Bylines and Babies: Those Were the Days

CAM00031When I found this 1979 copyrighted book among other yellow and dusty volumes in my storage unit, I fully expected to use it to make jokes about the Suzy Homemaker I used to be when I was young, married and the mother of two small boys.  In those days I was trying to live up to the expectations of my 50s-raised husband (and my own, I admit it).  Looking back I am sometimes appalled, because I see a woman completely different from who I am now and even unlike the mouthy hippy chick I was in my teens.  What alien took over my body during those thirteen years?

However, this outdated book actually is a testament to the burgeoning women’s movement of the seventies and eighties.  It is an example of women forging forward with being their own persons and offers suggestions for how to walk the tightrope to having it all if you really want it.

The chapter on housekeeping is an example of the mind-switch women were making.  It is not only about ways to make cleaning more efficient and quicker so you can keep the hubby happy.  It includes ways to add your personal needs to your list of priorities—and not at the bottom of the agenda, either.  Even the chapter title indicates the idea of a woman’s “choice” which would have been radical if written in the 50’s: How to Do Housework Faster — (OR NOT AT ALL). (CAPS added by me for reference.)

I found one section in the chapter particularly humorous: “If No One Notices It, Don’t Do It.”  That doesn’t mean letting the cat poop in the basement stay there until the smell goes away because it’s petrified. It means wait to clean up the cat poop until you’ve finished that last chapter. It means make a deal with your neighbor to do all the car pooling in exchange for free baked goods which you love to do anyway.

“Never buy anything that needs ironing.”  Use delivery services to save time, and make your kids do their part. Don’t shy away from take-out or convenience foods. Find creative activities that keep the kids happy yet out of your hair at the same time. The book is full of advice which would work even today, and is not limited to the housewife portion of the title.  There are helpful tips for the woman writer, too.

I did find a few things I could take issue with, but maybe it’s just me.  “If clutter annoys him, hide it.”  I say tell him to pick it up if he doesn’t like it, or wait till I get around to it. There’s a section in a chapter on Coping With Family that is “How to Keep Hubby Healthy and Happy.”  I like to think he’s responsible for his own happiness. Still, the book does also have many suggestions of ways to find compromises, which is important in a relationship.

I bought this book at an important time in my life, when I was trying to remember who I was and what I wanted out of life.  Looking at the contents now, I think maybe it was one of the first steps I took to becoming a serious professional writer.  It may even be one of the reasons I developed this audacity to try making my living through my craft.  For that, I thank the author, Elaine Fantle Shimberg.  Wherever she is now, she was way ahead of the game then.

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Other (and considerably more current) works of the author can be found HERE.

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