This comment reappeared on Facebook and I share it with you.
in my family, it was not uncommon for men to have mistresses, even as they had wives at home who bore one child after another and very close together. Most women of my grandmother's era stopped having children after five or six and I asked why that was. One told me she stopped having sex after the fifth child. Tensions in her household were high and I thought it was because my grandfather had a mistress. Looking back, I think the mistress was a relief to grandma. The tension was she had full responsibility of raising their children by herself because he was always at the "Smoke Shop". Asking my other grandmother, I received the same answers and for the same reasons.
I wonder what both sets of grandparents lives would have been like if they had family planning, if they limited their children to as many as they could afford, and there were no third party intruding into their lives.
I come from a small town and everyone knew everything about everyone. One of the social gatherings was quilt making. Women of the village gathered in my grandmother's living room where a huge wooden frame was pulled up to the ceiling for storage and dropped down when they worked on patch work quilts. They chattered endlessly, I suppose like in the old days when women gathered at the well to get water and news. Their chatter implied to me some commonalities: they all had more children than they could care for, all the husbands spent time at the "Smoke Shop", and when the wives became tired or ill or frustrated they would complain and get a very hard slap, if not a beating. I remember a lot of black eyes, bruised arms, and weeping and wailing. Nothing ever changed for any of them until they were dead and buried.
For my mother's generation, the Great Depression was coming to an end, WWII was building up, until all the men, except for a very few who farmed or worked in the grain elevators, went to war or went to construction jobs to build air fields and military bases around the world. My father and all but one of my uncles left; women took over the businesses, shops, banking, and provided goods and services to our community. Many women moved to the cities to work in factories or fill positions vacated by absent men gone to war. They didn't have the pill yet, but these women had much smaller families. After the war, they wanted to become homemakers but inflation made it impossible. Women started going to work for wages, My mother and many others returned to school for professional training. Returning soldiers wanted their wives doing their domestic work and do paid work as they could. It didn't take long for working mothers wearing out from the double load. An old tradition remained alive in the culture. Whine and complain, take a beating, forgive, and repeat and repeat and repeat. Husbands wanting stay-at-home wives and frustrated when dinner wasn't ready or clothes weren't clean and they would turn to the method of control they learned from their fathers. Unresolved conflict remained, ancient methods of dealing with frustration remained.
My generation is the generation of the pill and of paid work for women and shared work with fathers. Husbands tried to use beatings to regain control over wives and wives said "NO". We simply left, finding no benefit in marriage. In fact, it is a barrier to happiness and health for many women. Dependent women need marriage; independent women don't chose it out of need, but out of desire for companionship.
We enter a new era. What of the old traditions are worthy of carrying forward and which should be dropped. Perhaps family life will strengthen, at least that is what is happening in my children's generation. Their families seem to work as teams, not as master and slaves. Children seem happier, doing very well at the hard sciences and I enjoy learning from them. "Great-grandchild, help me figure out this computer, please!"
From my perspective, life is getting far better for women ... and I hope for men.