Flashback Friday: 19thc Advice

   

This week’s “Flashback Friday” features advice from that 19th century household icon, Mrs. Beeton.

Mrs. Beeton, courtesy of Wikipedia
Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, which ran into many reprints and revised editions and is still in print today, was targeted for a middle-class readership.  But how does it read these days?  The following excerpt is from the 1888 edition, regarding mothers (yes, I’m jumping directly into the deep end):

This particular passage actually reminded me of a scene from The Nanny Diaries.  Remember the part where the cold-hearted mother wouldn’t break away from her social function in order to come home to comfort her sick child, despite the young nanny’s pleas and alarm over his fever?  Mrs. Beeton had it nailed:  “they cannot take time from gaiety and pleasure…to devote to what they think can be obtained from hired service.”
Remember this?
But back to us “middle-class” moms.  Let’s see: my mom-life resembles this – how?  I dimly remember a bedroom we called the “nursery” – it had Boynton wallpaper, a rocker, changing table and crib.  We changed a lot of diapers in there.  No “visits of the angels” in that room – more like Lysol visitations.  Then, as each of our sons started scrabbling out of his crib and terrorizing the rest of the household, we weren’t calling it a “nursery” anymore.  (These days, it’s the Black Hole of Calcutta, where all of our teenager’s clothes live).
So, are we better or worse off than those 19th century moms?  Mrs. Beeton died at age 28, from a post-partum fever she developed after the birth of her fourth child.  There were no antibiotics.  And while there were servants and nannies and governesses and cooks at a lady’s disposal, there were few appliances.  A vacuum or dishwasher won’t back-talk you; a baby-monitor won’t fall asleep on the job.
Still, that nanny idea has some appeal….
What are your experiences as a middle-class 21st century parent?  Do you secretly long for an army of servants to make life easier?  Let me know what you think.
Thanks for reading,
Kathy

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12 thoughts on “Flashback Friday: 19thc Advice”

  1. lauradroegelauradroege

    Yes, definitely! I would love to have people do the menial tasks–laundry, cleaning, cooking–so I have time to spend with my children and write.

    I love the photos of your son climbing out of his crib and his room now. I wonder what Mrs. Beeton would think of that.

  2. educlaytion.comeduclaytion.com

    I love this! History and you dropped in a movie reference. Great idea Kathy.

  3. Christi CraigChristi Craig

    K.B.,

    I just stopped over from Kristen Lamb's blog, and what a fun post! I have a 1922 edition of Emily Post's Etiquette book that I love to pull out once in a while for blog fodder.

    And, on your question, I want someone to show up right around the witching hour at my house and cook dinner. Maybe pour me a glass of wine….

  4. KathyKathy

    Clay, Thanks for the compliment! I'm glad you liked the post (I was thinking of the book, not the movie, but it still works!).

  5. KathyKathy

    Christi,

    Emily Post would have a lot of pertinent things to say, even 90 yrs later. A great idea.

    I'm with you about the "witching" hour – couldn't even get to zumba class last evening because of homework drama – what happened to my governess? I think she ran for her life.

    Thanks for checking out the blog and posting your comment!

  6. Kim StenbergKim Stenberg

    I didn't know Mrs. Beeton died so young tragically. I couldn't stand her prissiness, but now am feeling so for her. I have mixed feelings about an army of domestics as a democratic, egalitarian person. Still, it would have been nice to have a nurse maid to change my daughter's diapers.

  7. Kim StenbergKim Stenberg

    I didn't know Mrs. Beeton died so young tragically. I couldn't stand her prissiness, but now am feeling sorry for her. I have mixed feelings about an army of domestics as a democratic, egalitarian person. Still, it would have been nice to have a nurse maid to change my daughter's diapers.

  8. Kerry MeachamKerry Meacham

    Uhhhhh, diapers have to be changed??? I guess that’s why my wife would elbow me in the back at 2 a.m. to go do “diaper duty.” Huh??? Maybe she actually was saying diaper doody? Go figure. Who knew?? LOL – NOT!!!

    I can’t imagine live in help. But that’s just not the norm for anything I’ve ever experienced.

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