Mother Culture is a topic that has been much on my mind this past year, but mostly in the form of wondering if it really, actually was worth my time. I first discovered this concept in a Parent’s Review article of the same name, an article from which I will quote extensively. If you haven’t read it before, I would urge you to take the time to do so now.
To be honest, I have forgotten why feeding my mind and soul is so important. Right now nothing matters besides the dishes and the animals and the snippy children and the noses that need wiped. All I want to do is tidy and clean over and over again, the only way I know to express my love and prove my worth. My mind is tired and my body is exhausted and my soul is in agony and all I can see is the doll that needs picked up and the math page that needs finished.
All at once (to take an extreme case), a young girl who has all her life been sheltered and shielded, not only from every trouble, but from every experience of life, is made responsible for the home happiness of her husband………………….. Before she marries, she pictures to herself little of the extreme difficulties of managing that most complicated of machines, a household–not for one week only, during her mother’s absence, but for year after year, without stop or stay, for the rest of her time.
If these two things are difficult, how very much the case is complicated when a wholly untried responsibility comes upon her, and not only her own health, but that of another depends on how she manages her life. And then, perhaps, just as she is grasping the situation, and one child fills her whole heart, more room is wanted, and more and more, and the servant questions goes on, the management of expenditure goes on, the desire to be more than ever her husband’s companion grows stronger and stronger, and the centre of it all is one little woman–wife, mother, mistress all in one! Then it is that she gets overdone. Then it is that she wears herself out. Then it is that, in her efforts to be ideal wife, mother, and mistress, she forgets that she is herself. Then it is, in fact, that she stops growing.
I am a good housekeeper now. It’s been a week, more than a week, longer than I have ever gone in my life. I have a clean and tidy home, the meals are served on time and all the school work is getting done. It is the culmination of years of research, weeping, prayer, lists, heart-ache, longing, striving, effort upon effort upon effort, failure upon failure upon failure. Years of learning to see myself as I truly am, and then not allowing that horrifying realization to handicap me. I have run this race, and I have achieved my goal.
Yet today my Rosie sat down to sew herself a little shawl for her doll, and quietly commented that she hopes very much she won’t be a mom when she grows up. Further questioning revealed that she would like to be able to make beautiful things, not always work and only think about making things.
Last night, when I tried to explain my transformation to a confused husband, he seemed horrified rather than pleased. I’m still not sure why, and not knowing bothers me. I feel as if I finally have something to offer, something worth loving, but the people I am trying to serve have already discovered how to not need me.
There is no sadder sight in life than a mother, who has so used herself up in her children’s childhood, that she has nothing to give them in their youth. When babyhood is over and school begins, how often children take to proving that their mother is wrong. Do you as often see a child proving to its father that he is wrong? I think not. For the father is growing far more often than the mother. He is gaining experience year by year, but she is standing still. Then, when her children come to that most difficult time between childhood and full development she is nonplussed; and, though she may do much for her children, she cannot do all she might, if she, as they, were growing!
Is there not some need for “mother culture”? But how is the state of things to be altered? So many mothers say, “I simply have no time for myself!” “I never read a book!” Or else, “I don’t think it is right to think of myself!” They not only starve their minds, but they do it deliberately, and with a sense of self-sacrifice which seems to supply ample justification. There are, moreover, unfortunately, only too many people who think that sort of thing so lovely that public opinion appears to justify it. But does public opinion justify anything? Does it justify tight-lacing–or high heels–or bearing-reins for horses? It can never justify anything which leads to the “Oh, it’s only mother” tone in any young person.
It seems that once again I have finished a project only to lift my head and realize life has collapsed outside of my tunnel vision. Always before it’s been some wonderfully creative project that left my home in shambles. This time it has been the achievement of practicality only to realize that I’ve lost something along the way, and I truly do not understand what it is.
It would seem as if we mothers often simply made for ourselves the difficulties we find in after life by shutting our minds up in the present. What we need is a habit of taking our minds out of what one is tempted to call “the domestic rag-bag” of perplexities, and giving it a good airing in something which keeps it “growing.” A brisk walk will help. But, if we would do our best for our children, grow we must; and on our power of growth surely depends, not only our future happiness, but our future usefulness.
What is Mother Culture, you ask? I think it is purposefully stepping outside of the moment, considering something outside our own immediate sphere for a brief time. It is acknowledging the fact that we Mothers are also people, people with minds and souls and bodies that need wise tending. I’ve become quite skilled at living in the moment, at treasuring moments, at applying myself to the task of the moment. These are all good things that needed to be conquered, but I do not want to stagnate here. I very much want to keep growing, to remain available to a busy man who wants someone delightful to talk to or an attentive girl who is just discovering the allure of creating beautiful things.
In 2015 I’ll begin hosting a monthly Mother Culture link-up, and I’d love for you to join me. We can talk about what we have learned, about how we managed to make the time to read or journal, about why it’s important to not let our minds and souls grow stale. The posts can be practical or philosophical. You can be encouraging and optimistic or poignantly introspective. You can write about your goals or your accomplishments. But please lets acknowledge the hope and purpose of steady, purposeful self-education.
I plan to create a special page where I will link each month’s post in order to create a sort of permanent archive on this topic. That page will also include a set of rules and a more succinct description of the concept of Mother Culture.
Until January, my friends……………………