Years ago, I read Sixpence in her Shoe and Sixpence in her Pocket by Phyllis McGinley. My friend Lauren from Chicago, by way of New Jersey where the Women’s Movement was beginning to boil, scoffed when I mentioned a line from the book which stated “manners are morals.”
McGinley, from Ontario, trained as a teacher, but became a “stay at home mom and homemaker” after she married. She also wrote books and won the Pulitzer Prize. Her argument that homemaking was the oldest and time honored profession resonated with me.
Although I had been somewhat content to stay home with my kids (as long as I could get out and do volunteer things), the marriage was a disaster. Thus we divorced and I was plunged into a different “career” path.
I always snort derisively when people, usually other women, say “you wanted a career.” Well, no I didn’t. I liked being a stay at home mom. When I suffered a post partum depression, my shrink encouraged me to get out more and interact with other adults. He suggested a part-time job, which I acquired as a bookkeeper in a retail furniture store in Tampa FL where I lived ( I was always good with figures).
After we transferred back to VA, my new shrink suggested I go back to school.
Vietnam was hot and the hub, a US Marine, had been transferred to Asia, so I decided to take a few courses at the local Community College. I began with English and math. I told myself if I could read and write, I could proceed.
One day, while I was backing out of the driveway, I experienced real joy for the first time in my life. I had a part-time job with a research firm, I was in school part time and my kids were all in school.
The hub was displeased when he came home, however, I managed to say “NO” when he suggested we have more children. I suppose reading all that literature by female authors had given me some backbone.
The truth is, I never hated being a homemaker, which is why I am so content with retirement I suppose.
McGinley’s book made some valid points. One of the purposes of the Liberal Arts education was to refine people, to educate them. McGinley argued that educated mothers will instill certain values in their children that encourage civility.
Civility is what we need today. I don’t disagree that “political correctness” may have gotten out of hand in some places, however, manners are missing. Sensitivity to others is required in the just society. I for one don’t want to return to the days when women were called all sorts of names. On the other hand, I don’t think most of us want abandonment of all those mores we know held society together for millenia.
An old man came up to David at Trader Joe’s and helped him load his car.
“Do you mind if I ask your age,” he said to David.
“I’m 87 my next birthday,” David replied.
“Well, I’m 91,” said the man.
“Where’s your cane?”
“In the car,” the man replied. “You think I came over here to help you, but I really only want your cart. I use it to lean on.”