The Real Housewives Of Reality

ImageConfession time: the Real Housewives shows on Bravo, particularly Atlanta, New Jersey, and New York, are my guilty pleasure. I never take away valuable life lessons from these shows, but I just find the people on them entertaining. I can’t imagine being an adult woman and acting the way they do. Watching Real Housewives of (insert random city here) makes me feel a little more mature knowing I’m only 21 but act more adult than those women do.I also realize that the only part of the show’s title that is accurate is the city where it’s filmed. These women are not “real” (often times the scenes are staged for good television) and they don’t fit the definition of a “housewife.”  

I didn’t understand what being a housewife or at-home mother (AHM) really meant until I read “Housewife Confidential”, an article on The Atlantic‘s website written by Caitlin Flanagan (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/09/housewife-confidential/302778/). To be honest I didn’t even realize there was a difference between a housewife and an AHM until I read this article. 

Housewife –> a woman that tends to household duties, and children are just part of the package

AHM –> a woman that stays at home only because that is where her children are. She defines her role by her relationship to her children. She may have a cleaning woman to take care of the house, and should not be confused with having the same responsibilities and duties as a 50s housewife (i.e. June Cleaver).

This article taught me that there is a lot more to housewives than meets the eye. Housewives were important to the strengthening of the women’s movement. They were influential in strikes like the beef strikes in 1973 or in movements like Trick or Treat for UNICEF. Flanagan admits that for AHMs like herself, causes are not a vital part of her role. AHMs are often too busy balancing other childcare duties. They give to a few certain charities, but are not such a large part of movements as the housewives of the past were. This doesn’t mean that they are not involved in service. They can volunteer, and often times do to benefit their children.

AHMs have found a balance between taking care of their children, helping to run a household, and occasionally taking time for themselves.  

Bride Schools Of The Third Reich

Image 

During the Nazi regime in Germany, Hitler and other high-up officers decided that they needed to set the standards for an ideal Aryan family. Families that fit this standard were called Kinderreich families. These families were hereditarily fit, according to the standards set by the Nazi party, and had at least four children. It was believed that the women in these families were built for motherhood. As Kinderreich families were seen as the ideal, leaders encouraged the SS (Schutzstaffeln) and SA (Sturmabteilungen) officers to fit this mold.

To help fiancées and wives of these officers better represent the ideal Kinderreich mother, bride schools were established. These schools provided women with model homes, complete with children, to teach them the essential skills of motherhood. Over six weeks, the women learned about cooking, washing, ironing, sewing, hygiene, health, and child care. 

I was curious if things like this still existed today, so like any good college student I took my question to Google. I typed “classes on how to be a good housewife” into my search bar, expecting to get results about home economics classes in high schools. That wasn’t the case. The first article (http://www.yourtango.com/20083705/wifery-101) explained that apparently there are online classes that a woman can take to learn how to be a better wife. The class cost $35 and included homework assignments such as “eliminate one unfeminine item from your wardrobe.” (Sorry, but I’m not surrendering my sweatpants. You can love me for who I am, thanks.) Along with this class, my search also turned up several lists explaining to me the 24, 10, or 18 different steps to being a good housewife (example: http://www.wikihow.com/Be-a-Good-Housewife). 

Well Nazi Germany is the first time I heard about these kind of training schools for wives, the concept of training wives or telling them how they should act has clearly not faded away. 

The Alphabet Soup Of Sexism

Image

When I graduated from high school the grandmother of one of my friends gave me a book called The ABCs of Choosing a Good Husband by Stephen Wood. I guess she figured that since I was going to a Catholic college that I would spend a lot of time husband hunting. This book covers how to act in a Christian relationship, the process of courting, and how to meet the right guy. On the surface this doesn’t seem all that bad so I decided I would try and read it. What I found was a sexist view of women. Wood shared that a true Christian relationship involved courting- never dating. Basically in courting you are in a relationship with this person because you will most likely get married to them. Courting is essentially a pre-engagement. Also, before a guy can court you he has to ask for your father’s permission. I can only imagine how a conversation like that would go with my dad. Courting involves never being alone together. Why? Well Wood believes that women in particular can lack self-control which could lead to sins before marriage. Wood also believes that a woman should not work outside the home because this can lead to divorce. At a certain point I couldn’t even finish the book because I was so offended. 

Wood has also written a book for men called The ABCs of Choosing a Good Wife. I know, I’m excited too, but try to contain your excitement. Though I have not read this book I did find descriptions of it from an online Christian bookseller. It seems that this book carries similar messages of the male’s dominance in a relationship. One topic that the description includes is “How a man can support a family with one income in today’s economy.” This assumes that in previous chapters the man reading this book has learned how to find a woman that will be comfortable never having a job. What if something happens to the husband? How would the wife support the family?  

My issue with this book is not so much the lifestyle that Wood supports (though I would not personally choose it myself I have no problem with people that want to live this way), but the fact that he feels this is the only way to live if you want to have a holy marriage. I’m not comfortable with someone telling me that the only proper relationship is one where the man works and the woman must stay at home. In fact for some this just isn’t feasible and both must work outside the home. Does this mean their marriage is less stable because both the husband and wife are bringing an income to the family? I think relationships should be balanced and one side shouldn’t have all the control. Unbalanced relationships could lead to unhappiness and resentment, and strain a marriage. 

19 Kids And Counting…And Counting…And Counting

Image

Have you ever seen a family with a lot of children and instantly judged them as being inferior or incredibly religious? Have you ever used the phrase “they breed like rabbits?” Well, this is not unique to our culture. These kind of thoughts were especially prominent during the Industrial Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution was a period of immense change in society. An agricultural revolution increased crop yields and made more fertile land. The population jumped and people began to live longer. In 1750 the rise of factories and worldwide markets began, and the city population rose with it as the number of labor jobs in the cities increased. The move to cities also went along with a drop in marriage rates as people that moved to the city lived together and had children, but did not get married.

During the Industrial Revolution, family size also began to change as families had fewer children and the use of birth control became more widespread. Literature of the time compared families with many children to animals (just like how we use the phrase “breed like rabbits”). Wealthy families especially had fewer children. They focused on having a few high quality children, as opposed to several low quality ones.

I would argue that this idea of judging and stereotyping large families is still part of our culture today. We have shows on TV like Jon and Kate Plus 8 and 19 Kids and Counting that picture these large families as obscure, extremely religious, or outside the norm of society. Okay, yes 19 children is A LOT. But it is up to each individual family how much they want to grow. Would I personally have 19 children? Probably not. Okay, definitely not. But to each their own. Whether you have no children or 19, that is up to you and your spouse and you shouldn’t let society dictate your own family’s path. 

Does Order Matter?

birth order blog 3

                                [Beginning from the top of the stairs: Andrew, Mom,                                  Matt, Justine (my sister-in-law), Me, Dad]

I’ve mentioned before that I am the youngest child in my family with two older brothers, Andrew (the middle child) and Matt (the oldest). The best/funniest memories from my childhood almost always involve my brothers. I lost my first two baby teeth by wrestling with them. When I went to kindergarten Matt would walk me to my classroom in the morning before going to his own. Andrew and I would use our plastic kitchen set and pretend he was Emeril Lagasse and I was his cooking assistant. Or we would run around the house pretending to deliver pies (which were really just jigsaw puzzles). As my brothers and I got older our relationship continued to grow. When I got accepted into high school, Matt sent me a handwritten letter from college filled with congratulations and advice (which I saved in a scrapbook). Right now one of the things I enjoy most when I’m back home is hanging out with my brothers, sharing stories about our lives or crazy things our parents have said or done, or going on adventures to create new memories.  

Now that you know a little more about my brothers, how much do my siblings and I fall into the different theories of birth order? I found this article which sums up popular theories: (http://psych.answers.com/personality-theory/10-ways-your-birth-order-affects-your-personality?param4=fb-us-mo-health&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=null&utm_content=ssde-null#slide=1)

Let’s start with Matt, the firstborn. The firstborn is supposed to be the “dependable leader” and “motivated achiever”. They strive for perfection to set an example for their younger siblings and are motivated to achieve to seek approval because they were once the only child and then had to share the spotlight with new siblings. They easily take on the caregiver role because they are used to babysitting and caring for younger siblings. Famous firstborns? Hillary Clinton, Oprah, and Bill Cosby. Matt certainly fits this mold. He is always caring for others and looking for ways to help. He is motivated to do well in any task or challenge that comes his way, and he has definitely set an example for Andrew and I about how to be a leader and be successful.

Next is Andrew, the middle child. Middle children are the “easy-going negotiator” and “loyal rebel”. They tend to be more laid back because the parents are less stressed than they were with the first child. They make their own way and try not to follow their older sibling. They are good at making and keeping friends. Famous middle children? Jay Leno and Donald Trump. Andrew also fits his birth order theories. Of the three of us, Andrew is DEFINITELY the most laid back. I can’t even remember the last time I saw him stressed out for anything. He has also carved a distinct path different from Matt or me. I also wholeheartedly agree with the part about making and keeping friends. Andrew has been out of middle school for about 10 years and high school for 6 years, but he has maintained relationships with friends from both of these periods. He also maintains college friends, while also making new ones.

Finally it’s me, the baby. The youngest are the “spoiled entertainer” and “coddled follower”. Neither of these phrases sound particularly positive. The youngest likes to tell stories and make people laugh. They are more spoiled and can often get away with more than other siblings. They are often coddled because they are the last child and parents don’t want them to grow up too soon. They can be followers because of the early dependence they had on their older siblings. Famous youngest children? Jim Carrey and Whoopi Goldberg. I definitely like to tell stories and I enjoy making people laugh, especially my family and friends. I don’t think I really got away with more as a child, but I think that I was more spoiled than my brothers. That could also be because I’m the only girl. I’d agree that my parents don’t want me to grow up too soon, but I don’t really think they wanted any of us to grow up that fast.

In the end, I don’t think that many people would rigidly fit into these birth order theories, but they do a good job of summing up certain personality traits that firstborns, middle, and youngest children, for the most part, possess.

Will You Get Married?

Video

Buzzfeed, the social and entertainment news website for college kids everywhere trying to procrastinate. Don’t try and hide it, you know you’ve been on your computer doing homework and thought “I’ll just take a break for five minutes and check out Buzzfeed.” Two hours later you’re still on Buzzfeed and can’t even remember the real purpose you were on the computer anyway.

So well I was procrastinating the other day, I found this video called “Will You Get Married?” It’s full of statistics about marriage in America like:
–If you live with your lover, and it is the first time you have done this, then there is a 57% chance you will be married in the next 5 years. (It doesn’t say anything about if this is your first time, but not your partner’s)
–Religious women are 24% more likely to marry than non-religious, and 16% for men. Born again Christians marry 19% more than atheists.
–Americans report that they marry for LOVE, COMMITMENT, and COMPANIONSHIP more often than children or financial stability.
–White women are 25% more likely than black women to get married.
–College grads are 12% more likely to marry than those that did not finish high school.

The video also mentions that on average people are marrying later now than ever before (women at 26 and men at 28). However, this is not true as other historical periods, such as the 18th century and the Industrial Revolution, saw the same age for marriages.

I fit into most of the marrying categories, so it looks like I’ll be getting married at some point. But if you don’t, Buzzfeed “reassures” you that only 1 in 15 first marriages last past 10 years. Thanks for ending that video on such a positive note Buzzfeed…