The Good SAHD’s Guide

Oft-distributed guideline for 1950s housewives re-written for at-home dads

If you’re a parent, there’s a good chance you’ve been emailed or passed along a copy of “The good wife’s guide.” The list is supposedly plucked from an issue of Housekeeping Monthly, dated May 13, 1955.

There’s some debate about the authenticity of the guide, though most critics agree that the list outlines many commonly held beliefs about the role and duties of a 1950s housewife. By today’s standards, the list is not only outdated. It’s offensive.

I decided to revisit the list and provide several suggestions for re-writing it for modern stay-at-home dads. First, the original points are shown in their entirety. Then, I’ll provide suggestions for updating the guide for guys.

Here goes:

Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal — on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospects of a good meal (especially his favorite dish) are part of the warm welcome needed.

It’s still a good idea to make dinner every once in a while. Though I doubt anyone these days expects to come home to a four-course meal every night of the week.

Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you will be refreshed when he arrives. 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.

Fellas, do not put a ribbon in your hair or touch up your makeup. This will certainly freak out your working wife.

Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift, and one of your duties is to provide it.

I don’t know anyone who uses the term ‘gay’ as it’s intended here anymore. Regardless, there’s still no sense in being a grump when she walks in the door.

Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.

Wait until the kids go to bed to put toys away. No sense in cleaning up a room that’s going to be destroyed within minutes.

Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper, etc. Then run a dust cloth over the tables.

Sure, and when you’re done with that cut the grass, get a master’s degree and run for school board president.

Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift, too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

I don’t know how many people use their fireplace. We’ve never used our fireplace. A roaring fire sounds like a bad idea with kids running around.

Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair, and if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Minimize the noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of washer, dryer or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.

If you can keep your kids from painting their faces with Sharpies and screaming like they’ve been stabbed, you’re doing a good job. And most working moms would be delighted to hear the noise of a washer, dryer or vacuum at the time of their arrival.

Be happy to see him.

Still good advice for both husbands and wives.

Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.

I’m all for the smiling part.

Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first. Remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.

Not true. I’d argue that the date and time of your kids’ soccer game trumps office gossip every time.

Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner or to other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure, his need to be at home and relax.

This statement is a clear contradiction. Either the breadwinner needs to be home and relax, or she needs to say out late. Which is it? Probably better to just eliminate this bullet point entirely.

Your goal: Try to make sure your home a place of peace, order and tranquility where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.

Your goal: Try to keep the children out of the emergency room, while also putting them on a path to become productive and caring adults. And, don’t forget your spouse in the process.

Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.

Again, timeless advice for both husband and wives.

Don’t complain if he’s late for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared with what he might have gone through that day.

Sorry. But if my working wife stays out all night, I’m going to have a few questions.

Make him comfortable: Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.

– Sure. How about a foot massage too? Give me a break. She’s coming home from work not coming home from the hospital.

Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft, soothing and pleasant voice.

See suggestion above.

Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

You also have no right to question the government or anyone taller than you. Without an income, your input is meaningless. — I’m kidding, of course.

A good wife always knows her place.

A good house husband knows how lucky he is to have the opportunity to spend his days raising his children. And he strives to do his best for his kids and his working wife.

Photo credit: Ethan
Originally published May 2011

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