So what is Mother Culture, exactly? Mother Culture is actually the title of an article that appeared in Miss Mason’s Parents’ Review magazine in Volume 3 — that means 1892-1893! I’ve seen the term thrown around elsewhere, but for our purposes, we’re going to take our description straight from the original article.
Mother Culture is, simply put, an act of the mother in which she continues her own education throughout her mothering years. Its purpose seems to be to prevent burnout:
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 the mother keeps growing, then she continually has something to offer to her children:
[T]hough she may do much for her children, she cannot do all she might, if she, as they, were growing!
The article leaves no room for a mother who says that she is just oh so busy that she does not have time for reading and learning:
They not only starve their minds, but they do it deliberately, and with a sense of self-sacrifice which seems to supply ample justification.
So how much time should be devoted to Mother Culture? The article suggests thirty minutes out of every twenty-four hours:
Can any of us say till we have tried, not for one week, but for one whole year, day after day, that we “cannot” get one half-hour out of the twenty-four for “Mother Culture?” — one half-hour in which we can read, think, or “remember.”
Does Mother Culture have a curriculum? Here is a take on it I’m sure you will all find pleasant and welcome:
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!”
Some of you look at the Mother’s Education Course and you can’t wait for something like that. But I know that others of you look at it and it’s just another insurmountable thing you Can’t Do. I’ve been in both camps.
I didn’t read anything other than my Bible the first year that I was a mother. I was just so overwhelmed and lonely. By the end of that year, I knew it’d be the death of me if I continued that behavior, and so I started to read again.
When I had lots of really young children, the MEC would have overwhelmed me, too. But I had a stack of books — usually around seven because I tend to be overboard with the book stack — and I did what this article advised. I picked up what I felt I was able to read. I read while nursing or rocking a baby — basically whenever I was able. I read when I had time alone. It helped. I was me again. And I had thoughts in my brain that were bigger than diapering and feeding and changing and all the minutia of daily life with babies that we can lose ourselves in. The higher thoughts were a lever that lifted me up.
Now, my children are older. A curriculum has been good for me. I’ve read through all of the first six years of AmblesideOnline with my oldest, and it has been an absolute joy. It’s been amazing.
What I’ve learned is that there is a time for reading a lot, and a time for reading a little, and though we should never stop learning and growing, it takes wisdom to know how much is appropriate.
Next time, we’ll discuss the role of magazines in continuing education. This one should be interesting!
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