Mother Culture Part I - What it isn't

I wrote this post quite a while ago but haven't posted it since I really want to write a follow-up but haven't gotten around to it. So I'm posting it anyway with the hope that it will inspire me to finish. But  it still may be a while, just warning you.

I've been reading quite a bit of Charlotte Mason's original series as well as some books about her and her educational theories lately and I've added a couple CM blogs to my regular blog circuit. One thing you need to know about CM is its vocabulary - there are definitely CM buzzwords that you quickly learn. Twaddle (a trivial or "empty reading" book) is one. Another is "Mother Culture". Unlike almost every other CM idea, I didn't immediately take to this one.

You see, as a mom, I hear a lot of advice about how moms need to take a lot of time for themselves. These "experts" talk about how you can't be a good mom unless you put your needs first. Often times the airplane analogy is used - in the event of an emergency on an airplane, you're told to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on your kids so put your kid in mother's day out so you can go shopping, go out to eat weekly with your girlfriends, get your nails done. And us moms are listening to them and doing just that. I even know of teachers who keep their kids in daycare during the summer so they can have their days to themselves. It seems like this advice is just as prevalent in some of the Christian resources I've seen but in these cases, it's not just personal opinion, it's "backed up" with scriptures with statements like "Even Jesus took a break to go off and pray."

It just never seemed to quite feel right to me but I couldn't really articulate why.  Because in one sense, they are right, mothering is a very draining job and there are many days when I can't do it any more and I really know it. Like, "Oh child, you had better not say/do that again if you want to live to see tomorrow" know it.  Wouldn't a morning away from crying and tantrums and feeding/cleaning/training little people, a morning when I could go to the bathroom by myself, or eat a whole plate of food without someone asking for some of it help prevent those moments?

No, or at least not in my case. Those few times I did get those times, it didn't seem to. I certainly enjoyed them but I was just as impatient when I got back. This morning is a prime example. I was having a rough time with Lucy and was so glad to be able to go MOPS for the first time this semester and leave her with Craig for some daddy-daughter bonding. And I had a very enjoyable morning catching up and conversing with friends. It was a completely edifying event. And yet, as soon as I got home, Lucy behavior had me counting down the minutes until naptime. And I was so frustrated. Not at her, she's two and is in the middle of a very training-intensive part of her life so it is only to be expected, but at my impatience towards her. What is wrong with me?!

Oh wait, I'm sinful. And then I realized that that scripture that's so often used seemed to miss a crucial part of what Jesus did - he went to PRAY! He didn't go off for "me time", he went for God time. And that is completely different. And that oxygen mask analogy is great but me time isn't oxygen, God time is. If I want to feed my children the love of God, I have to experience it. And I need the oxygen mask of God's word flowing through me if I want them breathing it too.

Please please note that I'm not saying that pedicures are bad. If I had the time and money to do so, I'd probably get them more often than every few years myself. But they aren't keys to good mothering. And MOPS and mother's day out can be a blessing. But I can't expect them to fill my cup. That's God's job.

So when I'd start to hear something similar to that airplane analogy speech, I'd just shut my ears and move on to another topic. But I'm such a fan of Charlotte Mason that I really couldn't give up on it yet. Then I stumbled upon some other posts that lead me to the original Parents Review Article that used the term "Mother Culture." And guess what, I found myself totally in agreement with it! I guess you shouldn't judge a educational philosophy by its catch phrase.

Now this post is already really long so I'll save my opinions on what Mother Culture is for next time. Or go read that article above and fine out for yourself.


  1. Great post, MacKenzie!

    I'm not a faithful CM fan so I've never read her original works. I definitely have my favorites of her followers though. ;)

  2. Oh sweet girl, it's like your Momma is whispering to your heart.

  3. Hear! Hear! I haven't started studying CM yet -- I might never get around to it -- but I enjoy reading your thoughts on education philosophy. I went ahead and read the article and look forward to hearing how you interpret/apply Mother Culture.

    I am most miserable and selfish on Saturdays because I wake up wanting to just do my own thing. Even though checking out by watching shows or trying to sleep all day is easier than my day to day chores, it isn't real rest. I've found that rejuvenation requires work, either exercise or study of the Word or other edifying book. Now if I can just resolve to do that kind of work on Saturdays!