My Grandma passed away last year. She was a SAHM when they were called housewives. She kept the 3-bedroom brick ranch that my grandpa built spic and span, had a large vegetable, fruit & flower garden each year, and she raised four children. She volunteered at her church, had a small cleaning business on the side, and had plenty of time for her family. I'd say that's the kind of lady SAHMs of today can study.
Her marriage was the kind that I never really noticed because it was so steady and calm. She loved my Grandpa in her own quiet way, though. He called her "Mama” and she fried up the perch he caught on the bay. She may have worried about a tornado coming when the snapping turtles my Grandpa caught were kept in the tornado shelter. She may have disliked the deer hooves he turned into fishing poles, but I think she liked the excitement he brought to the household.
She was a good work ethic. She grew up during the Depression, on a farm, to an old-fashioned German family. At Grandma's funeral, her childhood neighbor told me that Grandma was a real hard worker. She was in the fields and ran the tractor, just like a man, even from a young age. Also, I don’t ever once remember her house being untidy. It didn’t seem like she was a neat freak, but she didn’t lay on the couch to watch Oprah when there were dirty dishes in the sink. It was always work first, relax second - but be sure that there is time for both.
She was a lady. That was always important to her. She loved clothes, jewelry, and shopping, but it was never in your face. I don't ever remember her wearing sweatpants or her hair being wild or her being unkempt in any way. I remember her putting her face cream on every night. I loved looking at her makeup and brushes in the bathroom drawer. I remember her pretty robes that she’d wear in the morning.
She was practical. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more practical woman. She knew how to stretch a dollar, she knew how to reuse bread bags as boot liners, she took good care of her house to prevent repairs being needed. I always admired how she didn’t get all worked up when everyone was at her house for holidays. She was organized, collected, and calm.
She was creative. Like I mentioned before, she loved sewing. And that was something she learned as a girl from her mom, and then enjoyed the rest of her able-bodied life. My grandma also liked decorating. She redecorated her kitchen lots of times, and my mom told me that one day she asked my grandpa to help her wallpaper, but he took longer than expected getting home, so she did it herself. Her little 5’2” self on a ladder wallpapering. I wish I could have seen her put up that country apple boarder!
She saw hard times. Besides growing up in the Depression, my Grandma knew loss. Real, deep loss. Her own mother passed away when Grandma had her first child at around 19 or 20. That's pretty young to lose your mom. Her father then remarried four more times over the years. Getting used to "new mothers" had to be hard. Later, she lost two children, one at birth and another to suicide as an adult. Grandpa had five heart attacks, and the last one took him when he was turkey hunting. Grandma also survived her father and only brother's deaths, as well. She was famous for saying, "This, too, shall pass."
When she died, I remembered how she loved me. I remember her at her house that she cared for and took care of. I remember her homeade strawberry rhubarb freezer jam on toast in the mornings while Good Morning America was on her little tv in the kitchen. I remember her sitting in the screen porch reading the paper. The smell of the fireplace and the warmth of her handmade aphaghans. I remembered the scent of the pop-up camper that she'd air out in the front yard. I remembered how she made a home, and a safe place for all of her family to come be with her.
I am not a selfish person, so I will share my Grandma's hard-learned life lessons with you. What can we learn from my Grandma?
1. She would say that when hard times come (and they always do), be resourceful and calm. Remember that good and bad times come and go in life, and neither last forever. Each phase of life has its own challenges and rewards, but one isn’t necessarily better than another.
2. She would say get the housework part of being a SAHM down so that it’s not a big deal or takes up too much of your time. You want to be happy enough to smooch on your husband, laugh with your kids, and have time for being creative. Don't let the housework sap the sweet part of your life.
3. She would say that the little things you do probably mean a lot to your husband and children (and future grandchildren). Don’t underestimate the sound of the tea kettle every morning being a sound of comfort to your children’s ears. Think that the sweet moments you take to sit with your youngest on your lap and read are going to stick in their minds forever as a feeling of love and acceptance and safety. Wonder if the smell of your hair as you get into bed at night is your husband’s favorite smell in the world – because it’s you.
4. She would say we that being creative is necessary to feel alive and apart of life when you otherwise would not. Not having a “regular job” can be alienating, so be sure you are getting your genius out somehow – whether that is sewing like my Grandma did (it’s coming back, yo!), or painting or writing or gardening or whatever. Just be sure to do it for yourself to prevent those pesky feelings of self-doubt and like you are wasting away behind four walls. It’s not true, and it’s your choice.
5. She would say not to let yourself go to the hogs. Take a little pride in how you look and be a lady. Being a wife and mother is very feminine, if you hadn't noticed. Embrace it. You are not a non-gendered person just because you're home all day.
Do you have a grandma that really inspires you as a SAHM? I’d love to hear about her! Please comment below. And if you would like to hear more sweet personal stories and a good joke or two about being a Stay at Home Mom, join my Newsletter to hear it first.