Some of you are already familiar with the wonderful essay on “Mother Culture” written many years ago by an anonymous contributor to Charlotte Mason’s PNEU (Parent’s union) newsletter. (If you haven’t read it, you might want to go read it here.) It is fascinating to me that some things haven’t changed much in a hundred years. Mothers still get worn down and need a little mental refreshing.
“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…”
-Anonymous Contributor to the PNEU
We mothers are still notoriously poor at taking a few reading breaks before we crash completely. This Mother Culture essay reminds us that when we stop reading and thinking, we stop growing. She mentions that often it’s the fathers who keep growing, and changing, and retain the respect of their children as they grow. But mothers? Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.
“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”. “
“Domestic rag-bag of perplexities” is one of my new favorite lines.(!)
I love that we have a wonderful reason to stop and feed our minds for a bit each day – it benefits our family!
Naturally, there’s a temptation to think that if some reading is good, then hours of reading off by ourselves must be GREAT. I’m here to say that this sort of thinking has some negative ramifications. Lost toddlers might be one of them.
The author says that certainly, we must be able to spare a half an hour out of each 24 hour time period to keep ourselves thinking.
I have experienced this desire for a mental break many times over the past few months, and since there isn’t a lot of time for rest during the day, these “breaks” often come in the form of things to think about as I work.
Currently there are three parts of the day that give me new and deep things to ponder.
The first is quiet time early in the morning before the family wakes up. This has always been an important time in my day, but lately it has risen to the level of a “need”, and not a “want”. I find it absolutely crucial to spend time with the Lord to get my mind and heart in the right place for serving my family throughout the day.
Next, is the time spent reading aloud to my children for school each day. The books are full of life and depth, and give me a lot to think on for the rest of the day. Some days I might read portions of up to 10 books out loud to various children, and listen to many more narrations of other books. All these years later, it still amazes me that often the books that different children are reading fit together so perfectly, sometimes even mentioning the same person!
I miss this time with my kids during the summer, but I was thrilled to realize that they miss it too! I found that each of them have a preferred book to continue during the summer. Imagine my surprise to hear my “non-reader” say “well, let’s just keep reading Mere Christianity during the summer, Mom”. (!)
The last time of day I’m almost guaranteed to get a few minutes of reading is during nap time. I take a few minutes of the little people’s one hour nap time to read. By then, my brain and body are so tired that I’m not able to plow through tough reading. The combination of sitting down for a few minutes and reading rejuvenates me for the afternoon and evening ahead.
At our house, evenings aren’t generally my reading time, since I’m never sure who is going to want to hang out…and then there’s Michael, who I usually haven’t had time to connect with during the day. After all, I like to give a chunk of my day to the Man who buys me all of these books!
I love the idea of “Mother Culture”, because the purpose behind our own refreshment is the benefit to our entire family. Mom becomes a much more interesting person to talk to because of what she is reading and learning. It’s not such a self-serving hobby, as some things can be. I love how this expresses our desire to live for others.
“The wisest woman I ever knew–the best wife, the best mother, the best mistress, the best friend–told me once, when I asked her how, with her weak health and many calls upon her time, she managed to read so much, “I always keep three books going–a stiff book, a moderately easy book, and a novel, and I always take up the one I feel fit for!” That is the secret; always have something “going” to grow by. If we mothers were all “growing” there would be less going astray among our boys, less separation in mind from our girls.”