Monday, May 25, 2015

Little Women Read-Along: On the Shelf (Ch. 38)

In which we have a sermon about a wife and mother's proper behavior disguised as a chapter in our book.

Okay, maybe not quite, but on a whole, this one is a lot preachier than the last few chapters, don't you think?  Actually, I quite agree with a lot of what she says here, and it feels very familiar to me, since I'm the mother of three little people.

I well remember that first year after I had Sam, how I had to struggle to find a balance between nurturing him and caring for our house and my husband.  I've been blessed with a very understanding husband who has been engaged in child-rearing from the first minute or so of Sam's life.  But I have really strong mothering instincts and get weirdly selfish about my babies -- happened with all three of them.  For the first 3 months or so, I just want them all to myself, all the time.  I have to force myself to hand them over to him sometimes, even if it's because I need to take a shower or whatever.  People who aren't Cowboy -- wow, letting them hold those little all-important bundles of babyness was almost physically painful sometimes.

So I well understood Meg's exhaustion, and also her stubborn absorbtion in her babies.  And also the need to make a point of spending time with her husband, because guys don't stop needing attention just because there's a baby around now.  Husbands are people too, and wives are wise not to forget that.

Favorite Lines:

" are the sunshine-maker of the family, and if you get dismal there is no fair weather" (p. 350).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Alcott says, "a woman's happiest kingdom is home, her highest honor the art of ruling it not as a queen, but as a wise wife and mother" (p. 356).  Do you agree?  Disagree?


  1. Okay, so I haven't been reading along with you, but I just saw this post and wanted to respond to it, because I remember this chapter really well. I hope you don't mind?
    Anyway, I would personally say, in answer to your discussion question, that being a good wife and mother is an incredibly awesome thing, but I don't really think of it as THE highest honor a woman can have, because, say, a woman could also be a nun, and that's a really great thing too. It's the same way with men--they can be husbands and fathers, which is awesome, or they can be priests, which is also awesome. Now, of course I look at things this way because I'm Catholic, and I know other religious traditions don't have the same emphasis on celibacy/virginity in addition to marriage. But that's the way I personally feel about it. What do you think?

    1. Jessica, no, I don't mind at all! Hop in any time.

      Being a Protestant, I don't see things quite the way you do, but I'm not going to argue theology here with you unless you want me to :-)

      However, I kind of disagree with Alcott because I have quite a few unmarried friends, some of whom have no desire to be married and have children. Does that mean that they can't be happy or wise? I don't think so.

      I do think that, for married women, however, it's important to remember that it's pretty much up to them to set the tone for the house. "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" is sadly true -- so Mama had better take care to be as happy as she can be, for the benefit of everyone else, not just herself. And not by buying lots of things or pampering herself, but by being content and happy with what she has been given.

    2. Oh, no, we don't need to argue about it. Actually, I think we're kind of saying the same thing here: It all depends what God calls a person to do. You may be called to marriage, or you may be called to live a single life. Either way, as long as you're doing what God wants, then THAT is your "happiest kingdom" and "highest honor."

      Yes, absolutely--if you're a married woman, your family really does depend on you in a very important sense. If you're unhappy or discontented or stressed, well, so are they. I think this is something that we women need to bear in mind when we're trying to decide whether to work or be stay-at-home moms: It's okay to work, but only if it doesn't interfere with our ability to take care of our families, because they're our most important priority.

    3. Ahhh, that work-life balance. It's hard even for stay-at-home moms!

  2. Yay! Caught up...finally! :)

    I quite enjoyed the preaching in this chapter...wise words and also ones to remember for 'one day' ---should the Lord see fit of course...:)

    Well, this is an interesting question and I would love to share my thoughts...
    I really do believe that being a wife, mother and homemaker is the highest calling for any woman... I love this quote by C.S. Lewis:

    ''The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only - and that is to support the ultimate career.''

    Of course, it isn't all glamorous and you certainly don't gain fame or fortune, but rather the knowledge that you are doing what God has called you to, raising arrows for His kingdom! And He does see and reward... There are exceptions of women who have been more effective for God through leading a single life and served Him through ministry...and I think this is something a woman is called to.

    Anways, just my personal feelings and I look forward what everyone else has to share!

    1. Kelly-Anne -- I love that quote! I've considered putting a framed print of it in my bedroom. It's very uplifting... and also humbling!

      I agree that some women are simply not called to be wives and/or mothers. And some who would dearly love to have children aren't able to, for whatever reasons. In the end, perhaps the lesson is to be happy with your lot in life, so to speak?

    2. Yes indeed!

      Aww, I LOVE that quote too and think it is wonderful that even C.S. Lewis recognised how great a career being a homemaker is!

  3. I actually really like this chapter, sermon and all.
    As for The discussion I Think the statement is meant to underline The woman's importance in The family, comparing her to A Queen and all. But I don't think it means you need to marry to be happy


What do you think?

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