I haven’t been a mom for long now, but in my one year of motherhood, I have felt the pressures that come with care of a little one. The job never ends. And, it is an all-consuming task. Motherhood requires every bit of a woman to be engaged, ready to meet the needs of her child. I can only imagine how the pressure builds and builds with each child added to the family. And so, balance – who she once was and is at her core – feels out of reach at times when the walls of the house seem to close in as the day goes on.
I do not say this to rob motherhood of any of its beauty. But I do believe for a woman to be able to see and experience the beauty of motherhood, she needs to practice the art of mother culture.
For several months, I’ve been thinking about this post, because most days if I don’t carve out time for myself, I reach my end before it’s even four o’clock in the afternoon! And I know other women struggle with this as well.
I recently learned of “mother culture” from a conversation between Jennifer Naraki and Jennifer Pepito on the Wild + Free podcast.
First coined by Charlotte Mason in the 19th century, mother culture is pretty similar to our modern day idea of “self-care”. Though from what I have read, mother culture is more comprehensive than self-care. Whereas we might consider self-care to be relaxing in nature, mother culture is about the development of the woman. The continual development and growth of her own knowledge, skills, and understanding of the world.
Nourishing a child’s life (or many children’s lives) ought not squeeze out every ounce of one’s own cultivation. An article written in a journal Charlotte Mason published had some great things to say about this secret to sanity in motherhood:
“Each mother must settle this for herself. She must weigh things in the balance. 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.”
As an introvert, I especially feel this tug to have restorative time to myself in various ways throughout my days and week. But when the toys are still scattered across the living room floor and dirty dishes from breakfast and lunch fill my sink, it can be hard to be still or develop myself when all these things murmur at me to get to work!
Though all the tasks that come with making a home are important, a woman’s cultivation of herself is more important. Because this development of a woman’s own self is what carries her through to fulfill her role as wife, mother, homemaker, and friend, with greater resolve, efficiency, and energy.
Mother culture improves the quality of a woman.
And so, I’ve compiled a list of the ways I practice mother culture to keep myself growing in my own life:
1. Spend time outside
Whether a short walk around the block or a longer hike at a local park or garden, getting outside is so beneficial. I find that the days Benji and I stay cooped up inside, the afternoons are worse than when we get outside and enjoy the fresh air. I shared more about this a few months ago, but it is one of the best ways I find space for myself on a daily basis!
2. Rest in the middle of the day
To take a rest in the middle of the day is difficult! I don’t do this as often now that Benji is older, but in the first six months of his life, I took a lot of naps with him. However, somedays, I need to listen to my body and rest. To embrace my weakness, my humanity, and know that a half hour rest will better enable me to finish the day well.
3. Keep reading
One of the simplest ways to continue developing myself is to read. I loved this wisdom I recently read:
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.
I like to keep a few books going at once so that I always have something to read. I don’t always feel in the mood to read a novel and at other times, my mind needs something light to unwind. So, I usually keep two or three books going just as this woman said. Currently, I am reading Little Women. My soul has been consoled by the story and inspired by its characters.
4. Listen to favorite music
What is better for the soul than music? Little else is able to lift my spirits in that way. Find favorite playlists on Spotify, Pandora, or Apple Music and play whatever you need in that moment. I’ve been listening to the same album on repeat the last few days. The songs have become my continual heart cry as certain phrases refrain in my mind throughout the day.
5. Enjoy a podcast
And one of my all-time favorites: podcasts. I listen to podcasts while cleaning the house or preparing meals or on a walk. I love to listen to other people’s stories and experiences. I’ll share more about my favorite podcasts another time, but it is another way I feel less alone and develop my own ideas of food, story, creativity, and motherhood. It’s amazing all the different podcasts you can find!
Being Filled to Pour Out
I don’t know about you, but when the term self-care is thrown around, sometimes it seems a little self-indulgent. And maybe that is what this list feels like to you – self-indulgence. But, that is why I appreciate the concept of mother culture. It isn’t self-care for its own sake.
Mother culture is about a woman having space and time to grow so that the self she gives to her husband, children, home and friends is of a higher quality than if she continually gives and gives without ever being filled.
(Thanks to Lauren Curry for the pictures!)