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The Rebel Housewife Rules: To Heck with Domestic Bliss

The Rebel Housewife Rules: To Heck with Domestic Bliss

by Sherri Caldwell, Vicki Todd

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Long before those Desperate Housewives showed the world that married women could be both happy homemakers and guilt-ridden deceivers, great mothers and wives who are tigers in the bedroom (if they can stay awake after dinner) - this was old news to real housewives.

Such duality is reflected in the very title of this delicious survival guide,


Long before those Desperate Housewives showed the world that married women could be both happy homemakers and guilt-ridden deceivers, great mothers and wives who are tigers in the bedroom (if they can stay awake after dinner) - this was old news to real housewives.

Such duality is reflected in the very title of this delicious survival guide, The Rebel Housewife Rules. In one sense, it means the domestic goddess is the queen of the roost. In another sense, she needs rules for surviving domestic "bliss". Authors Caldwell and Todd show us both meanings with wisdom, wit, and laugh-out-loud anecdotes.

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Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date:
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5.08(w) x 7.02(h) x 0.62(d)

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Rebel Housewife Rules

To Heck with Domestic Bliss


Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

Copyright © 2004 Sherri Caldwell and Vicki Todd
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60925-138-3


His, Mine, & Ours

The Myth: Combining two separate lives will be a snap.

His, mine, and ours. United as one, isn't that in the vows? That's fine, as long as it's understood that we use my stuff. When we move into our first home together, he won't mind when I toss his college furniture. The beer-ridden futon doesn't go with my Laura Ashley décor. He will eventually learn to appreciate good wine; he won't even miss his around-the world beer mug collection. I will need a lot of closet space, so those old college jerseys have to go.

My new husband will be so thoughtful, so in love with me. He won't care when I borrow his things, like his razor. I'm always out of blades, and I love the foaming bubbles his shaving cream makes—oh those gloriously smooth legs! Sleeping in his dress shirt feels so good; it will keep me close to him when he is out of town. Somehow I never have any socks, but not to worry, I'll just wear his.

Uniting our money will be a good thing, for there will surely be more to spend. I'll gladly let him take care of the finances. I've got a little debt coming into the union, but he won't mind. With his understanding nature and savvy financial skills, we won't even need to talk about my decision to spend my student loan on spring break in Mexico and why I'm still paying it off.

He will work hard to provide for me and our future children. He'll shower me with gifts and let me spend everything I make on myself. We'll have two separate bank accounts: his account for paying bills and spending on me, and my account, for spending on me. Seems logical.

The Reality: His and mine don't always make ours.

"I can't make love on a pink flowered sofa. Where's my futon?"

"I gave it to Goodwill."

"What?! I've always gotten lucky on that couch, and you threw it out?"

"How lucky?"

"Lucky with you, I mean."

We both squeezed out of that one, but when he found out I gave away his beer mugs and college jerseys, I slept alone for a week.

After I used his shaving kit, he emerged from the bathroom looking like a doctor had just removed shrapnel from his face. I felt bad, but I pretended not to notice.

"Where's my new dress shirt? I need it for an interview tomorrow."

"Ummm ... is this the one?" I tried to look especially sexy as I pointed to what I was wearing to bed.

"Vik, come on! I have no socks, no razors, no shaving cream, nothing to drink my beer from. I have to be manly on a fluffy, pink, flowered couch and now I have nothing to wear to work!"

"It makes me feel close to you when you're gone." Sniff, sniff.

"I'm sorry, Babe. I'll find something else to wear."

It got more complicated when it came to expenses. He actually expected me to contribute! My duty was the car payment. It was shocking to see how fast the repo man comes when you forget to pay it for a few months.

I had to get a job—any job—in twenty-four hours so we could qualify for our first home. I applied for fourteen jobs in one day. I topped out at a whopping $6 an hour. This was a lot for a princess to digest—the month before, I had been trying to decide what shoes to buy with my school allowance from my parents. Home, mortgages, cars ... couldn't we go back to the simpler days of "Dad, I need money this month"?

No, I was hitched, and in modern-day marriage, it takes two: two incomes to pay the bills. I paid my half. The rest went into savings, all 5 cents. We never got the separate accounts: He wanted to keep an eye on my spending. Can you believe he thought I would embezzle from my own husband?

In the spirit of compromise and harmony, I re-covered the sofa in green for the sake of our sex life. I found his beer mug collection on eBay and bought it back for our second anniversary.

The Rule: Ease into combining your stuff.

Don't play dictator. It takes two to make all parts of a marriage work, including the finances and the décor.

Rebel Rx:

1. Don't throw away his treasures without his consent.

2. Stash any new stuff you buy for a week or two, then bring it out gradually. If he asks, you can honestly say, "This old thing? No, it's just been in the closet!"

3. Before you deposit your paycheck into the joint account, take out your spending money in cash.

4. Always get cash back at the grocery store.

5. Sleep in the nude, not in his dress shirt—it saves on laundry, and he'll have something to wear to work!


Training Day

The Myth: You can turn your frog into a prince.

We all know the honeymoon does not last forever, right? And I'm not talking about the after-the-wedding honeymoon. Lord knows, I spent one night of mine locked in the hotel bathroom, crying, "What have I done?"

Long before any vows take place, in the early days of every relationship, it's magic: We've met someone special; we think we have a lot in common; everything about the other person is fascinating, funny, adorable. The glow of infatuation, the naiveté of being young (or young at heart) and in love tends to obscure reality, for a while.

But we know best behavior doesn't last. And that's when you really get to know someone—fabulousness, faults, and all.

However, there is a Danger Zone. A myth we all fall into, to some degree. Even after the infatuation, after the honeymoon, when we've really gotten to know a person well, for better and for worse, we still think we have the power to change him:

"After the wedding ... he'll care less about sports and hanging with the guys...."

"When we have our own house ... he'll help out more to keep it nice...."

"Once we have kids ... he'll settle down and face responsibility...."

"... and, after, when, once, then ... he'll be Prince Charming and we'll live happily ever after."

The Reality: Once a frog, always a frog.

Fundamentally, we are what we are, warts and all. If he has to hang out with the boys and crack open a beer in honor of any and all sports events before the wedding, you'll still have to put up with the friends, the beer, and the sports after the wedding. Trust me. I had our first baby on Superbowl Sunday— the new daddy's biggest concern was getting the game on the TV in the delivery room.

In fact, with a sports lover, your first big purchase will be a big-screen TV and a beer fridge. "The guys"—none of them—will ever remember to put the toilet seat down. We had to buy our first house for the TV, not for dogs or kids. And even though we bought a fixer-upper, and he had some passing enthusiasm for remodeling, we still spent more time and money at Hi-Fi Buys than at Home Depot. I ended up painting the dining room, master bedroom, and the nursery myself—six months pregnant, with an oxygen mask and my barf bucket nearby. It was, after all, football season. My best friend down the street was out mowing her lawn, nine months pregnant—her husband was out with mine at a baseball game.

Keeping the house nice: Wouldn't laundry be a great place to start? He "saves" his dirty laundry all over the bedroom and the closet, in case he needs to wear something again before "you have a chance to do laundry." Isn't that sweet? He might need to wear that raggedy old T-shirt or that one pair of jeans— the pair that is exactly like the five pairs of clean jeans in the drawer—you just never know!

And that's not even the worst of it! I admit, I'm really Type-A regarding laundry issues, but it has been fifteen years— and he still takes his socks and T-shirts off inside out, and never thinks to turn them right side out (before tossing them on the floor). I don't think he ever considers how it happens, when it happens, or who flips everything for him (bitching and moaning over every single sock). For a time, I thought I would gently school him, retrain him in correct laundry practices. I just stopped doing it (the flipping, not the laundry). I put the inside-out clothes in the washer, through the dryer, folded them neatly, and put them away—as is. He wore his socks and T-shirts inside-out, tags a-flapping, until I gave up and started flipping again.

It doesn't get any better when the children come along. You'd better test him with kids before things get too serious: baby-sit, spend time with nieces and nephews, go to Disneyworld ... whatever he's like with kids before he has his own, you can get a good idea of how he will be after. Fortunately, mine had lots of good experience from being a lifeguard and a swimming instructor, and he always got along with the kids—for 45 minutes at a time, twice a week.

Still, he's a great daddy. My only complaints: They are all little sports maniacs; my sons leave the toilet seat up, every time; and laundry skills are apparently genetic: I spend a lot of time flipping.

The Rule: Buyer beware!

Finding the right person is the rule. This is also the challenge. Like buying a coat, or an absolutely adorable pair of shoes that you really love—but they just don't fit. You can try all sorts of tricks and alterations; try as hard as you can. It's never going to be the same as finding exactly what you wanted, at the right time and place, for the right price. Especially when it comes to men.

Rebel Rx:

1. Trade-offs can be fun: "I'll give you putting away my hair dryer every morning ... if you can get your dirty underwear into the hamper."

2. Love, consideration, and spontaneous sex go a long way toward radical (if temporary) behavioral modification.

3. Realize and appreciate: If you can live with his idiosyncrasies (all those things you thought were so cute in the beginning), he'll put up with yours, and it should all work out.

4. Don't bother with books or special courses on getting him to change—it won't work.


New Career Choices

The Myth: It's an easy street to big money.

I made it through college, got my first job, and slowly eased my way into the workforce. After moving countless times and suffering many thankless short-term jobs, I was tired of applying and tired of getting rejected. When I did get a job, I had to work weekends and holidays. I was soon ready to retire from the traditional workforce, maybe start my own business. The possibilities were endless. With the support of my hardworking hubby, I saw dollar signs and freedom.

We were a little tight on cash, so I had to come up with a business that didn't need much capital. Pet sitting? No, I would have to work weekends. I love dogs, but I'm allergic to cats. My own retail shop? No, I would have to work weekends, and it would require too much money to start. I could go back to school—no, no chance of big money there. Think, think, think. I had to come up with an idea selling "just me" that didn't require working weekends.

I've got it! A personal trainer! I would teach women how to get and stay fit! This would be easy. All the celebrities were hiring personal trainers; suburban housewives wouldn't be far behind their idols. I loved working out; how hard could it be teaching others to do it? I could capitalize on the latest craze. I didn't want to do it alone, so I'd persuade my sister to quit her secure, big paying job and do it with me! Together we would make loads of money, stay fit, and work from home ... it would be Easy Street!

The Reality: The road to riches is full of twists and turns.

How does one become a personal trainer? I looked in the back of a magazine, found an ad for a school that provided professional certification—in a great location. I'd ask my mother for the money to get there.

Next thing I knew I was off to Maui—yes, Hawaii—with my sister, to become a personal trainer. We spent the next two months earning our certification on the sun-drenched beaches. After all that hard work for certification, we were ready for a holiday. It was our company, and we had no restrictions on vacation policy. It would be only the best for our employees, which consisted of just the two of us. We convinced my husband to come over and join us (not a hard sell). Over the "drink of the day," we all became Maui-ized and began to fantasize about dropping out of society. My husband could become a pool boy, my sister and I would be sun goddesses, and we'd all live happily ever after....

Reality soon intruded. I went to use my credit card and it was rejected. It was a rude awakening, living in Maui with no money at almost thirty. We went home so my husband could go back to his job and we could begin our new lucrative business as personal trainers.

We started our new company in debt (spent way too much money in Hawaii). No problem, we would soon have hundreds of clients. We decided to advertise in a small local newspaper. After only two days we got a client! Not just a client, but a client with a friend! We met with them and realized it was going to be a bigger job than anticipated. They had lofty goals. They wanted to lose weight fast—now!

Being optimists, and in desperate need of cash, we took on the job and even got them to pay us up front. We cashed their check (in case they changed their minds) and used the money to pay our credit cards. The first two weeks went well. We were excited when they each lost two pounds and were walking up to a mile a day. We even cooked for them. But shortly after that it went downhill. They started to cancel training sessions, complaining they were tired of eating "rabbit food" and were sick of my homegrown herbs. The results were taking too long—they showed me an ad: "Lose 10 pounds in a week and still have all you can eat!" When we asked them to renew they said no.

Rebel Rx:

1. Trade-offs can be fun: "I'll give you putting away my hair dryer every morning ... if you can get your dirty underwear into the hamper."

2. Love, consideration, and spontaneous sex go a long way toward radical (if temporary) behavioral modification.

3. Realize and appreciate: If you can live with his idiosyncrasies (all those things you thought were so cute in the beginning), he'll put up with yours, and it should all work out.

4. Don't bother with books or special courses on getting him to change—it won't work.


Outlaws & Other Baggage

The Myth: Marriage means one big, happy family-in-law.

I remember meeting his family for the first time. It took days to get ready. I wanted everything to be perfect, especially me. I was so nervous, thinking these people would be part of my life forever, and I wanted them to like me.

I was willing to do whatever it took, things I would normally never consider: I oohed and aahed over Grandma's Lutefisk and choked down Aunt Jane's grape Jell-O. It didn't matter; they were soon to be my in-laws, and I wanted to make a good impression. Instead of talking, I listened. When his mom kept telling me what her son liked to eat, I took notes. I promised to remember everything. I heard all of his childhood stories: when he first walked, talked, his prom dates (how cute they were)—she left nothing out. I didn't bat an eye when Grandma tipped over in her chair. Maybe she was tired?

All I could think about was soon we would be married and our families would become one big happy family. I hoped his brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles would rejoice that he had finally chosen the perfect wife. I knew they would be kind and supportive. I didn't think anyone would care how I planned my wedding, since it would be my day. They wouldn't object if we wanted to elope; they would shower us with wedding gifts, preferably crystal and china.

I longed to hear the words, "I think of you as my daughter; call me Mom." I had such high expectations, such high hopes for my mother-in-law. I expected her to take my side in quarrels with her son (which, of course, would be rare). My second mom would be there to hold my hand, agree with me that her son can be such a jerk sometimes, and offer advice on how to handle him during a disagreement. She would be my confidant and friend, tell me how good my hair looks and that I keep a beautiful home.

Excerpted from Rebel Housewife Rules by SHERRI CALDWELL, VICKI TODD. Copyright © 2004 Sherri Caldwell and Vicki Todd. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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