What is Mother Culture?
Mother Culture is a phrase which encapsulates the encouragement meant for mothers (and fathers) to continue to broaden their own education through the continued habit of reading. It was first introduced in a Parents’ Review article and was written by an anonymous author known only as “A”. In this article, it was written that it was important for mothers to not lose their own identity and their own mind in exchange for the selflessness needed to be a fully-involved mother and wife. Or, as the saying goes “You can’t pour from an empty cup”.
I’d like to alter this phrase a bit to “Parent Culture”, because even fathers can give too much of themselves, leaving them just as open to self-neglect as mothers. They too need to continue their habit of reading and self-education. Having both parents who model reading and a sustained effort to learn provides children with two people with whom they may have interesting conversations, turn to for advice and lead them further ahead in their own education. Having two parents who read also provides balance, since one parent may have strengths in areas that the other does not and vice versa.
How do educated parents influence their children?
A parent who reads continually and broadly is one who not only keeps the act of reading as a skill set in good order, but also is one who gains new knowledge to weave into their own foundational knowledge -just as our children do every day. This new knowledge reminds us how little we know and how much there is to learn, keeping our sense of wonder alive. It provides us with material upon which to reflect, grapple and think, keeping our mind active. This gives our maturing children the benefits of parents who can keep up with their growing intellect and more thoughtful questions.
Mrs. Alfred Booth from the Parents’ Review article “The Influence and Teaching of the Educated Mother” alludes to this idea when she writes: “Realizing that the children of to-day will rapidly develop into individuals keen to learn and be taught, she will always be alive to the necessity of cultivating her own mind, and the work of self-education and improvement will go on for her while life lasts”.
The author “A” in her article “Mother Culture” reminds us that as parents we are not to be admired if we make self-sacrifice a point of pride. We are not better because we take nothing for ourselves, but instead, are often worse. Is it not more likely that we will give with a resentful spirit if we do not take time to nourish our own sense of inner peace? In “Mother Culture”, “A” writes: “They not only starve their minds, but they do it deliberately, and with a sense of self-sacrifice which seems to supply ample justification”.
Why is reading essential to Parent Culture?
It is “A” who illustrates for us the emphasis on reading as part of Parent Culture. She continues:
The habit of reading is so easily lost; not so much, perhaps, the power of enjoying books as the actual power of reading at all. It is incredible how, after not being able to use the eyes for a time, the habit of reading fast has to be painfully regained. The power to read fast is much to be desired, and the people who read every word are left sadly behind by the people who read from full stop to full stop at a glance. This power is what our children are gaining at school, and this power is what we are losing when we refuse to give a little time out of our lives to "Mother Culture." It is worth anything to get and to keep even that; and to do it, it is not a bit necessary to read "stiff" books.
What else can be included with Parent Culture?
While the emphasis for Parent Culture is on the encouragement of parents to keep reading, even with some specific advice to read “a stiff book, a moderately easy book, and a novel”, I think that these modern times can include other options for maintaining our own intellect. For example, parents today might participate in online reading clubs, listen to lectures, attend educational conferences, take additional classes at a college or university and much more. This list might even be expanded to include other hobbies and skills which might be new to us or that we might already know but now learn in more depth, such as sewing, painting, electronics, computers, etc.
As long we continue allowing our minds to grow and learn, then we are providing our children with a more plentiful base upon which their own growth and education can be built. Most importantly, we are keeping the spirit of learning and the wonder of life alive in ourselves. Our children will see this light within us and they will be inspired. If we wish to keep our children’s minds in the light, then we must keep our own there too.