Over the course of two weeks, yours truly attempted to live the life of a 1950's housewife - through recipes and meal planning, a housekeeping schedule, a dedication to being frugal, and by maintaining specific beauty standards.
So, what did that all achieve? How did participating in this project impact our bodies, our finances, our home, our relationship, and our overall mood?
About the Body
- Jen's Weight: Up 2 lbs.
- Patrick's Weight: Up 0.5 lbs.
Patrick's weight change is pretty nominal - it's the difference between having the Frank n' Bean Bake in your belly and not. That said, he said he felt clothes were a little snugger around the waist by the end of the experiment and he is now actually eager to eat cooking that didn't have butter, flour, sugar and /or hot dog in it. A true miracle.
Blood Pressure Change:
- Jen: Systolic went down about 8 points. Diastolic stayed the same.
- Patrick: Both Patrick's Systolic and Diastolic pressure went UP about 5 points each. I won't go into the deets, but he really, really didn't need it to go up.
Other Body Notes:
- Jen: My feet hurt a fair bit at first - seeing as they were taking on the load normally shouldered by my ass - but after about the fourth day I seemed to have adjusted and didn't have that issue any longer. Toward the end I could really feel my lower back getting stiff, though - in fact, it still feels a bit tight. My biggest body observation, besides the ever-protruding gut, was that I noticed I started getting acne, especially around my chin and mouth. I'm sure it was a combination of the food, smearing Pond's Cold Grease Cream on my face, the increased use of make-up and the fact that I found I wasn't drinking as much water as normal (when you're sitting at the computer, it's easy to have a few glasses - but when you're go-go-go, you sometimes forget to stop and hydrate). It's not horrible acne or anything but I'm eager to reacquaint myself with Proactiv.
- Patrick: He had some allergy symptoms part-way through, but we're not totally sure to what. He also had (unrelated to the 50s Housewife Experiment) somewhat injured his wrist and ankle while playing soccer. Good thing he barely had to lift a finger at home!
About The Finances and Shopping
Keeping things frugal wasn't a particular challenge for me as I'm the gate-keeper of our family finances anyway and tend to be rather thrifty. But there were some definite strides made!
Food & Groceries
Our fridge always felt full during the experiment, we hosted friends, and I was constantly cooking - and yet grocery spending (and I'm including booze in the number) was down roughly 20%. It actually would have been more of a difference had it not been for the fact that I insisted on buying Harmony Organic milk and cream (in the glass bottle - so retro!) as well as organic eggs and butter. These all cost more than the regular type, but whatever; knowing that the animals involved in these products are being treated more humanely matters to me, regardless of what decade I'm in / pretending to be in. Most meat and vegetables were bought at the farmer's market - which kept some things low cost and some things not so much (gah, the halibut!). The canned products were incredibly cheap as was the organ meat - I could see how a family struggling to get by would rely on these things.
We didn't eat anything that I didn't personally prepare during this time, so there was no dining out or take-out (post-midnight on the last day didn't count! Riiiight?).
Normally, Patrick might buy about two lunches out a week (even if it was just grabbing those pre-made sandwiches from a grocery store) and get few coffees out while at work and on the weekend. We'd normally also order in something for dinner at least once a week and probably go out for dinner together maybe once every two weeks. In two "normal" weeks, the bill for our not-made-by-us food probably worked out to about $100 - $200. Compare this to the $0 housewife project. Crazy!
Entertainment & Going Out
We did spend some money on our bowling date (which, did I mention, I had a $5 coupon for?! Yay, frugal me!) - between the lane, shoe rentals and the beer (heh) at Bowlerama, we spent a total of $65. Had we gone with friends, our own cost would have gone down quite a bit as they charge by the lane (which can fit six) and not by the person and the bulk of the cost would have been split.
The last disastrous day of the 50s Housewife Experiment also saw us spending some money out when we got silly-drunk, had beer and took two cabs. As that was "off brand" of the project, it feels weird to count it, but I will. I believe we spent about $70 that night. Blargh.
We also hosted people in our home rather than going out for the usual coffee / drink / dinner. This was a big change from our norm - we, like, never have people over. I was thinking back on the number of people we had in at our house in the two weeks before the experiment, and the only person who did come by was Siobhan. During the project, we hosted eight people (and two dogs) - and were sure to feed them and / or quench their thirsts. The cost of that was already accounted for in the grocery / food costs.
If it had been a normal two weeks, I would have gone out with a friends for drinks about twice in total (which would have included appetizers, of course!) and Patrick would have gone out after work or on the weekend at least four times in total (which almost never includes appetizers, just beer). Between us, we normally would have spent about $250. During the 50s Housewife Experiment, Patrick brought some beer over to his friend's place for their BBQ / poker night but only spent about $15.
Random Household Stuff
In "regular life", now and again I'll go on a bit of an online spending spree and our concierge - who receives our packages - will make little jokes with Patrick - who is often the one picking up the packages - about the influx of boxes with my name on it ("I see Jennifer has been busy! Hope you've got a good job, Patrick."). Har. Har. Har.
But besides those little, minor, tiny, barely-ever-ever happen moments ... ahem ... we really don't buy that much stuff besides the basics. So, how did living as a housewife impact us? During the course of the experiment's two weeks, I only spent money on four things (two were just for me) that weren't your typical household / food items:
- Ramekins (a pair to be used for desserts, on sale) - $6.50
- Batiste Dry Shampoo - $9
- Nail polish (at the place I used a gift certificate to get my mani / pedi, so I could do touch-ups in the same colour) - $9
- An overdue fine at the library - $1.80
It's tough to say what we spend on "little stuff" normally as it fluctuates - but it's conservative to say we'd spend at least triple that normally in the same time frame.
SO ... If I had to make my best approximation, I'd say that by living by the stricter 50s lifestyle (especially when it came to eating in, hosting in), we saved a minimum of $340 in two weeks. Yowza. And here I thought we were already doing pretty good with the family budget!
About The Home
Dudes, our place is clllleeean. And organized! I really went to town, doing everything from getting rid of old make-up and prescriptions to putting bags together for Goodwill (with surprise expired meds in a coat pocket for one lucky person! Kidding, kidding), reorganized our filing, found a bunch of things we thought we lost (a pair of sandals, a camera, a hat) and even cleaned to the point that I found something that belonged to the previous homeowner.
For the first few days, the cleaning was heavy-duty - but after about day four or so, it was actually quite manageable. I was even able to keep right up with the schedule that I thought was so psychotic when I started. And yes, I was able to get through all 21 "morning" activities before lunch on several occasions. Yay, hard-working me.
To quote The Office, I really used some of that famous Hispanic cleaning ethic that makes us such a respected people.
How did this compare to the pre-50s days? We cleaned when someone was coming over - and as mentioned above, almost no one ever came over. It wasn't a dump - but it was pretty dusty. And maybe a bit rough around the edges. And maybe a one-time sex club for mice.
About The Marriage
Don't worry - there will be no talk of things that require a Daddy Disclaimer!
During the 50s Housewife Experiment, Patrick and I celebrated six years of being together (our third wedding anniversary is coming up in July). Our relationship was/is a-ok, doing just fine and all that. We both like and love each other. We are lucky.
I won't lie and say that being the sole keeper of the home didn't have a downside on the relationship front. There were moments that I felt more like a mother than a wife and partner ... like when someone was screaming about peas being in a dish, or when I'd walk into the bathroom and see that it had exploded in wet towels, empty toilet paper rolls and shavings, or when I'd be furiously trying to get food together for our group BBQ while a certain someone was blissfully involved in a video game. Those moments certainly felt challenging on my end and I had to really fight back the urge to get my rage on.
However, the project had us take on a few different behaviours, and I have to say that, although small, they eventually made us feel closer and perhaps even strengthened what we had. Unlike the pre-50s days:
- We woke up together at the same time
- We ate two meals together, at the table, without TV or phones or laptops about - and during that time, we talked about our days, what was on our minds, and so on
- We kissed goodbye at the door when he went to work
- He generally came home straight away from work (except when he had sports) rather than stopping and having a drink with a friend or co-worker (which wasn't an everyday thing for him before, but a couple times a week)
- I greeted him and we kissed hello when he came in
- We relaxed a little bit with a drink and then had dinner
- By the time Patrick came home, there was little housework to do (dinner dishes, mainly), so we got to enjoy a clean, comfortable home each evening
- We went out together and hosted people together more often than normal
About The Overall Mood
This is an area that's obviously tough to measure (again, Shoppers Drug Mart, why don't you have such a machine in place?).
I do believe we're happier, more relaxed, more connected now than before. Throughout the 50s Housewife Experiment, it felt like we were having several mini adventures together - whether it was diving into weird jiggly food, having our I Love Lucy TV dinner night or going bowling - it was all a little different from the norm - and something I think we quite welcomed.
Personally, I think unplugging from the Internets and TV and doing more things that actually mattered - taking care of our home and my husband, seeing my friends more often, tickling my brain through the "fun writing" that is this blog - made a big difference in my own happiness. And when I'm happy, it tends to rub off on my husband - in part because he has less to worry about when I'm in a good mood, ha (the phrase that describes this phenomenon is "Happy wife, happy life." Learn it, live it, love it, gentlemen.).
Before starting the experiment, I asked Patrick how he'd rate his overall stress level; if 1 was floating on a cloud (like that idyllic couple up there from a bedding ad) and 10 was being the middle guy in The Human Centipede. He gave himself a 6. After the experiment, I asked what he'd rank things at and he gave it a 3. Considering he's dealing with a crunch of stuff at work, I'd say that's a definite improvement! Patrick still has his "guest post" to do on this blog, so I'll leave any other thoughts he has on this to him!
SO ... those were "the results" - what are our non-numbers-based conclusions of the 50s Housewife Experiment? What did we learn? What will we want to keep in our lives? What will help shape the Modern Housewife Experiment? That's all coming up next!
Image Sources: Tide advertisement, circa 1952; The Esquire Cook Book; General Electric advertisement, circa 1955; The Bride's Reference Book; Martex Towels advertisement, circa 1946.