Mondays & Memories of My Mom – A Day in the Life of the Happy Homemaker

Happy Monday AND happy “Please Take My Children to Work Day”! Yes, Virginia! There is such a thing!

Before my mom was the Recipe DetectiveTM, before she authored all those newsletters and cookbooks, Mom penned and syndicated various “hot topic” and “homemaker” satirical-styled editorials/columns, as well as a series of cartoon panels! One of her later series of columns was called “No Laughing Matter” (aka: “No Laugh ‘N Matter”), which she continued doing for a while, even after the rise of her Secret RecipesTM business took off in the 1970s.

Mom would have had a field day writing a column about this national “Please Take My Children to Work Day” – I can’t believe there really is such a thing! Apparently, it’s been celebrated yearly on the last Monday of June for 16 years (since 2003). This year, that happens to be today! Who knew? I could have used that when my kids were young – NOT! I can just hear my mom laughing and saying the same thing, too!

Photo by Gloria Pitzer (1970-ish)

We got our “me times” the old fashioned way… when the kids were involved in school, sports, play groups, Scouts, city activities… the list goes on, including hiring a sitter for a day every now and then – or exchanging sitting favors with another mom! Sorry – but, really people – you don’t need a national holiday to devise a one-day break from parenting responsibilities! It’s a lifelong commitment. Besides, there’s already a yearly national “Take Your Child to Work Day” on the last Thursday in April!

For more information on what the “Please Take My Children to Work Day” holiday is really all about, you can check out these three websites, on which I found some interesting information; or do a search of your own, but here are some starting points:

In one of Mom’s “No Laughing Matter” columns from the 1970s (not sure what date it was actually published in the papers wherever it was syndicated), Where Have All Our Homemakers Gone?, Mom wrote: “The full-time homemaker is, unfortunately, being short-changed by today’s ‘paycheck-oriented’ society and, if Women’s Lib have their own way, ‘homemaker’ will be a 4-letter word… the women who either by choice or by circumstance makes a career out of making a home.”

Here it is about 40 years later and not much has changed. I constantly recognize the timelessness in a lot of the issues about which Mom once wrote. I guess it’s true – the more things change, the more they also stay the same!

Illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

In another “No Laughing Matter” article (circa 1970s), Just a Housewife and a Pro!, Mom wrote: “As a ‘suburban housewife’, I fail to see how anyone could classify my routine as ‘dull’! For one thing, everyone knows that the mother of an active family has no routine! We’re lucky if we can get our slippers on the right feet first thing in the morning. In fact, we’re lucky if we can even find those slippers, having to, first, plow through an undergrowth of Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs on the way to the kitchen, where we must witness testy debates over who gets the [prize] in the box of [cereal] and why a 40-year-old man refuses to take the Donald Duck thermos in his lunch…

What’s wrong with a quest for a roll of Scotch tape that’s your very own or having the phone ring and the call is for you instead of your teenager? [Margaret Mead’s] working definition [of a ‘first-class’ woman, not being a housewife or homemaker,] is a ‘trained, competent, professional woman’. Now, I’d be the last one to contradict an expert, but in defense of women who become wives and mothers… we have had training (although much of it’s on the job), are extremely competent and are professional [according to Webster’s dictionary] in that we have ‘a vocation requiring knowledge of some department of learning or skill’…

If you don’t think it takes learning or skill to varnish a complex-of-disorder with enough love and efficiency that husbands and children grow up with security and comfort, drop around my kitchen some Sunday night… no matter what they tell us [working-outside-the-home homemakers] about turning our kids over to a day care center, there’s nothing like coming home from school to know that Mom’s in the kitchen, whipping up a pitcher of Tang and a plate of Twinkies.” [NOTE: See Mom’s recipe for homemade Twinkies at the end of this blog.]

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Mom often referred to our family as being the total opposites of the Brady family on TV! Here’s a take, from the early years of the Recipe DetectiveTM, when Dan Martin of Newsday Wire Features wanted to come to our house in Pearl Beach to interview Mom about her bi-centennial cookbook that he had seen at The Henry Ford Museum in Greenfield Village… To hear Mom tell the story, it was just another day in the life of the “happy homemaker” – the kind of “stuff” from which country songs (or reality TV shows) are made!

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

When he knocked on the door that day, it was like inviting him into a Jean Kerr production of “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies”. There were a dozen baskets of ironing here and there in the large dining room, each tagged with the [customer’s] name, phone number and date… Two long tables, under the windows [along the east wall], were covered with freshly mimeographed 4×6 cards of recipes, spread out for the ink to dry. Several times a week, I printed up about 200 recipes, at 50 copies each. At that time, we sold these through our newsletter for 5-for-a-dollar or 25-cents each. We did very well with them too!

Gloria Pitzer, mimeographing in her early years as the Recipe Detective [TM]

In the living room, Debbie’s friends had gathered with their driver’s training manuals to quiz each other for the big day coming up – when those six teenagers would be taking their driving tests. In the kitchen, Cheryl and Lorie were working on Girl Scout badge projects with some of their friends. It was a mad house!

Mr. Pipersack was shuffling in and out of the side porch door [off of the utility room], trying to unplug the bathroom pipes and clean out the septic tank for us. In the back room, where the prehistoric furnace was located in the 80-year-old house, a man from the gas company was arguing with a man from [the electric] company about what was wrong with our furnace and why it wouldn’t work [and recommending that I hide Paul’s wrench!]…

Our oldest son, Bill, was hunting through the kitchen drawers for some tools… so he could get under the hood of his [car] out in the driveway and, then, let Mr. Pipersack pull his truck into the yard. Mike, our next oldest, was on the phone trying to convince a girl that the things she had heard about him weren’t true and, if he could get his dad’s car on Saturday, would she go to the movies with him…

[Furthermore,] the cat was having a litter of kittens under the sewing table and our police dog, Suzie, was about to have a litter of pups and was moping about, looking for comfort…

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Had our life been made into a TV series, it probably would’ve been called ‘The Pitzer Pack Rats’! …Based purely on the unfounded talents of our five kids to keep our house looking like it was just about to be condemned by HUD! I pretend not to care for ‘The Brady Bunch’, because I envied their lovely lifestyle, where problems were solved without so much as a hair out of place or a tear shed in despair…

My husband… loved the way the Brady’s bathroom mirror never got steamed up from somebody’s shower and how Mr. Brady never had to threaten a child… for catapulting a meatball off of their fork and into [his] coffee cup the way our kids would! I liked the way their stairway was always free of common household litter and their door wall never had fingerprints on it.

Illustrations by Gloria Pitzer

Their house plants flourished and when their phone would ring, it was always somebody… who had something pertinent to contribute to the entire 30-minute story… When [the phone] rings in this house, it’s usually a lady calling long-distance, from Toledo, to tell me about an exciting new offer on my favorite… magazines at drastically reduced rates, or… my Avon lady…

Mrs. Brady lived the kind of saccharine existence all mothers of my day dreamed of, for she never had to explain why they had Coca-Cola stains on the ceiling or how she blew the food budget on a pot roast for Sunday’s dinner, or why she had to take down phone messages in the dust on the end table because she could never locate a pencil and paper when she needed it, like I did!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Her kids did not spend hours on the phone with a friend just listening to each other breathe, nor did they waste their allowances on a record album with a 3-aspirin rating! And, I noticed, the Brady kids never used a windowsill for a foot-rest, a lampshade for a coat rack or a younger brother for a punching bag.

Mr. and Mrs. Brady never argued with each other over his bowling night and her Bridge Club. Have you ever noticed how their oldest boy never stood around, cracking his knuckles when he was bored? Ours did. Everything that happened to them was an object lesson with a happy conclusion where the parents always come out on top, knowing what was best for the youngsters and proving it, too!

Illustrations & Photo by Gloria Pitzer

We always felt lucky, on the other hand, if Paul and I could only get the cherries out of the fruit cocktail before the kids did! And, while all of the Brady kids uttered adorable little sayings… our teenaged son explained how he had just initiated his new chemistry set by concocting Nitro-glycerin in the utility room.

The Brady Bunch may have lived in a Walt Disney [style] happily-ever-after world, but I did really like them… because [the story] didn’t tell it like it WAS, but how it COULD be! – Gloria Pitzer, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, pp. 27-29)

Inspired by some of Mom’s stories and cartoons, I wrote the following parody of The Brady Bunch theme song, That’s the Way we all Became the Brady Bunch, by songwriters, Frank DeVol and Sherwood Schwartz (© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC):

Parody by Laura Emerich, Illustrations & Photo by Gloria Pitzer

MY “DIET” UPDATE:

Friday marked the first day of summer! On the first day of spring I adopted the low-carb lifestyle (like Atkins). It has been 97 days of no bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, sugar – you know, all the good stuff! After starting out at a 20-gram-carb-limit for a few weeks, I raised my carb-limit to 25 grams a day and have kept it there so far.

I’ve recently started using almond flour to make some Keto recipes. I LOVE the 90-Second Microwave English Muffin! I turned my slices into a Monte Cristo sandwich one morning and, OMG, I was in heaven (and stuffed) for a maximum 9-grams of carbs! I’ve also discovered that some heavy whipping cream and sugar-free, flavored gelatin make awesome “carb-free” desserts!

As of today, I’ve lost about 30 pounds! My goal is to lose another 10 pounds, at least; maybe 15 pounds at most. However, my “exercise regimen” is not steady, to say the least, and I still need to change that! I don’t spend near enough time weeding my garden or going for brisk walks.

IN CLOSING

‘Hopeless Twinkles’ recipe developed by Gloria Pitzer