Mother Culture

Is there not some need for “mother culture”? But how is the state of things to be altered? 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. There are, moreover, unfortunately, only too many people who think that sort of thing so lovely that public opinion appears to justify it. But does public opinion justify anything? Does it justify tight-lacing–or high heels–or bearing-reins for horses? It can never justify anything which leads to the “Oh, it’s only mother” tone in any young person. 

I will start by fully acknowledging that I am a nerd. But even if you are not, that is no excuse to not be learning. And mothers, especially, should be investing in themselves because they have such important work in the investing of little ones (and big ones, as they eventually become!). We want to have much to offer our children, but we must have something to give. Yes, ‘self care’ is a part of this, but its not pedicures and massages (though those have a place, for sure!) that I speak of. It’s Mother Culture.

What is Mother Culture?

This is a mother investing in her own mind by various means. Study, reading, drawing, creating. Ideas are food for the mind, and if she doesn’t seek to feed her mind, her mind will atrophy. Just as the body atrophies when it isn’t fed, so the mind does. With all the demands on a mother’s attention and time, she has to be intentional about feeding her mind. When she doesn’t, she risks having nothing to offer her children as they seek to feed their own minds. And as children grow, the kind of ideas they want and need grow with them.

Productive labor, Reproductive labor, Scholé and Entertainment

Most people will be able to identify productive labor and entertainment as categories for how to spend your time. Scholé is that time when you are seeking refreshment and enrichment. From handicrafts to reading to art, scholé is a broad category. Mother Culture, however, falls into the reproductive labor category*. Generally, this is the labor of investing in others, caring for others, loving others. Sounds like a mother’s job, yes? And for a mother to love her children especially well, she can grow her own mind by feeding it with good quality stuff.

How I do Mother Culture

I will fully acknowledge that for me, Mother Culture overlaps with Schole. I find the time I spend reading, thinking and writing refreshing and rejuvenating. And not everyone will find this true for them (though I expect it won’t be a draining as many think it will be). I got this idea from a podcast episode on Your Morning Basket by Pam Barnhill, about Mother’s Morning Basket. It’s not a basket, and I don’t work from it the morning, but you’ll see the connection.

I found that a medium flat rate box (from USPS), with flaps cut off, fit wonderfully in a worn out reusable grocery bag. The bag by itself is good for getting wet and dirty, but doesn’t provide much support and books, journals, etc would topple it. I like stuff that will stand up and I don’t have to dig to find anything. On the other hand, a box on its own isn’t great for one handed transportation. I’ve got a toddler, and I need one handed transportation abilities. And a box that was already used to ship something is great for ‘can get wet and dirty’. I get most of my reading time when I’m outside with the boys. If I’m inside I always seem able to have something more urgent calling me.

I can be very hap-hazard about picking out the books I’m going to work through. I picked out my current set by… inspiration. I want to be more intentional, but really, there are SOOOO MANY books, and not nearly enough time. And these (the SOOOO MANY) are only the books worth reading (as one part of a good education is knowing what NOT to read). :::sigh:::

Currently, I’m reading Know and Tell by Karen Glass, and Planet Narnia by Michael Ward. And there is Start Here by Brandy Vencel with For the Children’s Sake. I often toss things I print out into this box so that the next time I sit down to read, I can read it. I keep my common place journal in the box, also.

But there are other standard items that will just live in the box.

  • matches for lighting the bug candle when outside
    water bottle, ’cause I always need to drink more water
    sunscreen, b/c we live in central Texas
    chap stick, b/c we live in central Texas
    pens, as you totally need a large selection to choose from when writing in your journal, even though you always choose the same one
  • note cards
  • book darts
  • post it notes
  • extra bookmark (’cause the toddler likes them, too!)

Where to find good reading material?

There are a few places I find good options for reading that has good, strong ideas that feed my mind. In general, its good to have 3 types of books: a stiff book, a moderately hard book, and an easy book, aka a novel. Now, I know myself well enough to know that I can’t just always have a novel going, or novels are all I’ll ready. Especially, a good murder mystery by Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers.

I have found good book lists from Brandy at, from listening to the Scholé Sister’s podcast, other podcasts, a slew of different sites, facebook friends, instagram…. I do know that I aim to know who the recommendation comes from, as that informs me of what kind of book it will be. Ann Bogel has book recommendations out the wa-zoo, but I know that I’m not going to be interested in most of it. But, when Mystie Winkler or Pam Barnhill recommends the book, there is a better chance it’s up my alley. As you start paying attention, you’ll find a good source of book recommendations. Here is my goodreads, but I’m a hoarder of to-read books, so be warned!

So, go and do likewise! How can I help you get your Mother Culture on?

Please note that all my links for things are just links. I get no kickback and nothing but goodwill (maybe) for linking to other’s sites.

*I got this idea from an article by Sybil Schwarzenbach, called “On Civic Friendship”. Here is the citation:
Sibyl A. Schwarzenbach, “On Civic Friendship,” Ethics 107, no. 1 (Oct., 1996): 97-128.

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