“Man may work from sun to sun but Mother’s work is never done!”
We have all heard this old saying and it has never been more true than the days before our modern conveniences.
I have often thought of the work my great grandmother (“Mama” in The Vision of a Mother’s Heart”) had to do each day. She couldn’t hit the snooze button on the clock even if that technology had been available to her. She was a farm wife with a husband and nine children to care for.
- She must be up at the crack of dawn to prepare a large breakfast for her family, Chores for Papa and the older children began before breakfast. Cows had to be milked, eggs collected, chickens fed… All this on only a few hours sleep. After all, she had newborn twins to care for.
- Washing dishes included washing by hand, drying and putting away the dishes. Sweeping the floor and often mopping the wood or linoleum flooring. It’s good that she had ten-year-old Isabel and eight-year-old Maggie to help.
- The older children were taught to make the beds. (This often consisted of pulling the quilt up over the pillows so that dust and pollen from the open window didn’t get on the sheets.
- Monday was laundry day. The earlier she scrubbed the clothes on a scrub board and hung them on the line to dry, the better. Hopefully, Papa and the older boys helped fill the wash tubs with water and built a fire under the tubs so that the clothes came out clean and fresh.
- The clothes line must first be wiped off with a clean cloth before Mfama could hang clothes on the line. They were held to the line with peg clothes pins to hold them tight as the gentle breeze and warm sunshine did it’s wonderful job.
- While the clothes dried on the line, Mama nursed and diapered the twins before rocking them to sleep as stew warmed on the back of the tove and several loaves of bread in several stages of rising or baking filled the house with wonderful fragrances. With the infants down for their nap, Mama worked in earnest to put lunch ont he table. Not just sandwiches and chips but a full meal complete with homemade dessert. She often cooked for farm hands as well as for Papa and the children who were not in school.
- Dishes washed, dried and put away. Bread and pies baked and placed in the pie safe to cool as she went back outside to bring in the sweet smelling laundry. Folded and placed in a large wicker basket with smaller items folded into a second basket – even an unused apple basket would do. Ironing each item with flat irons would have to wait until tomorrow.
- Little ones up from their nap. Feed the babies, change diapers and carry their cradle into the kitchen or porch as she snapped peas and strung beans for dinner. Singing and cooing to the little ones as she worked.
- Refreshments for Papa and his workers to help him keep up his strength until supper time. Little ones still at home were also fed and allowed to play outside.
- During the quiet time between refreshments and older children coming home from school, Mama had her quiet time with the Lord and then picked up needle work for she handmade her family’s clothes. She also made quilts, kitted, croched and made items to sell to supplement their income.
- A fresh batch of cookies or fresh bread slathered with home churned butter and jam awaited the children who ran home after school with fascinating stories to tell Mama who was always ready to listen and give advice as needed.
- Her apron contained deep pockets containing clean handkerchiefs, a small comb and ribbons to pull back her daughters hair when they donned their own aprons to help prepare dinner. On Monday, Chicken and Dumplings or pinto beans, cornbread, fried potatoes and other veggies Mama had preserved from their garden. These meals could stew all day on a back burner of the black cast iron wood-burning stove.
- More dishes for Isabel, Maggie and even little Sylvia to wash, dry and put away as Mama swept and mopped the floor again. The children were allowed to play after their chores until the last ray of sunlight dipped over the hill.
- Family Altar or Family Devotions began with Mama strapping on the “squeeze box” and Papa pulling out his old banjo as the entire family joined in singing and playing instruments. The Old Rugged Cross, Brighten a Corner, Amazing Grace, Trust and Obey were a few of the hymns the family played and sang before Mama read Scripture and Papa led in prayer as the day ended for most of the family. Mama still had little ones to care for before going to bed. Before she went to sleep each night, she prayed for each child by name.
I don’t know about you, but just thinking about all of that work makes me tired! Yet, she did all of these things without complaining. One couldn’t just go to the General Store to buy bread unless you had money to spare. She prepared everything by scratch. They grew their food in the garden and Mama canned, dried or preserved food in the root cellar. They had fruit trees and grape vines and prayed they would have enough to last through the year. I’m thankful for my washer, dryer, self-cleaning oven, the toaster oven (which I use instead of the big oven because it uses less electricity), refrigerator, freezer, and even the iron. Be thankful for the take-out menu! Life was hard but it was the only life Mama knew. Her family needed her. It’s nice to be needed! She was truly the Proverbs 31 wife and mother.
Don’t think she was perfect. Check out Chapter 32 entitled Mama’s Bad Day in The Vision of a Mother’s Heart.
She could become overwhelmed just like you. Those diapers for the twins? Cloth. Handmade and she couldn’t just take the soiled diaper, roll it up and throw it away. It had to be cleaned immediately and then put into a bucket of soapy water to be washed later. So new mothers, if you find your self overwhelmed, think of the women in your family and how hard it was for them. Your great-great-grandmother got through this and so will you.
Kiss your little ones for me.