The following is excerpted from a 1950 high school Home Economics book under the heading of "How To Be A Good Wife".
"Have dinner ready: Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal on time. This is a good way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs."
"Prepare yourself: Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people. Be a little gay and a little interesting."
"Clear away the clutter: Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives, gathering up school books, toys, paper, etc. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too."
Everyone wants to be able to relax, to be himself or herself, to be accepted and to be loved without reservation.
"Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer, dishwasher or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet. Be happy to see him and greet him with a warm smile."
"Make the evening his: Try to understand his world of strain and pressure, his need to unwind and relax. Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair and suggest that he lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft, soothing and pleasant voice. Allow him to relax and unwind."
"The goal: To make your home a place of peace and order where your husband can relax in body and spirit."
Some people, reading this, might become incensed and thank God that times have changed and women no longer are expected to act this way. They rejoice in the fact that women have been liberated and are no longer taught this nonsense. But maybe it is not such nonsense. The nonsense lies in the fact that this advice is directed only toward women. It should be gender- neutral and directed at everyone.
Every man, woman and child needs and longs for a place to come home to where he can feel safe, cherished and be taken care of.
Everyone wants to be able to relax, to be himself or herself, to be accepted and to be loved without reservation. They want a haven where they are nurtured and healed so that they can go out into the world the next day, renewed.
Husbands are not alone in needing these things, wives, need them too. The problem arises when couples cannot agree on whose rights and feelings take precedence. When they begin keeping score, couples know they are in real trouble. Then they resort to the letter of the obligation not the spirit of wanting to nurture the other.
One definition of love is, the will to do the will of another.
An addition to that definition might be the will to nurture and to support the other with no obligation on the other that he or she respond in kind. It is always true that you cannot make another person do anything. You are only in control of your own behavior. The hope and expectation is, however, that when one spouse experiences nurturing behavior from the other, he or she learns to respond in kind and to acknowledge his or her appreciation.
The how-to advice found in the old Home Economics book gives some clues on how to become a nurturing person. Make the text gender-neutral and the advice applies to every member in the family.
Instead of titling it "How To Be A Good Wife" call it "How To Be An Active Participant In A Nurturing Family".
This Valentine's Day may be a good time for everybody to start.
First published in 1996