1964: Nuclear Mother
December 27, 2018
1964, Cover of Woman’s Weekly. Why aren’t women more efficient in the home? “Whose side were they on anyway?” asks Darian Zam. How to explain this encouragement of household domestic excellence toward only one gender and not the other?
Division of Labour
It’s the Division of Labour. Dad’s single income supports 7 children or so and has Ground Support from his wife where he also keeps the grounds and maintains (perhaps also built) the house.
Mum’s Ground Support in the home also helps the children develop and complete their education. She keeps the food coming and the home base tidy and provided with the means of living this life. It’s what she grew up wanting to do, in many cases. She also enjoys a busy (non-digital) Social Network which formed the basis of our culture. While men had to work all day, the wives exchanged packets of information such as tips and memes to maintain a Grapevine of gossip and news. Rather than Facebook pages, the hub of these exchanges were butchers and bakers and grocers shops etc because in 1964 they were yet to be replaced by the factory-style consumption warehouses we call supermarkets.
Definition of wife: “economically, sexually, socially or reproductively dependent on or defined by the men they marry.”- Geraldine Johns
Of course this point of view elides the wife’s contribution to the Pair Bond as if her efforts did not count. In reality the husband and wife are interdependent upon each other, not dependent or even co-dependent.
Was this Woman’s Weekly cover misogynistic and condescending? Probably by intent, if so, to help stir up the counter-culture by emphasising carrying boiling water on ice skates. We can scoff but is our current family system better? Many of our families are broken, many are fatherless and paid for by welfare. Fewer children, New Zealanders are below replacement rate. Real income is so low that both parents often must work.
“MEN HAVE THEIR USES”
“Hamilton-raised Sue says they can come in handy in the garden. And for regular house maintenance.”
“FAMILY AND FRIENDS PLAY A ROLE”- ibid
The New Zealand family is changing rapidly as kids grow up today who never experienced an intact family and go on to reproduce what they patterned on to. Geraldine’s arguments, explanations, and flip-flops don’t seem to come from an informed understanding of family systems and child development needs. Seems to be writing only about her own experience, putting a normalising gloss on her own failed family history. There’s a potent distrust and dislike for men here and the institution of marriage.
In Defence of Families with Fathers and Mothers
We can criticise the nuclear family and Mum’s role in it but let us remember not to be too harsh. The people who chose this life brought civilisation and our standard of living a long way. They’re the ones who settled New Zealand with the infrastructure and wealth we can now take for granted. We can afford the drugs and welfare state and daycare-raised kids and single mothers of today thanks to our coasting along on the fumes of what such families created together.
I’m willing to hear from anyone who thinks our new mainstream ‘modern family’ culture is a better one. The main point is that it’s very different and we’d better think hard about it if we’re not to fall on our faces.
Consider the Prime Ministerial family of 2019 (above) with that of 1925 (left.)
PM Ardern works full time, is unmarried, and the father of her one (infant) daughter is also away working full or part time.
PM Gordon Coates worked full time, was married, and the mother of his five daughters only job was being a mother.
Such a contrast!
ref. Previous post: History: The New Zealand Nuclear Family
ref. Women’s Weekly, in March 1964; Owain Morris collection; History Always Repeats