It was one of "those" weeks when the children were still quite young. My husband, Dean, was a traveling salesman. Our landlord had the house up for sale. At short notice I would pick up, put away, and polish when the realtor called. During that week I had taught lessons each morning, watched a friend's four children for an afternoon (her youngest in cloth diapers), mowed the spring grass (my husband was out of town), showed the house to a realtor's curious customers, and cooked meals in a carpeted kitchen that had only two stove burners working, and a slow-draining dishwasher. After mopping a broken egg out of the kitchen carpet, I checked on the progress of the laundry. I remember opening the lid of the washing machine with eyebrows raised in astonishment. Behold, the clothes that had made their entrance as white were exiting as pink. I found the intruder. It was a new red bandanna. It must have been hidden among my husband's white handkerchiefs, undershirts, and socks. I had only one day to bleach them back to normal before Dean returned from his business trip.
It was Friday at four o'clock and my feet were beginning to drag. So, after serving a simple meal of yesterday's potato salad, peas and fish sticks, I gave the children an early bath. That evening, while I read aloud bedtime stories, the sun was setting and the sky over the rolling hills was the prettiest shade of peach. Every paragraph, a yawn snuck in edgewise. When all were tucked in for the night I avoided reading in bed because I knew I was too tired to get very far. Instead I settled on the couch with a cup of herb tea.
Timeless Mothering Advice
"My mind feels dull, my spirit low. What shall I read?" I thought. I read slowly a Psalm that matched they way I felt, then I picked up an old Parents' Review. I had been researching these 80 volumes of Charlotte Mason's magazine for some years. I had to dig for a while before an article caught my attention. Finally, with a squint of my eyes, I found something. As light flooded the pages, it seemed to bring to life what was written 100 years ago - an article from the 1890's for mothers.
The message was rather out-of-date, but at closer inspection I found the underlying meaning refreshingly relevant to my life. The first paragraph suggested that "A mother is only a woman, but she needs the love of Jacob, the patience of Job, the wisdom of Moses, the foresight of Joseph, and the firmness of Daniel. But a mother not only has to have all of these things, she must have them all at once, often when she is quite young, and too often when she has had no previous training for the marvelously varied duties she has to perform."
The article then went on to describe the duties of running a Victorian household, including hiring and managing servants - a nanny for the nursery, a governess for the schoolroom, a cook for the kitchen. It mentioned organizing and arranging dinner parties for the husband's important acquaintances, and her involvement in charities and church functions which also took ongoing attention. In the middle of it all was one (often muddled) little woman. A woman who desperately needed to take just a little time for herself.
Symptoms Not to Ignore
Today's homeschooling mother is dietitian, laundress, nurse, nanny, hostess, teacher, taxi driver, hostess, wife, and mother all in one. She may even be manager of a home business. Is it a wonder that she forgets she needs a little time for herself? Even with all her modern appliances, a mother can feel overspent. She wears herself out. And then she stops growing. Her mind is in a drifting fog when she wants it to think clearly and efficiently. With the distractions of her multi-faceted duties, she is unable to follow a train of thought. She drags through the day considering herself hopelessly behind in everything.
The last straw is the guilt she feels that she is "lukewarm" in the Lord. If I hadn't experienced any of these symptoms myself I wouldn't be writing this article. Therefore I can sympathize and validate the need for what I call "Mother Culture."
Taking Time to Refill
You've heard of horticulture and agriculture. Let me introduce you to my phrase, Mother Culture. I have been developing this term as a hallmark of my business and ministry. Although it's not Charlotte Mason's term, I have coined the phrase to go along with a bit of her advice. Charlotte required her teachers to always be increasing their knowledge, to explore new ideas, to rest and refresh themselves with a little diversion so as to return to their task of teaching with renewed vigor.
Parents are to be Inspirers
Charlotte Mason believed that parents are meant to be inspirers. How can we inspire our children if we do not take time to do any of the things we hope they will do in their own lives in years to come?
Billy Graham said, "Mothers should cultivate their souls, that in turn they may cultivate the souls of their children." If we want to do our best for our children, we must grow. Not only our future happiness, but our future usefulness depends on our growth. Therefore, take a little time for what I call Mother Culture.
What is Mother Culture? The simple steps Charlotte Mason described for weary mothers to "refill" ourselves. What are those steps? That will be the subject of my next column. See you there - or possibly at one of the conferences!
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