I used to think the things that made a good wife were extremely impressive meals, great decorating, and sparkling houses at all times. That’s probably because that’s precisely what I saw. When “being a wife” began to be something I actually thought about, the wives I was exposed to had such an air about them. There were VERY specific standards of acceptability when it came to cooking, dressing your husband, managing your own appearance as a wife, housework, cleaning supplies, and such. It sucked all the confidence out of me and made the task seem so incredibly intimidating. When I washed my mirrors with vinegar, I thought… “I can never let them know I clean my mirrors with vinegar… or that I mop my floor and clean my toilets with it.” When church functions required “a dish to pass”, I fretted and second-guessed myself, and more than once, left the food at home, whatever it was, and claimed “I just didn’t have time to fix anything.” If someone did eat my dish on the occasions I dared to bring it and they praised it, I was EXTREMELY skeptical of their honesty.
I think most of us have been in that place where some wife has left us feeling demoralized and worthless. Some prim wife invites you and several others to a dinner party at her house and when you walk in the sight takes your breath away.
Immaculate decor, a fine meal, and glittering toilet paper. Ok… maybe that’s stretching it a bit far, but you know what I’m talking about. There’s not the minutest trace of a single speck of dirt anywhere. You glance furtively around to see if you have tracked mud on the floor, or put a wrinkle in the couch pillow, or if any of your dead skin cells have landed on a surface nearby. You pray you don’t wind up first in the serving line because your “scooping method” may not match the proper etiquette for such an occasion, and you’re watching everyone else to verify that you are making wise decisions in your actions from how to sit on her sofa, to how to wipe your mouth with your napkin.
In the last couple of years, what I will call “The Great Deception”, began to unravel for me and it started with someone’s trash. While dining at the home of a strait-laced wife with several others that were invited over, we were fed an average roast, and a host of sides. Among them, was the most divine macaroni and cheese I have ever tasted, and I don’t even LIKE macaroni and cheese. I thought, “Wow! I have to get her recipe. This is incredible!” Well.. I never asked, and I am glad I didn’t, for I would have looked like the world’s greatest fool if I had! When I went to the kitchen to help clean up, there, sitting atop the trash bin as the very last object thrown away, was the BOX for VELVEETA SHELLS AND CHEESE!
I cannot even begin to convey the confusion I felt in my mind. Now, I am being playful, and do not fault her, but my mind whirled… “HER?” “BOXED MACARONI AND CHEESE???? HERE???” And my mind was henceforth plagued with the question…
I have decided since that such a move is completely and entirely acceptable. Although I would prefer a less “preserved” option for the mere conscientiousness of what is going into our bodies, I have used and do use boxed sides here and there for dinner.
One other thing happened that boggled my brain for months. While one exemplar wife was out of town, she needed me to do a favor for her. There was urgent business that needed tending to that she simply could not do from such a distance, so I was instructed to go into her house and handle the matter. Prior to this moment, this home had been an example of perfection in an imperfect world. Finely polished furnishings shimmered under the sunlight beaming through the windows, curtains flowed without wrinkle to the floor, the floor sparkled and everything was arranged so flawlessly that you were afraid you might bump something out of its place. On this occasion however, instead of having my breath taken away upon entering, I let out an audible, “huh…” The house did not even look the same. There was clutter all over the kitchen table, shoes strewn about the doorway. Dishes in the sink and a developing layer of skum around the drain. A visible layer of dust across table surfaces, and a dog with guilt-stricken eyes, but we won’t go into why the dog looked so. Plain and simple, this house looked “lived-in”.
It was then I realized that many of our role model wives are only what they want us to see. They want you to see the “under-control, shining home” so that’s what they give you. They want you to see the “delectable dishes” so that’s what the bring to fellowship meetings. They want you to see their fancy decor, so that’s what they display and arrange to be seen upon entrance into their homes. They want you to see the “size and beauty” maintenance, so they go through great lengths to preserve it.
Before I got married I would sit around with some of my single friends and we would talk about wifely things we wanted to do and how we wanted to be. Each person had their own ideas of what was important. One girl was emphatic that a wife should fix her hair every single day to make herself lovely and gorgeous for her husband. One said that there was one room in the house that should ALWAYS be clean because it is a refuge for the man. Another said that if all a wife did was tend to the home, she was a shame to her husband. There was always a host of opinions and ideas of “how a wife should be” and what strikes me now, after being married, is that all of these opinions were formed by people that had never been a wife, had never experienced it, and had absolutely no idea WHAT they were talking about. They were just grandeur in the imaginations of hopeful young ladies desiring to be wives someday. While some of them sound good, they simply are not practical, and it will only be marriage that brings them to understand the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of the unrealistic.
When Mark and I first got married, he had to break me of a habit. It was a phrase I would say repeatedly while turning my head away and fighting back tears. I would say it whenever I realized I hadn’t matched this imaginary standard in my mind. I would say it when I thought of the girls that said “you should fix your hair for your husband everyday” and I realized I hadn’t. Never mind the fact that it truly wouldn’t have made sense to do so since we were doing everything from scrubbing mold from walls to push mowing the yard in the hot sun. I would say it when several days had gone by and I had not fixed him supper, in spite of the fact that there truly was not a spare moment to do so because the work schedule was so demanding. I would say it when the numbers on the scale went up forgetting that it came with the territory of fixing meals and eating on a regular schedule. I said it when my grand birthday plan for him fell through because we worked all day, and when supper was a flop, and when I didn’t get to pick out his clothes for him every day, and when my grocery shopping didn’t match his frugality… I kept saying….
He finally got me to stop it and I’ve slowly come to the understanding that being a good wife has nothing to do with how pedantic wives run their homes or what single girls think makes a good wife, or even with the lofty standard we have established for ourselves in our mind. Being a good wife boils down to two things (so far… I’m sure I’ll learn more as I go).