Are You a 1950’s Housewife?
“Seriously, you might be . . . ready to take a look?”
It’s in my genes!
I admit it. I am a second-generation, prototypical “1950’s housewife.” My mother was a housewife and later a young widow (raising 5 kids alone) who put everyone’s needs and everyone’s happiness ahead of her own. This sacrifice is how she loved and also… how she survived. It was her reason for being.
How could I not be shaped by this? She was my rock.
As a young teen looking after my younger brothers, baking cookies with them or helping them with homework, I remember her telling me what a wonderful mother I was going to be. It made me feel proud. And sure enough, true to her prophesy I picked up her apron right where she laid it down. I, too, became the dutiful, sacrificial housewife putting everything and everybody else ahead of myself, ahead of my needs, ahead of my dreams.
That wasn’t the plan! Yet somehow, without any real conscious thought or intention, I embraced this sacrificial mindset. I allowed my personal priorities to slip to the bottom of the pile and I put my own dreams on hold while helping everybody else accomplish theirs. I even put off getting my driver’s license (symbol of independence) until after my third child was born. I’d make excuses (mainly to myself) about how busy I was. I’d reason that my kids were too young, our budget too strapped or create some other reason that “the timing wasn’t right.” I’d say yes to my kids, my husband, my neighbors and my friends… and I’d say no to me.
That was how it was supposed to be, right? Everybody I knew was doing the same thing.
Then one day something astonishing happened …. My best friend broke free. GASP! She actually put herself first for once. She found the courage to chase her own dream even if it might be a little inconvenient for everyone else. No longer would she put it off till later. Instead, she gave herself permission to be the person she was born to be. Wow!
It took me a little longer and I dare say, even today with multiple dreams materialized and successes achieved, I can still feel the ghost of the sacrificial housewife beckoning me. It’s a mentality that is pervasion in our society. I’ve watched many of the women I have mentored over the years doing exactly the same thing! I’d see them reason as so many had done before them “One day I’ll do something, for me. But not now.” (Of course, not now.)
Why NOT now? Does this sound like you? Day after day, never saying “no.” Instead, you’re always adjusting, always giving, always doing what you “should” and ignoring that little niggling you have inside reminding you of what you might do, what you could do, if you would only let yourself do it…. You know, one day. The problem with all of this is that the issue isn’t time or money or circumstance. The real issue isn’t even temporary.
The real issue is our self-esteem. Is your feeling of self-worth strong enough? Do you value yourself highly enough? Not sure? Here’s a litmus test: If you feel like, act like and live like everyone else’s agenda is more important than your own, well…. your self-esteem could use a boost.
And here’s what’s at stake: Your Dreams. Your Divine Agenda. Which is being starved daily, put off until “one day” …. until you barely feel its pull anymore.
If I’m speaking to you, I want you to know that I feel you. I’m still a Recovering Sacrificial Housewife even though on the outside I may not look like one. I finally got my driver’s license, became active in my community, organized an area wide art festival that became huge, did work with my state’s Governor to prevent child abuse, started a business that helped me discover skills I never knew I had, grew it to six-figures a year and then started another. I’m looked up to as a leader in my field. I have traveled the world, following my dreams and making them a reality. But guess what… she’s still in there.
If you’re reading this and recognize yourself, I’m going to give you an over-used buzzword that will help you do the same: Boundaries.
I know. You’ve heard it all before. Set boundaries, just say NO …. blah, blah, blah. Boring!
Instead, I want to take a deep dive with you into beautiful, practical boundaries. Here is a list of my best — and most practical — boundary tips that can help you shift away from “sacrificial” and into “success.”
Pay yourself first. Now this is something we accept as great advice when it comes to money. We also consider it sage advice when it comes to scheduling our workouts first instead of “fitting them in” after everything else. We’ve all seen the visual analogy of putting the big rocks into a jar before anything else. But we don’t live by this philosophy, and we should. So, feed yourself, your dream, FIRST. Schedule small blocks of time that are only yours. Make it a habit and start today. What block of time — regularly — can you set aside for your own agenda?
Don’t be the easy Yes. Remember, every day we are training people (our kids, our husbands, our families) how we are to be treated. It’s very possible you’ve trained them to see you as the go-to person for everything, the “easy yes.” Being loving and unselfish does not mean never telling anyone no. There are definitely times when NO is the right and only answer. No explanations required! Just say no. BUT…. instead of giving an automatic, unconscious answer, build in a pause. Memorize the words “Let me think about that. I’ll let you know.” You’ll find that many of the little urgent requests that are currently nibbling away at your day will magically disappear. As for those important requests, the ones that actually shape their lives, your family will come to understand that you don’t give your answers lightly; you say what you mean and mean what you say.
Follow Your Heart. We’re talking about beautiful boundaries, so I want you to only do what you can do with an open heart, without resentment or frustration. If you can do something joyfully with an open and full heart, say YES. If not, if you’d be doing it begrudgingly, it’s better not to do it at all.
All of this is possible, it’s even EASY, but not at first. It begins with our own mindset, unlearning and un-training ourselves, making ourselves a priority, realizing the importance of OUR dreams, OUR agenda, OUR heart. Ultimately, powerful boundaries — beautiful ones — come down to integrity: an integrity with ourselves and with other. Because while it’s not all about you, you are definitely a beautiful and integral part of the equation. It’s time to start acting like it… because YOUR Biggest, Boldest Dream is waiting.
And in case nobody has told you lately: You’re Worth It!
P.S. Just for fun, check out this Good Wife’s Guide from the 1950’s. (Yes, it’s for real!) website