Cover of Ladybird Books' "The Wife"

Should My Husband Sleep on the Couch Tonight?

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My husband ambled out of the post office today, chuckling. In his hand was something he purchased secondhand, which he wanted me to see. It was Ladybird book titled How It Works: The Wife.

For those in the US not familiar with Ladybird Books, it’s an imprint of Penguin Random House in the UK. It mass markets children’s books, not dissimilar to our Little Golden Books, and began in the 1940s. Three decades later, the “Learn About” series began to help schoolchildren understand how different industries, functions, and professions worked, from metalworking to indoor gardening. 

Cover of Ladybird Books' "The Wife"

Feeling some frazzled rage bubbling inside, I opened it up, expecting to see rules on how to keep my house clean and husband happy—you know, 1950s-era advice like having a whiskey at the ready when he arrives home at 5pm and making sure his little treasures are clean and brushed up to greet him. Gender norms and expectations were so prevalent back then, so why wouldn’t this be a book?

When my daughter was born over two years ago, I took a break from my writing and editing business to become a full-time, stay-at-home mom. I was able to run a business efficiently, but the household? Well, not so much. Should I take this as a passive-aggressive swipe?

Rest easy, my husband won’t be sleeping on the couch tonight. (I have to clean the toys and crumbs off of it, anyway.) It turns out that Ladybird Books began printing a series of books for adults in 2015 spoofing its children’s series and using retro illustrations from those books to offer guides to topics from The Wife to The Husband (he purchased that one too) and Brexit to Donald Trump. The full list of Ladybirds for Grown-Ups can be found here.

Page from Ladybird Books' "The Wife"

Well, at least I’m glad that women across the pond share the same gym habits as me.

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