Sunday, August 19, 2007

Pioneer Mom v. Millenium Mom

When I was younger I enjoyed reading the stories about Pioneer women and their families--both true stories and fiction.
I was endlessly fascinated by all the hard labor these women had to do on a daily basis. Like how they had to carry their water from the creek and boil it to perform basic tasks such as washing clothes and cooking. I loved how they wore bonnets and rode around in Horse buggies and stagecoaches. Shopping at a mercantile sounded like so much fun. Everyone had a defined role in the family, children included, and at the end of the day the family would gather for the evening meal around a wooden table they built themselves. No one family member moved far away and everyone gathered together often. People helped each other without question. The comeraderie intrigued me; it all seemed so fullfilling and worthwhile somehow.
While reading these stories, I wanted to be them. I could almost feel the hot prarie wind blowing across my sun-drenched skin, I could smell the fire burning and hear the kettle simmering, I could hear the rythmic galloping of horses feet--you get the point. I was immersed in these worlds throughout most of my adolescence--yes I was a goody goody in many ways, but it did not matter. Give me a fireplace and a pioneer book any day--even today. The conclusion of a book I had been completely swallowed up in was like the passing of a dear friend. Sometimes, if it was an especially long book or I had become "attached" to the characters, I would be depressed for days after reading the last page and feel ..well, lost.
My favorite series then was Janette Oke's Love Comes Softly series, which ironically is now being made into movies. I have read those books hundreds of times. Their covers are tattered, their pages bent and worn. Call me wierd, but I refuse to watch these movies, so attached am I to my coveted memories of all the characters and their faces in my own mind. If i were to sit down and watch these movies, part of my youth would slip away never to be seen again the same way and I just couldn't handle it!

Now grown and a mother to my own four children, I ponder what it must have been like in those times when women had nothing at their fingertips--even had to make their own soap for washing, had to work hard for anything and everything--everyday, had many children to tend to at once (not to mention birthing them without pain relief)while performing all of their daily hard-labor tasks, sometimes spent months without husband while he left in search of work, had no access to medicine when one of their children became ill,etc.
If I were to sit down and read all these books again as a mother, would I still wish to be raising my children in the pioneer days? Would I trade all the comforts of now for that simpler, seemingly more rewarding way of life? Conversely, could a pioneer mother/wife last in today's society with all of its comforts but also with the associated dangers? Perhaps not.

An interesting experiment it would be for certain. To take just one day and try to do what we have to do everyday (washing, cooking, tending to children) without any assistance of electricity, running water, medicine, TV, refrigerator, etc. In fact, given the arrangement of our world we probably could not even do this experiment without traveling outside the city to a remote cabin somewhere...but, how interesting it would be to challenge ourselves.


slouching mom said...

Ah, yes. Once in a while I romanticize the way of life of the Amish who live in communities not too far from where I live.

And then I snap out of it. Hard, hard work, it is. My vision is really nothing more than that of the movie Witness.

You would love (I think) the videos made by PBS of the series called The 1900 House. A family agreed to live as if they were truly in the early 1900's in London. No compromising, no cheating, and for three months. They found it very tough. Especially the mom, who nearly had a nervous breakdown. Trying to do the laundry, trying to cook using a woodstove...

Fascinating stuff.

painted maypole said...

i think it would be very hard, indeed. But rewarding in a different kind of way. Not that i'm signing up for the experience!

blooming desertpea said...

They do this here and make a television documentary about it.
In real i think it would be very hard.

mitzh said...

It is really hard indeed. I actually have huge respect for them.

And I think we really should be thankful for all the things we have now.

Joy, of course said...

My husband always talks about how much he would like to live in simpler times like these. And I, always cringe, I of the take-out menus and blogging addictions, know I would be lost.

I do understand not wanting to ruin a childhood memory of a book with a movie. I felt that way when Tuck Everlasting became a film.

Aliki2006 said...

That documentary that slouching mom is talking about is amazing--really. fascinating!

niobe said...

I think (but I could be wrong) that there were a series of documentaries involving people living under the conditions of various historical times.

Like you, I was always fascinated by books about pioneers and, for a while, desparately wanted to be a pioneer, furious that I had been born too late. On the other hand, L's great-grandfather was a pioneer, covered wagons, homesteading, blizzards, locusts, the whole nine yards. He wrote a very short description of his life, making it clear how grateful he was that in his old age he was able to escape the drudgery and tedium of his farm.

thirtysomething said...

Thanks for the tips on the shows! I will definitely check these out..and in reality I KNOW i could not live in those days. I do not possess the strength it must have taken.

Christine said...

i was going to suggest what sm did--1900 House and Frontier House on pbs. you can probably get them on dvd. Frontier House is more about the pioneer experience. what i found fascinating is how the gender roles played out in the families. they were great shows--check them out.

right now i am reading little house on the prairie to my girl and we are loving it in the same way.