Texts Related to the Works of Sarah Orne Jewett
Mrs. Margaret E. Sangster
We read so much about the obligation laid upon the wife to be a perpetual sunbeam in the house that a word to husbands on the same topic may not be amiss.
A cheerful atmosphere is important to happy home life. It is very hard for children to be good, when they are exposed to an incessant hailstorm of fault-finding from their parents. It is very difficult for a wife to maintain a calm and charmingly sweet demeanor when her husband is critical, cynical or sullen, and takes all her tender efforts with indifferent appreciation.
I know full well the air of polite amazement, or amiable incredulity, with which men receive the statement of a woman's opinion that, in the home partnership, wife and not husband pulls the laboring oar. Still it is true that, let a man's business be ever so engrossing, ever so wearisome, ever so laborious, the mere fact that he goes to it in the morning, and returns from it at night, sets him above his wife in ease and comfort. For him, the slavery of routine, has its intervals and its breaks. He gets a breath of the world outside; he has a change of scene daily; he sees people and hears them talk, and his home is distinctly his refuge and shelter.
Let a wife and mother love her home and her children with the most absolute, unswerving devotion, and serve them with the most unselfish fidelity, there are, nevertheless, times when she is very weary.
She knows, better than anyone else, the steps and the stitches, the same things done over and over, and the pettiness of the trials that come to nursery and kitchen. They are so insignificant that she is ashamed to talk about them, and I fear she sometimes forgets to tell her Saviour how hard they press her, and so, bearing her cross all alone, its weight becomes crushing.
A sunshiny husband makes a merry, beautiful home, worth having, worth working in and for. If the man is breezy, cheery, considerate, and sympathetic, his wife sings in her heart over her puddings and her mending basket, counts the hours till he returns at night, and renews her youth in the security she feels of his approbation and admiration.
You may think it weak or childish if you please, but it is the admired wife, the wife who hears words of praise and receives smiles of commendation, who is capable, discreet, and executive. I have seen a timid, meek, self-distrusting little body fairly bloom into strong, self-reliant womanhood, under the tonic and the cordial of companionship with a husband who really went out of his way to find occasions for showing her how fully he trusted her judgment, and how tenderly he deferred to her opinion.
In home life there should be no jar, no striving for place, no insisting on prerogatives, or division of interests. The husband and the wife are each the complement of the other. And it is just as much his duty to be cheerful, as it is hers to be patient; his right to bring joy into the door, as it is hers to sweep and garnish the pleasant interior. A family where the daily walk of the father makes life a festival is filled with something like a heavenly benediction.
This essay appeared in The Congregationalist May 3, 1883, p. 151.
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Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College.