In August 1970, a woman named Judy Syfers stood before a crowd gathered in San Francisco and read a humorous essay she wrote entitled ” Why I want a Wife”. The crowd was gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote. In 1971 it was published in an important anthology of feminist works, ‘Notes from the third Year’.
I belong to that classification of people known as wives.I am a wife. And, not altogether incidentally, I am a mother.
Not too long ago a male friend of mine appeared on the scene fresh from a recent divorce. He had one child, who is, of course, with his ex-wife. He is looking for another wife. As I thought about him while I was ironing one evening, it suddenly occurred to me that I too, would like to have a wife. Why do I want a wife?
I would like to go back to schools that I can become economically independent, support myself, and, if need be, support those dependent upon me. I want a wife who will work and send me to school. And while I going to school, I want a wife to take care of my children. I want a wife to keep track of the children’s doctor and dentist appointments. And to keep track of mine, too. I want a wife to make sure my children eat properly and are kept clean. I want a wife who will wash the children’s clothes and keep them mended. I want a wife who is a good nurturant attendant to my children, who arranges for their schooling, makes sure they have adequate social life with their peers, takes them to the park, the zoo, etc. I want a wife who takes care of the children when they are sick, arranges to be around when the children need special care, because, of course, I cannot miss classes at school. My wife must arrange to lose time at work and not lose the job. it may mean a small cut in my wife’s income from time to time, but I guess I can tolerate that. Needless to say, my wife will arrange and pay for the care of the children while my wife is working.
I want a wife who will take care of my physical needs. I want a wife who will keep my house clean. A wife who will pick up after my children, a wife who will pick up after me. I want a wife who will keep my clothes clean, ironed,mended,replaced when need be, and who will see to it that my personal things are kept in their proper place so that I can find what I need the minute I need it. I want a wife who cooks the meals, a wife who is a good cook. I want a wife who will plan the menus, do the necessary grocery shopping, prepare the meals, serve them pleasantly, and then do the cleaning up while I do my studying. i want a wife to go along when our family takes vacation so that someone can continue to care for me and my children when I need a rest and change of scene.
I want a wife who will not bother me rambling complaints about a wife’s duties. But I want a wife who will listen to me when I feel the need to explain a rather difficult point I have come across in my course studies. And I want a wife who will type my papers for me when I have written them.
If, by chance, I find another person more suitable as a wife than the wife I already have, I want the liberty to replace my present wife with another one. Naturally, I will expect a fresh, new life; my wife will take the children and be solely responsible for them so that I am left free.
When i am through with school and have a job, i want my wife to quit working and remain at home so that my wife can more fully and completely take care of a wife’s duties.
My God, who wouldn’t want a wife?
when a daughter of my closest friend gave me this piece to read i did so lightheartedly thinking in the beginning how truthfully funny it was.. however the further i read, the humour was lost to how implicitly relevant this piece is to the women of today. How do we change the story? How do we teach our sons and daughters differently, to expect different and fairer for themselves when all they see are mothers taking care of them, taking care of all that needs to be done for their lives to feel secure and loved as children? How do i show my daughters that their lives are abundantly worth everything and that they need not lose themselves to the children they bear and the husbands they marry, when it is all they have ever witnessed and not by their mother’s choosing? This piece was written in 1970, it could have been written today, i could have written it, for myself.