Not long ago I walked in on a conversation between two young friends of mine just as one asked loudly, "Can you possibly imagine living back in those times?" I discovered they were discussing the way our foremothers lived close to a century ago. Her tone of voice troubled me a bit. Since then, I've been thinking a lot about her question.
Due to my "advanced age" I can remember a good bit of that totally different time - life before electricity, some pretty primitive cars driven on mostly unimproved roads, and the like. I can readily recall when, except for bananas, oranges, lemons, and prunes, all of our fruits and vegetables came from my parents' garden and orchard. All of the produce not consumed directly from those sources was preserved for future use.
In other words, I know what it was like when "woman's work was never done." Still, there's a part of me that always objects when modern women lament those "terrible" times.
First, I must tell you that I believe we all live in an imperfect world, regardless of the era, for earthly perfection is an impossibility. That said, let me continue looking back.
For instance, I'll grant that Grandma's laundry was labor intensive, but I'm still positive there's not a single product on those burgeoning supermarket shelves that can reproduce the scent of her sheets fresh from the clothesline. I've tasted breads from a myriad of bakeries, but I have yet to find one that rivals those loaves fresh from the oven of her old wood-burning range. Slathered with butter, churned from Guernsey cream, it was incomparable. Then there were the chickens, hatched right there on the farm, or in a shed on a small-town back lot. Range-fed, the first ones ready to fry for dinner on the Fourth of July - to die for! To say nothing of the eggs with the farm-fresh flavor today's consumer doesn't even know existed.
There is a good bit more to consider beyond those half-forgotten sensual pleasures. For instance, there's the ambiance in which to raise one's children. Small-town or farm kids, tanned and robust, were free to roam at will; free to explore, innovate, develop and discover. Quite frankly, I often wonder if the lack of such freedom, and the absence of the closeness between youngsters and their parents necessitated by that earlier lifestyle, may not have a good bit to do with the decline of today's education system. But now I'm getting off on another track.
As is always the case, there are trade-offs. Here, I suppose it's a matter of physical labor versus peace-of-mind. Or, putting it another way, which is more detrimental, bodily stress or mental stress?
Give it some serious thought, young mothers. Are you sure you really prefer your lifestyle over that of your great-grandmother's? Once again, I would love to be able to hear your answers.