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"Love the Fulfilling of the Law"

Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource.ca and The Famous Five Foundation

Emily Murphy, "Love the Fulfilling of the Law," Canadian Home Journal May 1931: 7, 30. Courtesy of City of Edmonton Archives.

Although barely twenty years of age when I became a mother, I can see in looking back across the years that the finest joys of life came with my children: so close they are to one's heart, these younglings, and so dear.

In the outside world, argue as you may, concerning the proper placing of titular decorations, in the home the habit of wearing of the heart on one's sleeve is unquestionably correct as well as deeply wise.

Looking back, I can see also that the so-called "hardships" of rearing children are largely imaginative. For this reason, I find it difficult to sympathize with those persons who are ever wont to dilate upon the "tears" and "sacrifices" of motherhood. I even find it hard to become enraptured over "Mother's Day" in that the strain running through most of the editorials is one of pity and commiseration for the apparently sad and serious woman who has reared a family. . . . There are the florists' advertisements, too. "Don't forget the mode. Pink carnation if she's alive: white if she is dead."

In art, the mother with a grown-up family is usually portrayed with folded hands, a resigned-to-the-inevitable air, and in a gown that is drearily suggestive of a shroud. If you wish to see this down-daunted type in its full perfection, pray study that widely-known but objectionable picture entitled "Whistler's Mother."

It is my opinion, and I hope you will agree with me, that there is no reason for burning incense to a woman simply because she has fulfilled the natural functions of her sex—because she has been no skulker of her maternal responsibility.

This down-daunted type is rapidly passing out for we are coming to see that a mother who lets herself subside into a kind of burnt-sacrifice upon what is called "the family altar" is not really a good mother or a good citizen.

"In weariness and painfulness?"—Yes! "In watchings often?"—yes, very often—but the recompense is ever infinitely greater than the sacrifice. Indeed, I have never been able to sacrifice myself for my children. The compensation has been a full hundredfold, and this is really quite a good rate of interest.

"In watchings often?"—yes, watchings such as the singing of rocking hymns and little sleep songs—the lulling of one's babies. Who calls this a sacrifice?

No compensation in the love we get from our children? Let the mothers answer.

. . . Now about my own children, other folk may have thought them ordinary infants—purblind and inconsequential folk—but to me they were quite as wonderful as those plump little angel-children who, in olden pictures, sit at the feet of the virgin and strum upon strings. As they grew they were dutiful children although we have never had rules worth mentioning. As far as possible children ought to get their own gait. Why resist the course of a star in its natural orbit?

Be this as it may, our house was a republic where all had the rules of conduct explained, and the necessity therefore. If they broke the rules, the self-imposed penalty was also explained. Our case rested there. There is no need to enforce commandments once the children understand that love is the fulfilling of the law.

This is quite a good way, too, especially when one realizes that each child is a brand-new combination and re-acts to life in its own way. What is it that the Hindus say? "Oh yes, thirteen children with fourteen dispositions." And, after all, "badness" is only misdirected goodness.

Pray do not think, however, that in our lessons, household duties, outdoor sports and all the various etceteras of family life, that I ever lost ascendancy—that is to say the children in my Maternal Relations Court understood that while the judge was lenient and fairly reasonable, she was never sitting blindfolded. Perhaps he was right, the fellow who declared that people are really governed by laws which never find their way into copy-books. Perhaps it is true also that one's best talents are required in the home, and that in life our finest parts are always played to small audiences. Indeed, I feel quite sure of this. . . . But about the present, and how it has all turned out for me?

This is not a difficult matter to figure out for now I am the youngling myself, my daughters having the care and control of me, and I know enough to get the principle at stake.

Believe me what I say is a fact for at this very moment, an anxious but withal persistent voice comes from a bedroom down the hallway, this being its third and last time of calling: "Now, Mother, you go to bed right away. It's half-past one, and you know you'll not be ready for work in the morning. Now, Mother, go right to bed!"

And this being frightfully true, permit me, Sirs and Madams, to bid you a very good night, and to ask if it is not well that, after all the years, there is someone who cares so much.

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