5 Practical Life Lessons from Marmee

Our group of "Little Women"

These are the “Little Women” of my childhood (what modern’s call adolescence)

Here are five life lessons from my favorite literary mother,  Mrs. March, more commonly refered to simply as Marmee. On re-read Little Women a couple of years ago from the perspective of a a parent I was newly impressed with her strength and wisdom. Here are Five Pearls of Wisdom that apply equally well to Millennials as to Victorians. 

#1 all play and no work makes for grumpy people

“I think by Saturday night you will find that all play and no work is as bad as all work and no play.”

She is as right in 2016 as in 1868, all you have to do is look around at all the unhappy dissatisfied children and teenagers. They have more given to them than any other generation but so little is expected of them, they have so few responsibilities that they are never really happy.

#2 Let your husband help with the children

When Meg and John are having difficulties after the twins are born Marmee’s advice is.

“Don’t shut him out of the nursery, but teach him how to help in it, His place is there as well as yours, and the children need him; let him feel that he has his part to do and he will do it gladly and faithfully, and it will be better for you all.”

Not exactly the advice we today would expect from a Victorian mother.

#3 The benefits of creative discipline

Marmee allows her girls more freedom than we think of Victorian girls having. I love it when she allows the girls to try their ‘all play’ experiment without putting her two cents worth in. Then she gives Hannah the day off and quietly slips out for the day to drive the lesson home.

It takes a great deal of patience, trust and creative thinking to train your children that way.

Also modern parents will hale her far sighted wisdom when she said, “I don’t approve of corporal punishment, especially for girls.”

#4 Don’t limit yourself just because you’re a girl

Marmee showed what a strong, compassionate, intelligent woman is capable of being.

“Don’t shut yourself up in a bandbox because you are a woman, but understand what is going on, and educate yourself to take your part in the world’s work, for it all affects you and yours.”

I know Marmee is an idealized fiction but I admire her all the same, especially her humility in admitting her own mistakes and faults. She isn’t the stereotyped trodden upon Victorian woman history books portray.

#5 controlling your temper doesn’t mean the absence of anger.

As a person labeled with a shocking temper from approximately the age of 2 I found Marmee’s talk to Jo about controlling  her temper to be insightful and helpful.  She says about herself:

“I’ve been trying to cure it for forty years, and I have only succeeded in controlling it. I am angry nearly every day of my life, jo; but I have learned not to show it, and I still hope to learn not to feel it.”

Marmee still got mad she just didn’t scream and shout, she controlled the anger rather than letting the anger control her. Isn’t that a novel idea!

I don’t mind Victorian moralizing or holding of ideals, in fact I find them refreshing, it just goes to show I really am an 1880’s girl.



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