The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Report card

Rachael Conlin Levy

A fellow writer from Yes, Honey Chyle asked if I’d comment on “The Good Wife’s Guide,” which allegedly appeared in the May 1955 edition of Housekeeping Monthly, and its endorsement by The Southern Housewife. So let’s take a few of the Guide’s suggestions and see how I stacked up:

“1950s Suburban Glam Grandma” courtesy of watchumean.

Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have be thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they get home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.

Went on a cooking strike this week, leaving my husband to scrounge around in the fridge. He couldn’t find anything because I haven’t gone grocery shopping in two weeks, so he picked up pizza the first night and Taco Bell the second.

Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

Our youngest is sick. Having been puked on for the umpteenth time, I had given up changing into clean clothes by the time he walked through the door.

Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Encourage the children to be quiet. Be happy to see him.

Kids bicker. Washing machine chugs. NPR’s on in the kitchen and Hannah Montana blares from the living room. But as I shove a whining toddler into his arms I tell him, “Thank God you’re home.”

Some fabulously old quotes

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of our founding feminists.
“Four things necessary in a house are a chimney, a cat, a hen, and a good wife.”
John Florio (1553-1625) royal language tutor.

“No sooner are (American women) married than they begin to lead a life of comparative seclusion and, once mothers, they are actually buried to the world.” — Francis Joseph Grund (1805-1863), author.

“While I am about the house, surrounded by my children, washing dishes, baking, sewing, etc., I can think up many points, but I cannot search books. … I seldom have one hour undisturbed in which to sit down and write.”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), women’s rights advocate.

A brief history lesson

Excerpted from Ann Crittenden‘s “The Price of Motherhood:”

At the turn of the twentieth century, the women’s movement contained two contradictory strands: one that denigrated women’s role within the family, and one that demanded recognition and remuneration for it. The first argued that only one road could lead to female emancipation, and it pointed straight out of the house toward the world of paid work. The second sought equality for women within the family as well and challenged the idea that a wife and mother was inevitably an economic “dependent” of her husband.

For the rest of the twentieth century, the women’s movement followed the first path, and that led to innumerable great victories. But in choosing that path, many women’s advocates accepted the continued devaluation of motherhood, thereby guaranteeing that feminism would not resonate with millions of wives and mothers.

Oatmeal in the crosshairs

Oatmeal brulee 3 courtesy of chotda.

My first 10 years as an adult I walked the path of a feminist: put myself through college, earned my bachelor’s, landed a job in newspapers and loved it. Along the way I fell in love and married, the personal and the professional paths running side-by-side. When I gave birth to my first child the distance between the two courses widened, and yet I managed to straddle them for a while as a freelance writer. When I discovered I was pregnant with twins, the paths split and I made the decision to stop earning a wage and follow the course that the founding feminists had abandoned: Demanding equality within the family.

“Something about a baby encourages the resurgence of traditional gender roles,” Crittenden wrote. “With the arrival of a child, a mother’s definition of accomplishment becomes more complex, her work load goes up, and her income and independence go down.”

For the last 10 years, I’ve followed the less trodden path, and this week it led me into the bathroom where I stood, hair dripping, wearing only a towel. My husband entered, smiled, kissed me, and left a cup of coffee on the counter and a dirty diaper on the floor. I took a swig of hot coffee, rinsed the diaper and, still following that trail, walked to the desk and began to write as my husband cooked oatmeal.

Then I sat down at in the intersection of these two paths and ate breakfast.

One response to “Report card”

  1. boatx2 says:


    Brilliant. Really.

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