The Mother at Home: Raising Your Children in the Fear of the Lord
by John S.C. Abbott
Other than my husband, my sister Annie is my best friend. Annie and I recently read the book the Mother at Home by John S. C Abbott (as did much of our Mother's Group). The response was so great to this book. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the straighgforward nature of the author's work and, as with scripture... this book screamed "truth" to me. Annie and I agreed to pull together an overview for our Mother's Group this morning and Annie agreed to share this work. It is a wonderful, insightful, inspiring (and sort of intimidating) book. I believe every mother would be better off for having read it.
Care and labor is necessary in training up a family. But no other cares are rewarded with so rich a recompense; no other labors ensure such permanent and real enjoyment. You, O mothers, have immortal souls entrusted to your keeping. Their destiny is in a great degree in your hands. Your ignorance or unfaithfulness may be the means of sinking them to the world of woe. Your fidelity, by the blessing of God, may elevate them to the mansions of heaven. You and your children may soon be ranging with angel wings the realms of blest spirits, if, here, you are faithful in prayer and effort to train them up for heaven. (from page135-136 of The Mother at Home.)
Chapter I - Responsibility
Abbott says as mothers "it is our duty to lead children to their Savior". He goes on to explain that "the world has been slow to perceive how powerful and extensive the secret and silent influence of a mother's efforts to improve her child in knowledge and virtue are. The influence which is exerted upon the mind during the first eight to ten years of existence, in a great degree guides the destinies of that mind for time and eternity." We, as mother's are with our children more than anybody in these formative years. We have all seen and heard ourselves in our children, which further reinforces Abbott's statement. It is true that there are other influences in our children's lives, but a "mother's may be the most powerful" because it is under our care and tutelage, primarily, that this formation occurs.
Abbot explains that it is rare that the child of a pious mother will be a dissolute one, who breaks away from all restraints and God may leave him to “eat the fruit of his own devices.” However the parent is asked to trust in God, "bow before the sovereignty of her Maker, who says “Be still and know that I am God.” Having done ones duty, however, divests this affliction of much of it’s bitterness."
He gives an example of a man who, raised by a pious mother, had lived a dissolute life, and when asked to go to church, he said "no". He was then asked what his mother would have wished for him to do. The man, with a tear in his eye, entered the church. As with St. Augustine and St. Monica, and God’s grace, a faithful mother's early formation and prayers can bring them back.
Our earthly happiness is at the disposal of your child. "His character is now, in an important sense, in your hands, and you are to form it for good or for evil”, Abbott explains. This subject and fact should make every parent tremble.
After I read this chapter, I began to better understand the gravity of my role as mother and this motivated me to stay on task. As I have heard it explained by my confessor, "monks, sisters, and others of the consecrated life, live life according to a rule. Throughout each day, they have chimes that direct their attention and time to the next duty, be it prayer, meals, chores, etc." He explained that he had 3 minutes from the time the bell chimed to finish up the task at hand and move to the next duty. Stopping what I am doing to discipline my child or correct behavior is one of those chimes, regardless of what I want at that time. God commands me to. Given our home is our domestic church; it is fair to say that our children are our chimes, our duty, per se. When their behavior needs to be corrected or they disobey, it is our duty to correct the behavior or discipline them, right away; not simply overlook the infraction because it is inconvenient. I, have actually heard myself say out loud "no", I don't want to do this right now... that is, in essence saying no to God, and the only person, according to Abbott, in the long run who will take the blame for the disobedience of my child, is me, through my neglect.
I want to do the best that I can, and God has given me (and my husband) the grace to raise-up men and women that God will recognize and whom will recognize and obey His voice. I simply need to show the same obedience to God, in the duty He has given me, as mother, as my children are to obey their God-given duty in their formative years, Honor thy Father and thy Mother.
Abbott explains that "If you are consistent in your government, and faithful in the discharge of your duties, your child will probably through life revere you and be the stay and solace of your declining years. If, on the other hand, you cannot summon resolution to punish your child when disobedient; if you do not curb his passions; if you do not bring him to entire and willing subjection to your authority; you must expect that he will be your curse."
So, in summary, "If you are unfaithful to your child when his is young, he will be unfaithful to you when he is old. If you indulge him in all his foolish and unreasonable wishes when he is a child, when he becomes a man he will indulge himself; he will gratify every desire of his heart; and your sufferings will be rendered the more poignant by the reflection that it was your own unfaithfulness which has caused your ruin. If you would be the happy mother of a happy child give your attention, and your efforts, and your prayers, to the great duty of training him up for God and Heaven.