Saturday, September 19, 2009

Parents' Review Article: "Mother Culture"

Note: The following is a narration of sorts - a kind of "telling back" to myself all of the principles I've just read. I'm not an expert on Mother Culture, I'm learning and narrating the thoughts of someone who knows far more than I do about the subject :) I in no way come close to this ideal - I struggle to find balance everyday. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts, too!

Volume 3, no. 2, 1892/93

Mother Culture (click to read the article)

The main goal of Mother Culture is that the mother continue growing as an individual. It is that she continue learning, gaining experiences, developing as a woman. What do you think of that notion? That message could sound just like a feminist reaction to "stifling" activities like cleaning bathrooms and other forms of senseless drudgery (aka home life). Is Mother Culture all about nursing discontentment at home by running away whenever possible? A cup of tea and a trip to the art gallery and now I'm a whole woman? It can sound as though we are encouraged to demand our rights. Certainly not. We are not our own, we were bought at a price. What, then, is to set our growth apart from this restless pursuit of "me time"?
"though she may do much for her children, she cannot do all she might,
if she, as they, were growing!" (emphasis mine)

There is a little prepositional phrase that clears things up for us. For her children. Our growth and continuing education as Christian mothers is to be for others. At its heart, Mother Culture must be others oriented. Although the author never says as much, I think it's critical to stress that wives and mothers who feel the need for a little time to themselves to think, to create, to grow must be able to say that it is for the glory of God that they do so. He is the Big Other - Christ Jesus first and foremost.

When I first began reading about Mother Culture, I just couldn't honestly say that taking time for myself on a regular basis would be glorifying to God. The Lord has given me this home, this wonderful man, these blessed children to care for and work for and spend myself for. Wouldn't time for myself be nothing but selfish escapism? How is that glorifying God?

"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...She must see which is the most
important--the time spent in luxuriously gloating over the charms of her
fascinating baby, or what she may do with that time to keep herself 'growing'
for the sake of that baby 'some day,' when it will want her even more than it
does now." (emphasis mine, again)

Ouch. That last part made me chuckle and wince all at one time. Our children are still quite young. We think the occasional tricky doctrinal question is tough stuff right now, but how well equipped am I for what lies ahead? Spiritually steering young men and women through the trials and pains of life? Am I growing enough to help them grow, too? At the very least, Mother Culture - and the intended personal growth - should include time studying and memorizing the Scriptures. It should include time to pray and meditate and worship and be still before the Lord. That's not so easy to do with little children, is it sisters? Yet, I don't think any of us would say that it isn't important. Surely, if we are to be godly women who would raise our children to the glory of God, we should have regular time really alone with Him. Seeking spiritual growth.

Such planned time isn't selfish - it's needful. Mothers have a need to continue to grow spiritually. The author of this PR article is basically taking a broader view and including all areas of a mother's individuality. We talk about educating the "whole child", and Mother Culture seeks growth in the "whole Mother" :) Mothers need to continue to grow, not in blatantly spiritual areas only, but in many different facets of their person. Mentally, physically, socially. The message of Mother Culture is really all very simple...

Mothers need to be continually bettering themselves so
that they can be better for others.

("Others" meaning better mothers and, I might add, better wives and more faithful stewards of our gifts, too. We don't want to focus too much on just the children as motivation!). With this perspective, it begins to make more sense. Is it glorifying to my Father when I work to become a better mother? When I work to become a better wife? When I take personal stewardship seriously and make use of the gifts He has given me? Wow. Yes. Yes.

Now, a word of caution. Time intended for the glory of God and the blessing of others will all too easily morph into full-blown selfishness. God is not honored when, in the name of Mother Culture, we happily type away on some blog while our 2 year old cries and throws his lunch. Wisdom is needed, ladies, and we must pray for both the wisdom to know what we should do with our time and the grace to do it.

The author recommends half an hour each day, set aside for mother to have quiet moments to herself. To read, think, journal maybe? If you have been having a difficult time consistently meeting with the Lord in private, this is the perfect area in which to begin setting aside time away from the children and demands of daily life. Purposed time. Alone.
If you already have regular time to read, pray, worship, and memorize God's Word, maybe a few minutes in the afternoon for reading would be useful for your growth. Blogs are fine, some are very good. Ask yourself if you are really growing from reading them. Ditch the ones that aren't profitable (even if it's my own!). The internet is okay, too. But, this might be a better time for something a little more highminded. Maybe you have never really learned to appreciate poetry or art. Read through a few pages of children's poems or thumb through a Van Gogh coffee table book. Maybe you've never read Shakespeare or one of the classic books on next year's AO free reading list. Pick one up. Maybe you've been wanting to read a book about gardening or part of Miss Mason's original volumes. Well, here's your chance. You could paint in watercolors or knit something, for that matter. Pray through World magazine. You get the idea :)
I liked this last quote. I might put it up in my kitchen.
"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.' "
You know, the rag bag looks a lot less raggedy if you've stepped away from it for a little while. If nothing else, time to be quiet and think tends to give some much needed perspective. It helps me to think of Mother Culture as growing for God and growing for others. For God in the sense that I am seeking to glorify Him in the exercise of my gifts, talents, and abilities. For Him, also, in any way that I might be made better for service to His kingdom - both within and beyond my home and family. For others in the sense that my growing makes me a better lover and help to my husband. For others, also, as my growing is a blessing and source of encouragement, wisdom, strength, and instruction for my children and - hopefully - those around me. It is, like all good things, completely by the grace of God. It is His Hand that has given us minds, enlightened thoughts, talents, gifts. There is no room for boasting and no room for seeking selfish gain. There is room, though - needful room - for a mother's personal growth. Here's a catchy little phrase you can take with you in your thoughts today, if you'd like:

Mother Culture - daily growing in order to glorify God and be a blessing to others.

May the Lord help us all to use our time wisely and seek His face.


atara said...

This is so awesome!

Jessica said...

I came away from the article with the same thoughts.
I have no problem in picking up enriching reading material and have become very adept at snatching at books throughout the course of my day especially while nursing but I struggle to find that quiet time with my Lord. And while I pray throughout the day and read the bible with the kids I am not growing in Him. Of course that then affects other areas of my spiritual walk...I don't yearn to be in church with other believers, I become very single-minded on trivial things as well because I am not allowing for quiet time with the creator of this universe.
Thanks for the encouragements Jacci.

NIKKI said...

Thanks for this great summary!
I left teaching (for 10 years) to have our first child. After 3 years of settling into motherhood with two children(2 years apart) I was feeling quite brain dead! When we finally gained access to internet last year I felt like a whole new world had opened up to me. Researching home schooling became a means of feeding my brain.
Mother Culture time is a definite MUST in my home :-) At the moment I'm learning to curb my computer time and set aside time for reading the Word. Thanks for the encouragement!

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