zondag 21 januari 2018

Happy Housewives

A book review.

Happy Housewives is a 2005 book by Darla Shine, who is married to a TV producer Bill Shine and used to be a producer herself but quit her job to take care of her children. As of now, she runs a website called Happy Housewives Club (I linked to it several times), and as far as I know, she hosts a radio program for housewives and mothers, too (or, at least, she used to several years ago).

Darla wrote her book as a reaction to the Desperate Housewives show, which in her opinion, promoted a very distorted image of women who chose to stay home, alongside with immorality such as adultery. She even calls the characters of the show "whining, spoilt rotten bitches" (H.H., Regan 2006, p.11). In fact, Darla is rather blunt in her language, the fact which caused some women to give her negative reviews on Amazon.

The book claims to transform you from a miserable to happy housewife in 10 easy steps, and Darla uses her own story as an example. When she first stayed home, she used to be miserable all the time, spending her day going to salons and beauty shops while the housekeeper cleaned and the babysitter babysat, but after being told off by her mother, she got rid of hired help, and found happiness in mastering the art of homemaking and child-rearing.

I think you've guessed by now that Darla's book won't teach you how to live on 50$ a week or save money on electricity. In fact, it could be properly subtitled How to be a good upper middle class wife. Some women, again, criticised this aspect. Personally I don't think there is anything wrong with it, but her own social position has probably influenced her thinking to a certain degree, as she had a specific group of women in mind while writing it.

Happy Housewives is not a comprehensive guide on housekeeping but gives some good, solid advice for beginners, yet, I'm rather ambivalent about some of it. I'll start with things I liked. Darla is not afraid to speak her mind. She plainly states on p. 19 that any mother who could afford it should be home with her babies: "You brought these little people into the world, so go home and raise them. It's not your mother's responsibility." (emphasis mine). She criticises feminist movement: "Most of the feminists out there promoting working, career, having it all, being a superwoman they're full of it. You cannot have it all. They know it but won't admit it." (p.25).

She encourages women who chose to stay home to start taking good care of themselves, exercising and eating right and not believe everything the conventional medical care practitioners say. She tells the wives to invest in their marriages, to look good for their husbands, not to nag and not to deprive them of sex. She promotes homemaking, gives an example of a practical schedule with chores divided into daily, weekly, etc, and even says that you shouldn't expect your husband to clean since "it's your job anyway" (p.86).

There is a whole chapter devoted to cooking with tips, ideas and recipes. There is a section on entertaining and another one on gardening. Darla's style is spunky and engaging, and the book is incredibly easy to read. It's like talking to a good girlfriend, plus her enthusiasm about being a good housewife and mother is really catching. Yet, there are some things which I found dubious.

Some of these things are rather minor, like her advice on always wearing makeup or her insinuations that health care system is somehow unfair to women in particular. Others sound manipulative, like the story of Darla's friend who made her husband "open his wallet" by paying attention to him or the idea that "husbands are for sex, girlfriends are for communication." Many a traditional homeschooling mother will probably disagree with the suggestion that mommy needs a break from her kids and should go out with her girlfriends for a drink or two.

What I personally dislike is the way she treats the relationship between the husband and wife, especially things she says in Ch.7. I get the point of having a circle of friends, and an identity besides just wife and mother. Friends and relatives are important though nowadays we often tend to forget it. However, Darla appears to go beyond this when she states that you should rely more on your girlfriends than on your husband because it's them who will be there for you in the end.

I get this whole divorce thing and that your husband could die and you should have some support system in place, yet I disagree strongly with the idea that I should rely more on other women (and not even those related by blood) than my own husband. That is the book's biggest flaw in my opinion. I think husband and wife are a team and should always present a united front to the outside world. May be I'm wrong, I don't know, and I'd love to hear the opinions of others.

In the end, I think the positive advice in the book outweighs its real or perceived drawbacks but if you are offended by all things mentioned above, than this book is probably not for you.

donderdag 18 januari 2018

How To Be Content At Home

The problem of our time is availability of information. Now, of course, it can be a good thing, but it has a negative side, too. We are constantly presented with an image of perfection, whether through TV ads, glossy magazines or Internet personalities. As a result, we want it all and we want it now. We feel entitled to all the joys of life and none of its troubles, so to say. And we constantly keep comparing ourselves to others.

Have you met this ideal family? They both are young-looking and healthy, they both have dream jobs but manage to keep a clean house, eat nutritious meals and spend quality time with their children. Their kids are ideal kids, too; they love daycare, they do well at school and they never get sick or misbehave. This ideal family lives in a dream house in a nice neighbourhood without any crime or pollution, they often go on luxurious vacations, they have a busy and fulfilling social life, they engage in hobbies and sports, keep pets, drive expensive cars and live to be a 100 each while their kids go on to prosper in life and have ideal families of their own.

So have you ever met this family? Because I haven't. What I see around me are far-from-ideal people with all sorts of problems, trying to make the best of it. I don't know one person who has it all, since whatever situation they are in, it will always include trade-offs. In the times past, people understood the realities of every day life much better than we do now and were thankful if they had food, clothes, shelter and at least one of their children lived to adulthood. They also were taught that coveting is a sin and that they shouldn't be too proud of their worldly possessions because they could lose them at any time. Being too prideful was considered tempting God/fate.

It's very easy to grow discontent if you start comparing yourself to others. For a woman who stays home it could be even worse since if she ever complains of lacking something she'll invariably hear that she has to go to work in order for her family to afford buying more stuff. She keeps comparing herself to working women and wonders whether she or her children miss something essential. The truth is, however, that no one's life is ideal and the working mother may in her turn, be envious of the lady who stays home because of her freedom and her leisure.

Grass always looks greener on the other side, but seldom really is:)

dinsdag 16 januari 2018

Does It Even Matter?

Here is something to consider when making a choice whether to be a two income family or not. In a modern Western society, does it even matter?

Let me illustrate my point by examples. I know a couple of people who by different reasons live in subsidised housing.  One is sick and couldn't work any more. The house looks quite decent. She has time to cook nutritious meals and she has housekeeping help from the government. The neighbourhood she lives in isn't really bad. There is a huge beautiful park right behind her house.  People in this situation won't have money for luxuries and expensive vacations, but they still can afford clothes, shoes and even going out sometimes. If by health or money reasons they can't drive, we have a good system of public transportation.

On the other hand, some (young) families I know went for a 2 income lifestyle. Some took a huge amount in debt to live in a similar 3-bedroom house, in a slightly better neighbourhood. Of course, there IS a difference, I know there is. The point I'm trying to make is that the said difference isn't big enough, at least in the country I live in, to justify the debt and children being raised by strangers, imo. Unless you are a surgeon or a lawyer but live from two lower middle class/working class salaries, there won't be any huge rise in your standard of living compared to a one-income family, and if you are a surgeon, you can afford for your wife to stay home full time and there still will be the difference between you and a truck driver, so to say.

So what's the point?

zaterdag 13 januari 2018

Dear Mother, Your Child Doesn't Care About Your Rights

I found this interesting article on HubPages. In it, a young mother explains her choice to stay home with her child(ren). It's a lengthy article which is best read in its total, yet I wanted to highlight some parts. The author has really great insights in the whole career mommy debate. She points out that even though the perception of the mother's role has changed in the eyes of society, her children's needs haven't:

Not all things are fair. A mother is not the same as a father in the children's eyes. There is meant to be a different connection there that begins in the womb for the child. They know nothing about feminism or hidden political agendas to their benefit. they have simple desires and needs. Most include their mothers time and attention. They don't care about mommy having the right to work, they just know mommy goes to work and leaves them. If it is hard for many empty nesters to let their kids go at18 think about how hard it is for a child to let their parent go to work. We can have a child and go back to work to resume the life we led before kids. It is a right. But can somebody inform the kids that society has changed in the last 50+ years so in turn a child must change their needs as well? Even though women's wants and needs changed throughout these progressive years, children still have the same needs and wants.

Another issue she raises is whether very small children are traumatised by daycare setting. The lady  herself went back to work after her daughter turned 10 weeks but quit when the child turned 6 mos. Yet, a very strange thing happened many moths later:

I'll never forget it when my daughter was 3 yrs old, she told me out of the blue she didn't like going to daycare and began crying as if it was something recent, saying she missed me when she was there. Let me remind you, she was 6 months old when I took her out of daycare.

The comments are also worth reading, and some ladies were pointing out that very young children can't even complain if anyone hurt them during the day away from home. It's really encouraging that younger generations are discovering the joys of traditional motherhood. 

donderdag 11 januari 2018

An Unintended Consequence Of Promiscuity?

One more reason why promiscuity is not such a great idea - microchimerism:

Microchimerism is the presence of a small number of cells that originate from another individual and are therefore genetically distinct from the cells of the host individual. This phenomenon may be related to certain types of autoimmune diseases; however, the mechanisms responsible for this relationship are unclear.

While the Wiki article goes on and on about maternal microchimerism, it does mention at the end of the section that

It is hypothesized that unprotected intercourse with ejaculation may be another source of microchimerism.

Something to think about?

maandag 8 januari 2018

New Year Muffins

Baked them for Epiphany and we already ate them all! Recipe adapted from an old Taste Of Home magazine from 2006.

1/3c soft butter
ab. 1/2c (or less) brown sugar
2 eggs
1c flour + ab. 1/2 c rye flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3c milk

For filling, you'll need:

200g cream cheese
3-4 tbsp brown sugar
1 egg
ab. 1c raisins

For topping, you'll need:

4 tbsp flour
1-2 tbsp brown sugar
cinnamon to taste
1 tbsp cold butter

For the dough, cream butter and sugar, add eggs and mix thoroughly. Add flour+baking powder+cinnamon alternately with milk. Fill greased or paper lined muffin cups. A word of warning: I used paper lining and had difficulty with separating it from baked muffins as the dough was very sticky. Also, according to the magazine, you should get about 18 muffins. My oven is small and I really didn't care for baking twice so I managed to fit the dough + filling into a standard muffin pan for 12, but the cups were full.

For filling, beat cream cheese, sugar and egg, add the raisins and with a spoon, drop filling on top of each muffin. For topping, combine dry ingredients, cut in cold butter and crumble the mixture by hand, sprinkle on top.

Bake at 375F/190*C for ab. 30 min, or until ready (use a toothpick to test). Eat warm or cold. Enjoy:)