Forget Pinterest, just get a mother-in-law

Take that Pinterest!

Back when I was  new wife and  mom, we didn’t have Pinterest. Instead, we had mothers-in-law. Mothers-in-law back then were all about making pie crust from scratch, sewing their own clothes, canning jam, weaving their own rugs, and worrying that the woman their husband married might not be up to the job of being the super homemaker that she was. Forget Pinterest – just get yourself an old-fashioned mother-in-law. Before you know it, you’ll be shearing your own sheep, then spinning your own yarn to knit your husband a sweater, while you’re aging your own cheese and waxing your driveway.

My mother-in-law was a super-duper homemaker, a post World War II bride. Back then, women who were in the workforce during the WWII were encouraged to return to homemaking and childbearing, so their veteran husbands, just back from the war, could resume their civilian jobs. Women had gotten a taste of being in the career workforce, and many of them liked it. So they turned their super organizational and multitasking skills, and competitive instincts  into being the best darn homemakers they could be. Husbands of the fifties never had it so good, and as husbands of today can attest, will never have it that good again. These women cooked real food, making most meals from scratch. The kitchen appliance industry had just taken off, and women could whip, beat, blend, sauté, bake, and brown to their heart’s content, while the home appliance industry produced improved washers, dryers, and vacuums, so women spent less time on housework drudgery and more time being creative.

But there’s more. Post war women were churning out babies like there was no tomorrow. After all, their husbands had been away at war, and there wasn’t much in the way of family planning then. These babies needed clothes. Women sewed and knitted like mad, producing what we called layettes – all the clothing and accessories needed for newborns. You couldn’t just go to Target and buy packages of inexpensive third-world-produced baby and toddler outfits, so women were making those too. Little hand-smocked dresses for girls and Buster Brown suits for boys. What is smocking, you might ask? It’s a decorative yet functional elastic design, and any little girl who wore hand smocked dresses was sure to be wearing the latest fashion.

Though I loved my super-homemaker mother-in-law, I also feared her. Back then, we still respected our elders, and having a disapproving mother-in-law could make one’s married life hell. When my in-laws visited, I worked for days to have the house spick and span, the children well-mannered, and the meals sumptuous and homemade, with all of my in-laws favorite foods. It was a tiring and thankless job, as, if everything was perfect I heard nothing. Yet if the food was tasteless, or the house a mess, word might  get out to the rest of the family that Dave’s new bride was not really up to wifely standards. The kiss of death to a new bride trying to be accepted into her new family.

Fast forward to today. Now homemakers and other artistic persons searching for creative inspiration go to Pinterest. Once there, as near as I can figure out, they see pictures of what other people have posted of creative projects made by, well, other, other people. So, essentially it’s like having hundreds of mothers-in-law flaunting their superiority in your face, with jaunty pins of homemade slip covers and recipes for making your own yogurt. You too could be making your own kiln-dried bent wood patio furniture if only you’d apply yourself a little.

Hmmm. I think I’ll stick with the mother-in-law.

My dear late mother-in-law, super-talented Mary Jane.

Thanks to Lindsay at Fueled by Diet Coke for inspiring this post.

© Huffygirl 2012

Related post:

Save a dying art: sew your own throw pillows (


16 thoughts on “Forget Pinterest, just get a mother-in-law

  1. Lucky you, lovely tribute. I never met my mother-in -law. She died 5 years before I met my husband. I get very annoyed when I hear mother-in-law jokes as I know my mother is a wonderful mother-in-law, I sure try to be one, and miss that I never had one!

    • Yes, I did label this satire, but I’m sure someone somewhere will think I’m making fun of mothers in law. I’m a MIL too, and I try to be a good one, and hope I am.

  2. Wonderful article. Had me chuckling throughout. I remember the ’50s and heartily agree with your assessment. I was terrified of my first mother-in-law. Not that she was a monster or anything. On the contrary, she was a self-sacrificing woman who always humbled me by her insistence on trying to do everything. It didn’t help that my husband secretly despised her for her martyring ways. I guess that’s what the ’50s did to some mothers. I did learn that I didn’t want to be like that.

    • Thanks Sandra. I’m not sure what it was about the 50’s, but it seems like most women then were trying to prove they were super homemakers, I guess not unlike the women of today who try to do it all.

  3. I really enjoyed this blog, Donna. It brought back so many memories of Mom Barry. I too, was afraid of her at times, as my homemaking skills were next to none when I married Rob at age the very young of 20. Over the years, she taught me by her actions, recipes, & advice to be a better CEO of the Rob Barry household. When I saw the pic of her & Dave at the kitchen table, it made me miss her even more. Thanks again for posting this!

    • Thanks Dee, I’m glad you’re enjoying it. I too learned a lot of homemaking skills from Mom Barry, but it wasn’t always easy at the time. It was interesting to see that Mary Sue commented that sometimes she was afraid of her too! Maybe I should ask my kids if they were ever afraid of me – but I think I don’t really want to know the answer to that.

  4. Pingback: DO MEDICATIONS REALLY EXPIRE? Try An Experiment With Your Mother-In-Law « CITIZEN.BLOGGER.1984+ GUNNY.G BLOG.EMAIL

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