Mothers Encouraged

Recently I viewed an exhibit of antique books. What really caught my eye was this book: Mothers Encouraged, “Containing hints on their particular situation, duties, and cares” published in 1845.

This is a thought-provoking artifact. Obviously, mothers have been seeking hints on managing their duties for generations. I wonder, what were the cares of mothers in 1845? How has our “situation” changed in almost 160 years, and how is it same? Isn’t it interesting that the title implies mothers need encouragement (that aspect certainly hasn’t changed!). Was the book written by a mother or was it some sort of propaganda written by a man about how mothers should be managing their situation?  Where is the companion book for fathers? (Guess the fatherhood genre was invented later by Bill Cosby and Paul Reiser).

I suppose this book is proof that motherhood in any age of time is a challenge that does require encouragement. We’ve always been sharing hints, whether they’ve been passed along via a book, internet, or quilting bee.

With Mother’s Day approaching – perhaps our biggest collective day of encouragement – here are some timeless hints I’ve received:

You’re all just growing up together

Mrs. Leola is enjoying her great-grandchildren after raising six of her own. We were passing time at a kids’ birthday party when I began to state some childrearing regret with, “Well, maybe I should have…” Mrs. Leola quickly reminded me, “Honey, you’re all just growing up together,” and isn’t that some wisdom?  None of us knows exactly what we’re doing, we’re just figuring it out as we go. Your children move through phases and so do you. That’s life. I suppose no one taught Mrs. Leola how to be a great-grandmother, either. We’re all still growing up.

Doing something good for one of my kids is  just as good as doing it for me

Do a favor for my mother-in-law and she’ll be appropriately thankful. Do something for one of her kids, however, and she’ll adore you forever. Her regard for you is multiplied by at least a factor of two. This has always been her motto in appreciating any kindness offered to her kids, from a piece of candy to an encouraging shout-out at the ballgame. Now she applies this philosophy to anything done for her grandkids, and that makes for a goodwill factor of three.

Every child is born into a different family

Versions of this quote are in all the childrearing literature and it’s a good reminder. When you’re expecting a second child, you really do ponder ridiculous questions like whether you can love another little person as much as the one you already have. After all, your life changed so profoundly with the first one that it’s hard to imagine what could be in store next. How can you possibly give another baby its due attention?

Of course, after you have the second child you can’t believe you ever wondered how you would accommodate another; you find that your emotional capacity just expands naturally. Now you think, “What were we doing before?”

The next children won’t know life without an older sibling, and that’s okay. Except for when they see their pitiful baby scrapbooks next to big brother’s volumes from months one through thirty-six.

Any other hints or encouragement to share? We all need them! Comment or send to .

  • Denise B.

    Great post, and I love Mrs. Leola’s comment. Yes, she is VERY wise, and has obviously continued to learn every day of her life.
    But I can’t help wondering… what was in the book you found?

  • Birmingham Mom

    Thanks, Denise. I figure if Mrs. Leola is still acknowledging that she’s learning, so can I.
    Unfortunately, the “encouragement” offered in the book remains a mystery. The book was displayed in a glass case and there was no attendant available to offer a peek. No info on Google, either.
    Maybe the fun is in speculating. Was there a chapter on feeding a family of 10 on one skinny chicken a day? A tip on how to make last year’s calico look fresh for spring? Perhaps in place of our Children’s Tylenol there was a recipe for a poultice (or just straight whiskey). And was there a recommended dosage for mom???