While those of us who weren’t there can romanticise the lifestyle of our mothers and grandmothers; – the quieter, less hurried lifestyle, the homeliness of baking cakes, making jams and collecting eggs from the hens and the time to partake in handmade crafts, it does, from time to time, pay to think about the fact that actually it’s likely they were very time poor. Our mothers and grandmothers would have spent a large part of their days fully engaged in manual labour – without the dishwashers, automatic washing machines, cars or supermarkets that we have to make life easier and more convenient. And for them it is unlikely the household labour would have been shared with a partner either as is the expectation now. So the choice to indulge in these pastimes today as a hobby is a luxury, when for our forebears these things would have been a daily drudge.
I found this pithy poem in a vintage cookbook of my Nana’s – The HANSELLS Cloudy Essences Cookbook. It is without a cover, so I can’t date it, but roughly I would guess it is from the 50’s or 60’s. It brings home the reality for the housewives of this era:
DIRGE OF THE DISHWASHER
One time I got to thinking of the time we women spend
On the humdrum work of livin’ and the tasks that never end.
So I counted up the minutes and the answer made me think;
I found I spend one year in five before the kitchen sink.
20% of her time washing dishes? Makes you think doesn’t it?