaned more than once a month. Once a month!!! That's crazy!!! I, on the other hand, think the whole house needs to be gone over (swept, dusted, vacuumed, bathrooms, etc.) at least once a week. (My husband's response is: "Once a week!!! That's crazy!!!")

So of course, I was doing it all and for a while it was annoying that (a) I was doing it all and (b) my husband thought it was silly that I was even doing it.

Solution -- we hired a couple to come every 2 weeks to clean. I still spend several hours cleaning on the off weeks, but my husband has taken over other jobs. He is in charge of feeding and walking our dog, laundering our clothes, towels and bedding, paying the bills, buying the groceries and running errands. (Sometimes we do the groceries and errands together, but I don't have to worry about making time for it because it is his responsibility.). I am in charge of the lawn (mowing, weed whacking, gardening), which I do once a week. We both like to cook so whoever has time and feels like it will throw something together, and we each clean our own dishes.

-- Pendragon

Mrs. Michele said...

I liked this whole post but most especially this part:


"Being a good wife is far more important than being a traditional wife (though the two often overlap!) Another woman, or a book (unless it's the Bible), or a counselor cannot really teach you how to become a good wife. Only you are your husband's helpmeet and only you can adapt yourself to his unique needs, which are different for every man. Some things might be good and traditional and womanly, but less than important to your husband." (emphasis mine)


I have found this to be very true...I remember a particular thing I told my husband I was going to start doing--because I'd read about other ladies who are good wives, doing it--and his response was; "Why are you going to do that?" Here I thought I was going to be this great wife by doing __________ and he didn't even care about me doing __________. That was a big lesson for me. (o:

Anonymous said...

In my opinion your previous post was filled with good advice for this new at-home wife.

It does all come down to finding out what is important to one's husband, & after children arrive, what is required to make sure he is not neglected. It is true that a lot of thought needs to go into this...it's not for a weak or cowardly person! And it does take practice, & patience, & love.

Brenda

Mrs. Nichols said...

Thanks for these words. I've been trying to figure out how to be a good wife myself.

I've been married for a little over two months now, and there are so many hidden responsibilities that come with this new territory.

Trying to figure out what's best for my husband and I can be difficult when "tradition" keeps popping up around the house.

"Being a good wife is far more important than being a traditional wife": I love it!