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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Monday, September 03, 2007

Bringing Home the Duncan Phyfe: Chapter 8

When Separate Roles Were the Norm

Some may find it hard to imagine. Others think it's unthinkable, but there was a time when a young woman’s dream was to fall in love and get married…SO THAT… she could stay at home, “feather the nest,” clean clothes, plan menus, set the table, and eventually [ready or not] add little mouths to feed around that table…just as her mother had done (and her grandmother and great grandmother and great, great grandmother had before that). These were dedicated not "desperate" housewives.

Sound chauvinistic? Sorry, but that word was not yet known by most men or women in 1951 when Mom brought home her Duncan Phyfe. In fact, all her friends were stay-at-home moms doing all those things and none of them felt put upon, hard-used, or unappreciated. For the most part, they were truly happy. Dad’s goal was to climb enough telephone poles to make a good impression at Bell to get a promotion and a raise SO THAT… Mom could quit her job at Star Oil and they could start a family.

It may be hard for 21st Century readers to grasp these distinct and cherished roles, but this social reality was neither a throwback to Amish culture nor a precursor to The Stepford Wives. It was simply the norm. If you doubt it, think for a moment about the post-war era first called the “Baby Boom” in 1951 (though it stretched from 1946 to 1964). By its end, 40% of Americans were age 20 or younger. Could such a thing have happen in one generation if the wives and mothers of that generation were far removed from the "dream" described in the opening two paragraphs?

Bringing Home the Duncan Phyfe is the story of that one year of my parent's married life before they started their family... so I know I'm really messing with the time-line to show you the following picture, but I want to for two reasons: first, to clarify that the ladies in the above flickr.com photos are not my mom; and second, to show you my parent's eventual contribution to the Baby Boom. This picture was taken seven short years after the wedding. My big sister Kathy [she was actually petite, both then and now, but always a great big sister] was born in March of '52, and all four of us were born by April of '56. Boom-boom-boom-boom. See how it got the name?

That's me with the gun. (My little brother Jim was not born yet.) Speaking from personal experience, my family was not considered "large" with four kids (and later five). We could see a half dozen homes from our porch with that many or more kids pouring out the front door after supper… we were all Boomers but didn’t know it.
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Now... back to the point of this chapter. I’m not saying this is how it should be now—I’m just reminding us how it was then. Here’s another way to look at it: Burt Bacharach wrote this hit song, Wives and Lovers, at the end of the baby boom, just before the norm changed.
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"Hey, little girl, comb your hair, fix your make-up
Soon he will open the door.
Don't think because there's a ring on your finger,
You needn't try any more
For wives should always be lovers, too.
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you...."

If you want to hear the original song here’s the recording [just ignore the meaningless Youtube footage]. Can you imagine such lyrics today? While it's good advice for married couples to remember the importance of "romance," the song puts the burden on the woman. To me it seems equally important for the man to remember it (instead of "men will always be men" in the second verse).

If you click on this facsimile from a 1955 women’s magazine, you'll see the kind of attitudes that were the straw that broke the camel's back (not that women are like camels in any way) and why the pendulum swing of the Feminist Movement that would begin in the 60's may have thrown the baby boom out with the bath water. Who knows? Maybe the future holds a balance where the marital roles are again more distinct, gender respectful, equal in the "side-by-side" sense rather than the "no difference" sense, mutually serving, and uplifting for both husbands and wives.

My point is... unless we remember that these very distinct husband/wife roles were the norm in 1951, these next few chapters may mischaracterize the couple we’ve thus far enjoyed peeking in on. Worse yet, it may prompt female readers to mutter unthinkable things as they read and leave comments. =) ... Okay. Enough social "op ed." Chapter 9 picks up where we left off in that stark empty apartment we saw at the top of the stairs in Chapter 7.
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17 Comments:

Blogger Amy said...

Hey Ink - Lots of crazy goings-on the past month, but like the old adage goes, if it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger. Right now I'm feeling like Hercules on steroids - this is going to be one helluva ride. A

3/9/07 6:02 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Amy,
To you other readers, this is the novice blogger formerly known as "A Brand New High School English Teacher" whose position, by the way just changed to "A Brand New Middle School English/Language Arts Teacher."

Sounds like you have had a crazey couple of weeks. It gets better. Hang in there.

Believe it or not, here in Michigan, we don't start school until the day after Labor Day. We love it that way. (I don't get summers off, but it's when I take most of my vacation weeks.)

My teachers have been meeting and working for week, but the kids come in tomorrow morning. We're ready for them. What good is school without students?

Ink

3/9/07 8:35 PM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

That photo of your family when you were a little gun-toting tike is precious.

Your portrayal of the gender roles back then is accurate with few exceptions. It will be interesting to see where you take this now.

3/9/07 10:57 PM  
Blogger the walking man said...

My mom started working when she graduated college with her MSW, stopped long enough to boom out 5 of us and went right back to work in '58. Definitely not the norm of the day when like you say Tom quite a few families in the city got by with a stay at home mom to run herd on broods of 5-13 kids.

But in our house those penguins had 4 of the 5 under control both in school at home, then there was the fat brother no one could put a lariat around much to their annoyance (ha ha ha ha ha as Ivan would say).

I think the problem though if we reverted back to that standard of mom at home and Dad off to work the job situation wouldn't improve much with outsourcing.

So now it has become an unfortunate necessity to have two wages coming in no matter what the root cause of the change was (the top end of the baby boom? women pulling the load in war production and liking having a paycheck?)

OH well have a great school year and try your best to not have the kids think they are incarcerated in one of JR's work sites.

Peace

TWM

4/9/07 6:56 AM  
Blogger Cris said...

Don't worry, no offense will be taken here. That was a really cute picture of you. Looking forward to reading more.

4/9/07 9:10 AM  
Blogger ...Kat said...

In my time too ... yes, school started after Labor Day!

My SIS teaches and wow, she is at the school getting ready in early August!

The Times...they do change!

and It is all about having choices, opportunities.
I admire stay at home Moms. For many it is a luxury now and some cannot afford it... and there are others that wouldn't want it

song applies for all today.... and for men too... keep the romance going!

I thought that another YouTube video, the one with the pin-ups from the 1950's, would be perfect for this posting but perhaps? you did't see it....they are rather tame ones :-)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bPt7waaY8Q

4/9/07 9:33 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

TWM,
You know the neighborhoods I'm talking about. Go north to Frazho Rd. a block past Huron Park between Fernwood and Ronald Streets. That's my old neighborhood...hundreds of three bedroom houses packed with kids. Nowadays, the new burb houses are three times the size and the families in them are three times smaller.

I stand amazed at the Boomer Moms like ours, but this story is about the one year of my folks marriage when they weren't yet in the boomer business.
Today was a great start to school!

Chris,
Glad you can relate. My wife and I have both always worked (almost always in the same school system), but it's sort of relative. The now-grown Boomers tend to live at the extent of their means--in other words, if one person makes $60,000, they need the wife to work so they make $100,000 together and yet there are other families living comfortably on $60,000 and still others who think it's unthinkable to have a family with 2.4 kids living on only $100,000 per year. It's all relative to our expectations. I suppose we were lower middle-class, but we never felt we were missing anything.

Kat,
I wasn't sure if I should introduce that song in this chapter because it's about 12 years out of sequence (1963), and chapter ten introduces a song more reflective of what my folks were actually listening to at the time. But this chapter is sort of a time-warp anyway. As for the link you suggested, I saw that among the many options, but in keeping with my tone here at POI, I went with the boring flocks of birds flying in the smoggy sky over a drab industrial park. =) I wish I knew how to make audio links for the times a Youtube link is just for audio. I'm still working on that.

4/9/07 4:33 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

My mother was happy to quit work and raise a family. It was indeed a different time.

4/9/07 5:45 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Your writing always has such interesting little tidbits like the "boomer"/boom,boom,boom section. I just never thought about where the word "boomer" orginated- duh, on my part! Thanks for all of the insight- I always feel smarter after I leave POI!

I always get a little twitch of envy when you all go back to school. It's small and it goes away quickly... but I do slightly miss the relationships with students, parents, and other teachers. I now get my "fix" from church activities that involve the children. My thoughts and prayers are with you as you make a difference in the lives of children.

4/9/07 10:03 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Dr. John,
It is amazing when you think about it being a certain way through the centuries and then such a major adjustment in really just a few decades. I know for a fact that the working mom can be affective, but in fairness... my only experience is with our family and Julie has always had much of her summers and school breaks off, so I know it's much harder for other careers. Both parents have to pitch in--I think that's a plus.

Nancy,
Once a teacher always a teacher. I know what you mean, but imagine (like you said) it goes away. =)
Thanks for your prayers. Every year, the first week of school, we take our entire high school to a fantastic camp called Spring Hill for 2.5 days. Julie goes, too. We're off first thing in the morning so I'll be gone until the weekend. Thanks for your kind words.

4/9/07 10:17 PM  
Blogger leslie said...

I can certainly relate to this story, Tom. I can remember my Mom sweating in the kitchen late summer canning peaches and pears and making pickles and relish. And she was always home when we came home from school and had a snack ready for us. She made the best lemon meringue pies and our house always smelled of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven. I tried to be the same type of Mom, but did eventually have to go to work when my husband died. I feel so bad for my own daughters these days that they won't ever have that kind of life and be able to be there for their kids. I think if women choose to work, that's great, but so many HAVE to nowadays and it just seems so unfair to the family structure.

5/9/07 5:08 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Leslie,
Because of our particular career/ministry choices, it was necessary for both Julie and I to work to make basically one income for most of our first 20 years of marriage, so I know what you mean. Now we have two kids in college so it still true, but I must confess …
my generation and my kid's generation wants "more" "sooner" than my parent's generation. My children live in a nicer home than the one I lived in when I went to school. Our cars are nicer. That camper we enjoyed last weekend is nicer than the tents I grew up in, etc. See what I mean. Some of the reasons it takes more income to live is because our standard of living is higher than a single income can provide. That is not true in all cases (yours was certainly an exception and you had no choice). Regardless of the cause, the reality is that the two-parent, in tact family with a stay-at-home parent is more rare than ever... so couples have to set priorities to make these days their own "good ol'days" for their kids. It can be done. It's a worthy goal that takes putting the family (not the kids but the unit under the parents) ahead of individual "wants."

All,
I'm away from home and school with our high school students on our annual retreat at Spring Hill Camp. I found a faint strand of wireless internet up by the camp office. Things are going great here.

5/9/07 8:54 PM  
Blogger HeiressChild said...

hi tom, i thought i had read that you were going away. school retreat sounds interesting and fun. enjoy and safe travels back.

I am still not one of the modern-day women, so it's not unimaginable to stay home, cook, clean, raise children, etc. there were 5 of us children, and my mom didn't go to work until my youngest brother was in school. those definitely were different times then. looking forward to the next chapter.

you gave me the idea to put the byrd's video on my blog (turn, turn, turn). i checked out the link you gave me. it's something to see how the warfare is played out, but i'm glad that we are more than conquerors/more than victorious thru Jesus and that He'll go to any length to protect us from the wiles of the devil. thanx.

6/9/07 3:40 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

We are gone but it's no vacation. Our high school begins each year with a retreat (I don't know why we call it that but we always have for decades. We should call it a "charge" rather than a "retreat." But anyway, it's a great time for the kids and classes to bond and get the school year off on the right foot.

I'm glad you added the song "Turn Turn Turn" to you post about the change of seasons. That is one of my favorite hits from late 60's. It's pretty much right out of Ecclesiastes 3.

6/9/07 6:33 PM  
Blogger HeiressChild said...

thanx tom. i think that's a good idea for bringing the students together. maybe if more schools did something like that, there might be fewer problems.

6/9/07 6:37 PM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

Ever since you posted this chapter and discussion has taken place, I have been thinking about the gender roles as they pertained to my parents and my paternal grandparents.

My grandparents went through the Depression as adults. My parents were married in 1939. They grew up during the Depression. I wonder if that experience had an impact on the gender roles for them.

My grandmother had her own money. She rented out rooms in their large home and she kept the rent money for herself. She paid certain bills with it and Grandpa paid certain bills with his money. I don't recall one having more power in the marriage than the other. It was pretty equal.

My parents were somewhat different. My father held the purse strings. He definitely was the head of the household. Yet Mother worked. She worked most of the years I was growing up especially after I started school. But she always wished she could stay home and greet my sister and me at the door after school with a plate full of cookies she had baked. She did not like working. But she had to work, because they had grown used to that lifestyle even though it was not what you would call extravagant.

When I got married she advised me to stay home with the children as long as I could. She explained that the extra money I would make working would end up being spent on things we could do without. I took her advice.

My husband and I married in 1962. Our children started coming along in 1966. I was a stay-at-home mom most of the years our children were growing up. I took part-time jobs now and then to supplement the family income, but for the most part I was at home for the children. My husband and I always operated as a team in our marriage. We shared the power.

6/9/07 11:55 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

The weather has been great for this retreat--a bit hot Wednesday and Thursday (upper 80's) and this morning it is raining gently. We head home today so breakfast was not at 8:30 but rather brunch is at 10:30. Most of the kids are still sleeping. (We were up at a campfire till about 1:00AM). The soccer team is up and running in the rain. I can hear them "hooya"ing in the distance like a bunch of Marines. They complain about the conditioning, but they love it. Say all that to say that I actually have about an hour under a covered outdoor area that has a faint strand of wireless from the offices.

I'm glad you followed up SQ, I've been thinking about this, too. Sometimes once I post something, my thoughts move on to the next "chapter," but this time, when I've had time to think about non-retreat things... I've been thinking about how and if we as a society can take the best of both eras and blend them into functional model. Each couple will vary, but they need to talk about these things early on, even in "the courtship." They need to find some common ground on definition of terms and attitudes about money, stewardship, budgeting, materialism (the hope that happiness will come from bigger and better and more things. We are all inclined to buy into this fallacy even though Hollywood is strewn with all the heaps of emptiness and disappointment that money can buy). So a couple must decide what they truly value most early on. Choices will be based on these shared values. As you've said, marriage is a partnership, a joint venture. For much of history, the "headship" of the father was assumed, but I think the "headship" is not about power or "Lording over" the family. It's more like "whose going to lead in this dance." Marriage and parenting are side-by-side, "yoked," teamwork efforts toward shared goals. You've heard it said I'm sure: It's not 50/50... it's 100/100. Each spouse brings different strengths and gifts to the partnership. Each needs outlets for those strengths and gifts (which by the way, is not always done through a "job." It may be done through voluntary ministry, etc. which can sometimes include the family.)
I think both parents should work away from home only as much as is truly necessary for the budget that reflects their highest values...and they should both be home sharing the load of their most important partnership and venture (their marriage and family) as much as possible.

This is not a soapbox. I'm just thinking out loud about the kind of future I hope for my kids in their marriages (if that's what God has for them).

7/9/07 8:58 AM  

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