• Stephanie Hammond

Learning to be a Housewife

I was learning to be a homemaker as well as a mother. The word was housewife in those days. I didn’t know how to cook properly - I even burned the salad! We had no washing machine, boiling the old copper’ full of water and putting the washing powder and clothes in, ladelling it out and rinsing in a tub and hand wringing till as much water as possible could come out. Although I’d helped mum often, I hadn’t got the knack of sorting clothes and ended up with pink sheets flapping on the clothes line.

I didn’t know how to keep house either. I made some rules for myself, like: make the bed as soon as I got up so I wouldn’t be tempted to go back into it. Do the housework by 10 or I’d be at it all day. I put on music and challenged myself to see how much housework I could get done before the songs finished. Day by day I grew better at these practical things and life progressed, as it’s bound to.

We had a government run service where I took my little one to the nurse for regular check ups and she also progressed - according to the norm and everyone was impressed and happy.

But marriage was hard. I was lonely. I missed my family and friends. And we were moving around a lot so making new friends wasn’t easy.

We lived in a flat during our first days of our marriage. It was nice, but expensive. My grandmother-in-law took pity on us and invited us to come live with her. This was better for me as she was company, and experienced. She realised I was deficient in iron and soon I was less ill and had more energy. After our little girl was born we qualified for a state house - an upstairs downstairs two bedroom unit. Again, this was better for me as we had young families around. My husband was a truck driver and he worked long hours, so it was good to have someone nearby to gossip with and seek advice. It was a long way from my mother and sister though. I remember JFK died while we lived here. It was good to have someone to share the shock with.

Although it was better for me, it was hard on my husband. He missed his own family and wanted to go live near them, to help his dad out. His parents had bought a place by the water where they had a shop and let out runabout boats. The pull of family was strong and against my will I was uprooted and replanted in a cane cutters cottage in the middle of a cane field.

Cottage was a glamorous word for a three roomed building with no bathroom, a burnt out old wood stove, and no laundry. I bathed myself, bathed the baby (now about 11 months old), did the washing and washed the dishes all in the baby bath. Company was the butcher, baker and greengrocer who all delivered once a week, and the two neighbours who I visited once a week each, one to pay the rent, the other to buy milk and eggs.

Once again I was isolated and lonely and friendless. It was too much for me and when I found out I was pregnant again I made a scene and soon we moved into a flat in the nearest town. I was not so good at being the ‘dutiful’ wife, apparently. But I was learning what I needed from life, and isolation was definitely not what I needed.

I don't have a photo of the cane cutter's cottage, or where we lived before then. This is a photo of the road we lived on - still a cane growing area - still a lonely landscape.

47 views6 comments

Recent Posts

See All