Tips to Look After Your Husband

husband

My mother sent me a clipping from a 1950 Home Economics book, a sort of top ten list for women on how to please your husband. In honour of Valentine’s Day, using this list as a guide, I am going to share with you my updated, 2018 version, of this same list. The tips provided to women in this 1950 guide are very serious. The ones I am suggesting, well, not so much.

Have dinner ready

1950: “Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal on time. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospects of a good meal are part of the warm welcome needed.”

2018: On my drive home from work I think about what’s in my fridge and what I can throw together for dinner. Tonight, I wasn’t in the mood to cook, so I made pancakes. I don’t know, or care, whether or not my husband enjoyed dinner.

Prepare yourself

1950: “Take 15 minutes to rest so you will 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. Be a little gay and a little more interesting. His boring day may need a lift.”

2018: Our son turns 11 next month. That means I rested about, well, 11 years ago. I put on make-up when I first wake up early in the morning, and by the time we all arrive home at the end of the day I often look like a ragged mess. A stimulating conversation, on a general weekday evening, is a mix of yelling at our children, going over tasks to complete around the house and sometimes a more stimulating discussion about news and politics.

Clear away the clutter 

1950: “Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives, gathering up school books, toys, paper, etc. Then run a dust cloth over the tables. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too.”

2018: Clutter is my middle name. At any given time, if anyone (never mind my husband) enters my house you will see many items scattered about – a single toddler sock, various toys, hats, coats, books, paper and dozens of other items. I may own some dust cloths. My house is usually a haven of chaos and disorder.

Prepare the children

1950: “Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and face (if they are small), comb their hair and if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.”

2018: I love this one. Really? I do bathe my children regularly, but around 6:00 pm all three of them look more like Pigpen from the Peanuts cartoons than little treasures. Even if I did tidy up my children, my husband wouldn’t notice.

Minimize all noise

1950: “At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of washer, drier, dishwasher or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet. Be happy to see him. Greet him with a warm smile and be glad to see him.”

2018: When I’m home with my kids all day I’m very glad to see my husband. To hand the wild things over to him. It’s not hard to eliminate certain noises around the house, as I doubt that the washer or vacuum are in use anyway. I can guarantee that at least one child will be screaming, another one will be bothering another one and the third one won’t even notice that someone has arrived in our house.

Some don’ts

1950: “Don’t greet him with problems or complaints. Don’t complain if he’s late for dinner. Count this as minor compared with what he might have gone through that day.”

2018: I build up my list of grievances as I slog through my day and my husband does too. He is rarely on time for anything, so I’m more shocked if he arrives anywhere on time than late.

Make him comfortable

1950: “Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft, soothing and pleasant voice. Allow him to relax – unwind.”

2018: If my husband chooses to relax on a comfortable chair or in bed he had better do so with a couple of rambunctious children. He can make me a drink. His shoes better be off his feet before he steps off the mat at the front door. I don’t know what a low, soft, soothing and pleasant voice is. I’m always loud.

Listen to him

1950: “You may have a few things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first.”

2018: I’m texting with my husband throughout the day. Whether he’s busy or not, he will hear from me. I usually get the first word. And the last.

Make the evening his

1950: “Never complain if he does not take you out to dinner or to other places of entertainment. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure, his need to come home and relax.”

2018: I go out once in a while with my girlfriends, I have a theatre subscription with my mother and encourage my husband to go out too. As long as we coordinate our schedules, there’s no problem. And once in a while, if we are organized and find the time, we even go out together.

The goal

1950: “Try to make your home a place of peace and order, where your husband can renew himself body and spirit.”

2018: That’s why there’s yoga.

My life isn’t actually quite that hectic, but ladies, we have come a long way since this piece was published almost 70 years ago. While I believe that women are still (and may always be) responsible for the brunt of the running of the home, with most of us putting in a long hard day at work, our husbands have stepped up and share much more of the load.

I hope these 1950’s tips gave you a good chuckle. I definitely had a few giggles as I read them. Ladies, take care of your man today. And gentlemen, take care of your ladies, every day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!                                                                                                                    

Skiing Takes my Stress Away

skiing

I would not consider myself an athlete. When asked if I play sports like baseball or hockey, my answer is often, “those who don’t play, watch.” I like to watch sports and love to talk about them, especially with my son. But not always. There is one sport in which I actively participate: downhill skiing.

My parents first put me on a pair of skis when I was four years old. I don’t actually remember what it felt like that first time as I was so young. It was a time before young children learned about “pizza’ and “french fries” on the ski hill. I learned the basics of snow plow and found my way down.

Our family skied at various places in Ontario and Quebec. Well-known Laurentian hills like Mont Tremblant, Mont Saint Saveur and Morin Heights gave me my first early exposure to good quality skiing conditions. I took lessons at a small place in Ontario called Devil’s Elbow, and sometimes we ventured further to places like Blue Mountain, and more recently, to Alpine Ski Club.

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First day selfie on the ski hill this season

Note that I keep using the word “we.” That’s important. Skiing was a sport my whole family did together – my parents, brother and sister too (she was on skis before she was even three!). No matter how busy we were all week, in the winter our family jumped in the car on a Saturday morning (or during a winter vacation) and headed to the ski hill. It was our break from life and a chance to spend quality time together.

Think about all the sports in which you participate or watch. How many of them can a family all do together, as one unit? Or even if a family can, do they? Skiing is one of those. I felt privileged as a child and even more so now as an adult, to be able to ski every winter weekend with my family.

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David tested out snowboarding a few years ago. A rare picture of us on the hill together
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I think we take too many selfies on the hill.
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Cousins testing out the ski hill at night, for some railing fun.

And when I say my family – I mean my parents, my siblings and their families and my husband and children too. It’s a rite of passage in our family. A baby learns to walk, then run, then ski. And the diaper is still on!

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Two-year-old Matthew gets some instruction from his Zaidy during his first season on skis
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Matthew, in blue, on skis for the first time at age 2, with his big cousins.
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Julia, age two, on skis
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We start them young. Matthew took Nessa for a mini ride when she was less than a year old
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We just had to take a selfie last winter during Nessa’s first visit to the ski hill

As any ski family will agree, getting ready to go skiing in the morning, in a house with piles of children (more on our family country home another day) can be a rather unpleasant and sometimes downright horrible experience. At the height of the season we are 16 people in the house – an even 8 adults and 8 children. The children range in age from one to fifteen. And no one cooperates. Someone is always crying or screaming or fighting with a sibling. Socks are lost. The previous day’s long under wear wasn’t washed because a child forgot to put it in the laundry. A glove was left at the ski hill the day before and a tantrum ensues.

We rush to the car, zoom to the hill and deal with the next level of craziness: get the kids out, strap their skis and snowboards to their feet and throw them on the hill. Someone is usually crying, screaming or fighting yet again. Is it all worth it?

Yes.

Once I am at the top of the mountain and look down at the sparkling white snow ahead of me all my stress disappears. I can let go. I am free. All the craziness of the week, my career and my family melt away. I let my skis take me down the hill. Yes, it is all worth it.

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The view I love. That’s Julia, my father and Matthew sliding down the hill together last year.
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There’s always a fun mix of family on the hill, like my mother, nephew and daughter.

It’s about minus 15 outside today, and I am in the city and unable to go skiing. But tomorrow, well that’s another story. It may be cold outside (okay, it is insanely freezing), but I will be out there on the ski hill doing my thing. As will my parents, siblings their kids, my kids and maybe even my husband (okay, not the baby, she will be in the daycare). And I will be skiing every weekend this winter. If you need to find me, look for me on the hill.

Dads Making Dinner and Moms in the Corner Office

work family balance

 

My husband, David, knows how to cook and bake. Well kind of. He can cook eggs any way, his chicken schnitzel is crispy and juicy and he makes the best pie I have ever tasted. He also likes to eat, so when I go away and leave him alone with the children, for the evening, a couple of days or a week I know he and the children will eat.

I don’t know what they will eat, if the house will be clean or when (or if!) the children will go to bed. Somehow, he muddles his way through it all while I am away, the children always have a great time while Mommy is gone and the house is still standing when I return.

Does my husband concern himself with any of this when he goes away? Does he worry if the children will eat a balanced diet, whether or not they will bathe or if they will sleep more than a few hours each night?

I know that in my case the quick and easy answer is no. Without even doing a survey (a simple one or even one that follows the Scientific Method) I am quite sure that the answer is usually no for most families. And this irks me.

When my parents grew up, in the 1940’s and 1950’s, most fathers went out to work in the morning and most mothers stayed at home to run the house and take care of the children. One could logically conclude that the majority of fathers at that time couldn’t put a balanced meal together, didn’t know how to do a load of laundry or turn on a vacuum cleaner.

When I grew up, in the 1970’s and 1980’s, a far larger number of women went off to work in the morning, including my mother, but the responsibility to run the household and care for the children still far skewed towards the mother. My father was incapable of even making a piece of toast, cutting up vegetables or heating up leftovers. I still don’t think my father knows where the power button is on the washing machine though I will give him credit that he does know his way around a mop, broom, vacuum cleaner and bathroom sponges.

The women’s movement was strong in the 1970’s, and many women strived to have it all. They wanted to be leaders in business, entrepreneurs and executives but also have a family. They wanted the ultimate – to find that perfect work-family balance. Many of these women of the 1970’s had families and raised daughters to have the confidence to strive to have it all.

But do we? While it is quite commonplace today that most households are double income, I believe that the majority of the household duties still fall on the mother. While of course there are exceptions and there are some incredible fathers who balance a demanding job and run the household, they are in the minority.

Most women today, who have a career and family, don’t have it all. As I write this post, for example, in the early evening, I am home alone with my three children. My son is watching television, my 7-year-old daughter is playing quietly with her toys and my baby girl is crying and wants to be held and entertained. I still have to cook dinner and put a load of laundry in the machine and somehow I need to write and post my blog and do some other work as I do my best to earn a living. David is an active, caring and doting father and does his fair share around the house, but at the end of the day the children’s and the house’s well-being are my responsibility.

So the answer to the question is simple: do we, women in 2017, have it all? Absolutely not and we will never find that perfect work-family balance. We will do our best to try, as women always do. We will raise our daughters to aim high and dream big. For now, I will carry the baby in the Ergobaby while I make dinner, change the channel on the TV to keep the other two children happy and press publish on this post. It’s the best I can do.