If you have followed me for a while, you know that I am exploring employee satisfaction in my role of stay at home mom, using a Gallup survey used at my old employer. I explained more about this survey in my post “What is employee engagement anyway? (And as a mom, why should you care?) The first question has to do with understanding your expectations, which I explored in “I am not Supermom and that is okay“. In this upcoming series, I explore what may have been the expectations of a mother 100 years ago.
A couple of months ago, my family was looking for a house and we looked at this beautiful old house with a small graveyard in the backyard. I was immediately drawn to a large gravestone that stood high among the rest.
She stands majestically over you. Her right arm is raised in the air, in a gesture which almost evokes victory. In her left hand is an open book, most likely the Bible.
As I stood next to the statue, I realized that she stood on a huge platform – the platform alone was 2 or 3 feet taller than me. This means that no matter how tall you are, you are forced to look up to her. All in all, her statue must be at least 12-14 feet tall. The next tallest grave in this small graveyard is, at best, 4 feet tall.
Most of the other graves in the graveyard are made solely from a slab of rock sticking up from the ground. The more ornate ones, always for women, are a slab with some flowery carvings in them. Regardless of our view of women’s roles back then, women were respected and loved. But of all the women’s graves in this small graveyard, there was no expense spared in this angelic figure. Considering she died in 1883 when they had fewer tools to create something like this, I assume her family was either wealthy or they held her in high esteem. Or both.
I kept wondering what was so special about this woman to deserve such a statue to be remembered for years to come. I wandered over to the grave to read this inscription:
She was a devoted wife,
a loving mother and
gave her friends every evidence
that she was prepared
for the change.
Was she famous? No. Was she a hero of some kind? No. It is true that my small, one stoplight town is named Comer – also her last name. But I do not think that is what makes her remarkable. What she did was be devoted to her husband, loving to her kids and a wonderful friend. And everyone believed she was prepared for “the change.” I’ve attempted to find an explanation for this phrase and come up with nothing – though I do know it was used on other obituaries and tombstones of the time. I assume “the change” means that she had proven to her friends that she was “worthy” of going to heaven. I think it would be an honor to be remembered this way.
I guess you could say I’m a “throwback mom.” I’m not one of these people who bemoans how bad the world is nowadays, but I think the way we live today is having an impact on not just our physical health, but on our psyche also. Over the last few years, I’ve developed more and more of a desire to “throwback” to those old days and live as much as possible in an old fashioned way. So, I have asked myself what would be the job expectations of a mom of 100 years ago.
(I want to add the disclaimer that I don’t do anything that will stress me out. AND I have NOT given up my washing machine, air conditioner, dishwasher or car. In fact, it is in your best interest not to ask this of me.)
The first principle I think we can learn from moms 100 years ago is to provide healthy meals for our family:
All of my life, I have had a dairy allergy and lactose intolerance, but as of late, it is so bad that I cannot even eat something with a tiny amount of milk in it. This means I have to find the ingredients of each and every thing I eat. At one fast food chain, I had them print out the ingredients to a grilled chicken sandwich. If I made a grilled chicken sandwich at home, it would consist of a chicken breast, some spices, flour, salt, yeast, sugar, water and perhaps oil. The list at this restaurant is probably 6 to 8 inches long (pictured here next to a dollar bill to provide scale). When I googled the ingredients, I learned that some are toxic in large amounts. I am not sure why I’d want to put poison into my body – or the precious bodies of my children – even in small amounts. And I am not picking on any one fast food chain – they all do it. In fact, this restaurant is one that I feel serves “real” food. Also, these chemicals are hidden all over our grocery stores aisles.
A more recent impact on my life was when, a couple of years ago, I noticed in my own health a trend that I hear from other women. Around my “cycle,” I got really sad and I had no idea why. I went to the doctor and asked what “natural” things I could do about it. Honestly, I thought he’d give me some herbal magic pill that would make me feel better.
What he gave me instead was a rather long lecture about exercise and eating right. He said to avoid processed foods, refined sugars and flours and hormone fed meats and to eat organic fruits and veggies. On a limited budget, I’ve done what I am able. And I don’t sweat it when I’m feeling like LazyMom for a day and run through the drive thru for over processed nuggets and fries. I just try to do it a lot less than I used to. In part because of a Facebook post I’ve seen about how they make chicken nuggets (verified here by Snopes) Yuck. The bottom line is that I feel a lot better and I am hoping my daughters grow up to eat well and avoid the emotional roller coaster I needed to endure for a while. I’ve become so in tune with my body that I can tell when I have over eaten sugar or forgotten to take my vitamins.
A few recent experiences have reminded me that we CAN live like this today. About 5 years ago, my husband, my parents and I took a trip to Hungary, where my dad’s family had come from. We entered the small town my grandfather grew up in and immediately attracted attention because we were driving a car rather than walking or biking like everyone else we saw that day. Even the “ice cream truck” was on a bike.
Needless to say, we found some of my relatives. One of the families invited us into their courtyard for refreshments. In their little yard were growing grapes which seemed to be used to make the juice and wine they served us. There were other vegetables and fruit growing nearby. I could hear their chickens in the backyard. After our visit, I remember driving out of the town and seeing families with one or two cows in their back yard. This is a society that has not been influenced by the TV dinner the way ours has.
I also recently met a woman who barters with her neighbor for milk. She grows vegetables and her neighbor has a cow for milk. Each does this so they can feed healthy food to their families. But they trade their extra and both families win.
I think back to the old grave I saw. I wonder how this woman fed her family. I know there were no microwaves. She even cooked without electricity. Much of the food she cooked was probably grown on her own land or bartered for with her neighbors. They didn’t call it organic, but I doubt it was sprayed with chemicals or fed antibiotics. It was just how they did things those days because it’s all they had. And I think they were lucky.
Lord, help me to be “a devoted wife, a loving mother and give my friends every evidence that I am prepared for the change.” And help me to love my family through healthy foods.