Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

March 23, 2011

What happened when I went back to the 1930s

Well, isn't this all rather jolly. Some very lovely people at Proctor and Gamble (you know, P&G, the people who make fabulous things like Fairy, Pampers, Gillette and Olay) have sent me off to the 1930s. P&G have undertaken lots of research to explore the 'Changing Face of Motherhood' over the last 80 years. I often wish I could change my face. Sigh.

Anyhoo, it's all quite nice here actually: plenty of polite men talking on the radio box and pleasing tunes to listen to. Apparently though, they want me to live as a 1930s housewife for the day and do some authentic, 1930's housework. I am slightly puzzled. "Housework? What is that?", I asked.

They laughed and gave me some carbolic soap, cold cream cleanser, rouge, loose powder, coal tar soap, a washboard, vinegar, lemons, a mop and bucket and a delightfully fetching headscarf and told me to get on with it. What? No washing machine? No dishwasher? No cleaning lady? Goodness me. I almost had a nose bleed at the mere thought of it all.

Anyway, this ladies and gentlemen, is what happened next. Be warned, this video contains scenes of graphic domestic failure. Some footage of attempts to apply 'elbow grease' are also quite frightening.

Hot Cross Mum - Life Before P&G Challenge from Fleishman-Hillard Dublin on Vimeo.

So, that's what life is like in the 1930's. Jolly good and tickety boo, I say. Recent research by P&G indicates that modern mothers have just 26 minutes a day to themselves. I honestly don't know what these modern ladies are all complaining about with their dishwashers and tumble dryers to do their housework for them. It's no wonder they spend the day half-inebriated, they have nothing else to do with their time.

Oh, and some other mums have been time travelling with P&G too. Check out Edith Bowman above! Yes, actual celebrity ladies were forced to scrub their husband's smalls with carbolic soap. Oh the shame!

Some other spiffing bloggers have also been undertaking the challenge. Check out Mid Thirties Life, Emily at Babyrambles and Being a Mummy who even made herself an authentic, 1930's apron for the task! Horrah!

Now, I must dash off and re-apply my lipstick before my husband returns from the office or he will surely consider me a wretched woman and run off with Mrs Charmichael down the road.



  1. Oh I wish this stinking computer had sound!!

    Great post, just wish I could hear your amazing video. Thanks for the mention too! x

  2. I found the laundry the hardest part for me and being away from my electronics. I kind of clean and cook like a 1930 housewife anyway!

  3. You enjoyed doing it and I enjoyed your video - that was AMAZING! Such a brilliant video.

    I'm glad it was only video though and I couldn't smell that carbolic soap.

    Not sure they had Mr Men tops in the 1930's though? ;)

    Also, you're totally rocking that headscarf.

  4. Whoa. You did very well! I have to say the look suits you but it does look like back breaking work!

  5. So where's all our fabulous free time that we're meant to have instead of scrubbing floors, and handwashing clothes??? Sigh, well done you for this!

  6. Where's me washboard! Eh? Eh?

    Wow, you nutter! You wouldn't catch me doing that in a hurry. Have you got dishpan hands now? :)

  7. Call me shallow but I don't know what I'd do without my GHDs? and really not sure about washing my hair with carbolic soap? I think I would have to permanently wear a headscarf. On the positive side I wouldn't have to worry about bingo wings if I had to scrub the floor and wash the clothes daily.Enjoy the G & T, you deserve it!

  8. Jeez.... 'tis enough to drive you to G&T's.Or wine! They probably drank them whilst waiting for unending pots of water to boil!

    xx Jazzy

  9. I thought you looked very fetching in that head band! Will you be sporting the look (powder and rouge and all) to Cyber Mummy 2011?

    This was such an interesting post. Did you ever see the tv series "The 1930s house", where a family lived as a 1930s family for several weeks? It was fascinating.

    I was interested to see that you concluded that the vinegar/baking soda/carbolic soap did a good job of cleaning (except for the smells). I think a lot of the stuff added to modern cleaning products is for our benefit, to make us feel they're doing a better job, eg by producing much more lather. But I guess they take a lot of the elbow grease out of housework too (so we all need to go to the gym for our workouts instead of doing them in our own kitchen!)

    Really enjoyed this post. Tell your friends at P&G that if they ever want to do an American version, to contact me please.

  10. How great is that - well done you - can you imagine me doing washing for 2 adults and 6 kids that way - makes you feel so lucky for technology x Really enjoyed your video x

  11. The difference between your blog and my blog: you have a professional film crew and a polished video and I have a 5 year old cameraman telling me he needs a poo at the wrong moment. Says it all really. Seriously though, very good post. I think we should all do it for a week next! (maybe)

  12. Wow, huge round of applause. Did you have a hot meal ready for hubbie when he got in, with his slippers warming by the fire? Just shows how easy our lives 'should' be, but aren't necessarily so. Really impressed, well done.

  13. Brilliant video...really enjoyed it. I really dont think I'd enjoy the wash board much either! x

  14. Enjoyed the video too.
    Having rubbed the skin off my knuckles on occasion trying to get chocolate and blood out of the kids clothes - BEFORE putting them in the washing machine which just sets the stain - actually I see the purpose of the washboard. Might try to get one! xx

  15. Wow- So impressive! I also took the challenge and found that it was a definite shock to realise how 'lazy' we are in comparison.
    1930s women were amazing but the sprays and other potions are just too convenient to give up and well, we've filled our lives with other stuff...

  16. Amazing. How many G&Ts did you have when you signed up for this? ;-)

  17. Loved the challenge gave me a new respect for my late gran who raised 12 kids and the first was born in 1934!

  18. Love your video. I took up the challenge too but I cracked half way through and used my mobile phone! You did very well to boil your water too and not just use the tap.

  19. Amazing video!!!

    What a great write up. I'm jealous though - you got much better products than I did!!

  20. A great read, looks like you were enjoying it really! Certainly makes you appreciate your Grandmothers doesn't it. They all must have been incredibly fit!

  21. Oh my! You deserve a medal! Great video and blog! So glad to be living in the 21st century.


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