One of my favourite hobbies is learning about how women ran their households many generations ago. I devour historic television shows that focus on home life and families, or read historically accurate fiction. Perhaps my greatest guilty pleasure is visiting restored homes that tell the story of a bygone era.
The most up-close and personal that I get is my weekly phone call with my own Grandmother. I love hearing her stories of growing up in Malta, and the things she did as a young European housewife in Toronto during the 1950s and 60s.
It was a different era and I’m sure in my mind I romanticise the true reality, but in my heart I long for the simplicity of life a few generations ago.
Sometimes I feel as though I am a 1950’s housewife stuck in the 21st century. I chose a different lifestyle than most, deciding to stay at home with my children instead of returning to work. It wasn’t until recently that I started writing as a freelance journalist, but still, I do my work in the evenings and on a rare day of daycare.
I try to manage our household finances on a limited fixed income, but this isn’t the 1950s, and life is more expensive and difficult to manage on one income. Even things like laundry and domestic duties become challenging for someone at home all day. I find myself saving our laundry and trying not to wash our dishes during peak hydro hours, even though that would be the most practical times for me.
One of the biggest challenges, which I wasn’t prepared for, was the loneliness that would set in during the long days at home.
When I was a new mom I read the book Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik. It is the story of a group of women who form a book club in the 1960s and remain friends over four decades. Don’t let the title turn you off, it was a lovely and rich story on motherhood and friendship. At the time, I remember wishing I had a group of housewives that lived on my street who I could hang out with each day. Bon bons would be an unnecessary bonus.
It wasn’t until the last few months that I realized I could embrace my reality and form my own community. I have always had friends who were also home with their kids, and we have often had weekly playdates. But I knew I was longing for something richer.
I started investing in certain people, and making a point of inviting them over once a week. My kids enjoyed asking who would be visiting today, and would stand by the front door ready to greet their friends.
I started feeling like I had found a place where we belonged during the day.
I made friends with nearby neighbours, and offered help when I could, and asked for help when I needed to. I formed a book club where mothers could meet and talk about our struggles and celebrate our triumphs, and spent more time pouring into each other’s lives.
This past week a good friend of mine, who also happens to have a beautiful and bountiful vegetable garden, asked if I could use some fresh vegetables.
“Yes, I would love that!” I replied.
“Great! I was wondering if you’d like to make a double batch? That way we could split it?” she asked.
It was a daring question, and one that some may never ask. But we were good friends, and she knew I loved cooking, and would be happy to do that for her. I sent her a list of ingredients I was missing, and she dropped them off, with some beautiful Crookneck Squash from her garden.
We worked as a team, combining the ingredients we had, and I made a delicious summer squash soup for us each to enjoy with our families.
At the end of the night, after tucking my kids into bed and settling in to watch an episode of Call the Midwife, I realized that I was as close as I ever wanted to be to the 1950s.
Besides, I am really grateful for epidurals.