The word 'Amish' in today's world means something slightly different than what it did, say, 50 years ago. While it does mean a simpler life, it doesn't always mean the way of life that many of us grew up learning about. Modern technology and expansive job options are still things that are very much outside the comfort zone of many an Amish household, but it's not all fire and brimstone as many believe. In fact, in an Amish family, the role of a mother is could perhaps be viewed as one of the most influential and powerful roles in the house... when it comes to raising a family, anyway!
While a hierarchy still exists as far as what both males and females are permitted to do, each Amish society will vary, with some being far more strict than others. The one constant in this ever-changing way of life is, and will likely always be, a mom. So what, exactly, is her role after giving birth? She has many, and each duty is something that won't likely change anytime soon.
The Amish lead a fascinating life and although TLC put their spin on it, we have ours, too. Here's a glimpse into what life is like for an Amish mother and her children.
Although outside work might not be on the agenda, that's not to say that Amish women don't work hard -- in fact, most of us can't imagine the work they manage to complete in one day. This includes taking care of their husbands and boys, whether it be by preparing their lunch or helping them get ready for the long work day ahead. It is said that Amish women are viewed as partners to a man and this couldn't be truer, it's through this support that they manage to succeed both in home and professional life. When a woman becomes a mother, her duties aren't expected to stop — she just has a few more of them.
The one thread that remains the same in any Amish family is the desire to have a large family. However, this isn't simply for the sake of expanding the family name; during generations past, large families were absolutely necessary in order to keep farms and households running smoothly. Children would be raised to take on chores and responsibilities from a young age, tend the farm with their fathers, and maintain the household with their mothers. While this is still true today, large families are a way of passing on tradition and keeping the Amish lifestyle alive while raising devoted children.
This tradition still holds fast to this day. Amish mothers are not required to work and, in fact, usually, don't when it comes to raising their children. This is especially true in larger families where mom has her day filled with children of all ages. Although many do leave the house during the day to attend school, this is usually time for Amish women to complete household chores and run errands. This is not to say that an Amish woman can't work, though; some do own their own storefronts and sell various wares successfully. After a child is born, however, these roles are usually abandoned in order to provide a child with their full attention.
It goes without saying that the Amish do not believe in birth control (which we'll discuss at length later on) aside from extenuating circumstances, therefore, many children are usually the product of a marriage. The Amish do still marry fairly young, as they are well aware of their roles in society long before they commit to their lifelong vows. While an Amish family might not be what it once was (up to seven children!), nowadays, it's more like five, max. This is still a considerable size when compared to many modern families of one or two children, but family life is the center of the community.
Outside equipment is not often viewed as acceptable in an Amish community and technology is frowned upon. The Amish do not believe that these things are crucial to a happy and wholesome life, especially not when it comes to the Lord's teachings. Rather, a woman is only permitted to purchase the very basics which are even better if they're Amish-made. Even following childbirth, a woman's lifestyle is very much old-school — no new technology is used in the way of raising a child or taking care of a baby. A mother is required to use what's available along with methods that have been passed down for generations.
The only instrument that's likely allowed in an Amish community is the harmonica. For some reason, music was once viewed as an unnecessary part of life. While this might change from community to community—especially in modern Amish towns—the rules are generally the same. While many parents will soothe their children with soft music or singing, this is something that's likely absent from an Amish household. No radios or televisions are to be found in any house as it's just not their way of life. When they say a 'simpler' way of living, to be Amish truly means having the basics and being thankful for them.
Many outsiders will be familiar with this in the form of a visit to Lancaster County, PA, where tourists can get an inside glimpse into what Amish life is truly like in the US. While it can be a challenge to imagine—given that many of us work nine-to-five jobs—Amish women do have plenty of options in keeping with their lifestyle. They may choose to continue on things such as sewing, crafting, extensive cooking, pottery, gardening, etc., all of which they will find time to do in between raising each child. Eventually, these will be passed down to their children in the hopes of keeping with tradition.
Contrary to popular belief, an Amish child is not required to remain part of his or her society forever. While children are raised knowing devotion to God and educated on the teachings of Jesus, this will eventually lead to a choice at 16. It's a mother's job to help adequately prepare children, including bringing them to church and reinforcing what they've learned. By doing this, it's hoped that a child will choose to remain part of their community by the time they're baptized at 16 years of age. If they choose otherwise, they're freely let go; however, if they choose to stay, and then to defect, they're likely shunned for turning their backs on all they've chosen.
Having fewer children means that there are fewer hands to have on the family farm, which means the father of a family will likely be out working all day. There's also much less of a need to be self-sustainable, with access to supermarkets and many Amish-owned country stores within horse and buggy range. Occasionally, moms can even get rides into town to attend to their in-town chores, something that's fairly modern compared to early Amish society rules. With these changes came a slight shift in household as far as the children are concerned, meaning mom is always front and center. Over the years, Amish mothers have slowly become the foreground of family life, rather than in the background.
Not only will children learn important lessons at school but they'll also have the chance to socialize. Many children walk to their schools, which is commonly a one-room schoolhouse — something that has not changed over the years. There is no rule stating a child can't be homeschooled but, at a certain age, it's simply not conducive to a mother's routine when there is so much that needs to be done. Therefore, moms will prepare their children to attend school when they are of age and until that point, will teach them all they can about respect and responsibility at home.
In an interview with an Amish mom, conducted by Crosswalk.com, a mother was asked what she wanted the most for her children. She responded by saying, "I hope that they will live for Jesus." While this might be an answer that many of us are not used to, as many moms wish nothing but happiness and comfort for their children's futures, that's simply the way it is in Amish communities. The Amish will lead a life devoted to their religion and its teachings, accepting a simpler way of life free from modern amenities that many of us are used to.
It's not always that a mother puts her children's needs before her own, however, in an Amish community, this is simply natural for any mother. Rather than express her own goals and dreams, in that same interview, the question was posed inquiring about her own dream. She responded with, 'I hope to train up our children in the way they should go, so that they would not depart from it.' While women are entitled to their own small business and hobbies, they always want just one thing: for their children to accept the life they're given and embrace it as their parents have.
In that same interview, Rachel, and Amish mother revealed that her family does go on vacation once a year. On these vacations, they will occasionally watch a movie (provided she chooses it). Outside of this free time, however, there is no such thing as media, film, cell phones, radio, etc. In fact, much of this is very much a foreign luxury (although not according to the Amish). Children are raised to appreciate outdoor activities and their household chores taught to them by their mother at a young age. It's a mother's duty to ensure that her children are not influenced externally by anything that should sway them from the lifestyle.
Despite what many may have heard about Amish families, a mother is not on her own. Once her children have gotten older and are able to be responsible for themselves and their time, a woman is free of help. However, at a young age, grandparents are very much part of family life. The community is also there in the event that a young mother require extra help, which is one of the benefits of having a tightly-knit church community. Unlike traditional society, the Amish do not live an 'everyone for themselves' lifestyle. The women in a community will help where help is needed.
Interestingly enough, an Amish woman is usually the one responsible for all of the shopping. From Costco to locally-owned Amish markets, the Amish women are free to shop for their families however they deem fit. Traditional meals have changed over the years and, in modern Amish society, moms will opt for easier meal planning with some processed foods. This, of course, is used in combination with their own farm-grown and farm-raised produce and meat. Each Amish society is different and will vary but, overall, women decide where the family's grocery money is spent. This is just one duty she'll continue to have while raising her family and will eventually teach it to her daughters.
We touched on this before but it is true... Many Amish women allow their own interests to take a backseat to their children. This is not to say that they're coddled or spoiled in any way, but there is much to teach them before they're of schooling age. Many who visit with Amish communities are surprised to find that children are so respectful and independent at such a young age, and much of this is due to their mother's influence. She teaches them all that she can while they're young so that they can function in Amish society better as adults. This might mean delaying or forgoing her personal interests in order to spend years raising her family.
When a child is born, many parents comment on how they have very little 'personal space'. However, in an Amish household, this rings extremely true. It's customary for children to sleep close to their parent's bedrooms until they're older when they're eventually moved into their own respective spaces. Until that point, however, they might sleep in the same room, one room over, or on the same floor as their mother and father. This is not a bother to Amish parents because it's simply the way a household is run. Children are committed to their parents until they're old enough to make their own life choices.
Speaking of which, Amish children are not raised in confinement as many are lead to believe. They are raised to believe in their lifestyle as well as religious teachings but, ultimately, it's up to them to decide whether to be devoted or not. Each Amish community is different, but a mother is in the position to teach her children to follow their way of life. While it is not seen as a failure on her part if her child chooses otherwise, it is frowned upon for someone to leave the community, depending on their reasoning. Therefore, a mother is required to show her children the way at a young age, something that must be prepared for as soon as a child is born.
As if she didn't have enough on her plate, an Amish mom might need to take care of more than just her children's lives. It's often customary for an Amish family to take care of their own, including elderly relatives who can no longer survive independently. Outside care, such as a nursing home, is not something that the Amish believe in using. Therefore, it's more likely that a grandparent or great aunt or uncle will move in with their family. While a mother is raising her family, she may find that she's also taking care of her extended family while at home, too.
It's no surprise that birth control is somewhat of a foreign concept to Amish communities. While many do visit outside medical professionals, birth control is only warranted in extreme situations. Other than that, interestingly enough, breastfeeding is the one form of 'birth control' that Amish communities silently recognize. It's believed that this is the closest they have to prevent pregnancy and, while not 100%, is their only option. New mothers are not openly permitted to be on birth control and though it is her choice, it's not customary nor accepted. When large families are part of the lifestyle, the last thing an Amish family wants is to decrease their chances.
Sources: crosswalk.com, bolivarmonews.com, amishamerica.com, amishquilter.com, ohiosamishcountry.com