From Carolina Watchman, January 25, 1845
This article may well have been "preaching to the choir" among middle class white families in which mothers spent their days caring for their children and striving to meet the responsibilities that this article sets forth. However, someone in very different circumstances would view the responsibilities detailed in this article quite differently. For example, imagine a poor widow left with many mouths to feed, or an enslaved woman whose days were filled with hard physical labor for a plantation owner and whose children may have even been sold away from her. While these women may have wished to be able to perform the "daily, hourly task of weeding her little garden" to ensure that her children would grow up to be healthy, virtuous, even-tempered and religious, the realities of their lives meant that they had to impart parental wisdom in much smaller doses and under much more trying circumstances than wealthier white women living with husbands who could support the family financially without worry. The paragraphs about children's physical constitution and education, in particular, may have been most applicable to the women who could afford good nutrition, healthy living conditions, and school tuition -- as well as the luxury of not putting their children to work to help support the family. Women who were struggling to get by may have wanted to provide those things for their children, but may have had no reasonable way to do so, and they may have resented the suggestions that any health problems or lack of education were due to their negligence rather than their difficult financial circumstances and the lack of economic options for women in their position.
A mother is usually also a wife, and has the management of a family and a direct influence over subordination to her head, has the seat of authority and wields the sceptre of government. From a position of entire dependence, she has risen to power and rank, and though her throne may be in a cottage, and her dominion the little work of household affairs, yet is she not the less really responsible, than is that youthful queen who now sways a sceptre over the four quarters of the earth. But for what is she responsible?
She is responsible for the nursing and rearing of her progeny; for their physical constitution and growth; their exercise and proper sustenance in early life. A child left to grow up deformed, bloated, or meagre, is an object of maternal negligence.
She is responsible for a child's habits; including cleanliness, order, conversation, eating, sleeping, manners, and general propriety of behavior. A child deficient or untaught in these particulars, will prove a living monument of parental disregard; because generally speaking, a mother can, if she will, greatly control children in these matters.
She is responsible for their deportment. She can make them fearful and cringing, she can make them modest or impertinent, ingenious or deceitful; mean or manly; clownish or polite. The germ of all these things is in childhood, and a mother can repress or bring them forth.
She is responsible for the principles which her children entertain in early life. For her it is to say whether those who go forth, from her fireside, shall be imbued with sentiments of virtue, truth, honor, honesty, temperance, industry, benevolence, and morality, or those of a contrary character -- vice, fraud, drunkenness, idleness, covetousness. These last will be found to the most natural growth; but on her is devolved the daily, hourly task of weeding her little garden -- of eradicating these odious productions, and planting the human with the lily, the rose, and the amaranth, that fadeless flower, emblem of truth.
She is to a very considerable extent responsible for the temper and disposition of her children. Constitutionally they may be violent, irritable, or revengeful; but for regulation or correction of these passions a mother is responsible.
She is responsible for the intellectual acquirement of her children, that is, she is bound to do what she can for this object. Schools, academies, and colleges open their portals throughout our land; and every mother is under heavy responsibilities to see that her sons and daughters have all benefits which these afford and which circumstances permit them to enjoy.
She is responsible for their religious education. The beginning of all wisdom is the fear of God; and this every mother must teach. Reverence for God, acquaintance with His word, respect for the duties of ordinance of religion are within the ability of every parent to implant, and if children grow up ignorant or regardless of the Bible and the Saviour, what mother, when she considers the wickedness of the human heart, can expect them to rise up and call her blessed?
-- Mother's Journ