Pilgrim Family Life


mayflowerWhen the Mayflower left England, three pregnant women were aboard. Two of these mothers were seven months pregnant, one of them just three months along. They bravely faced the unknown and left England’s safe haven behind for the New World. One mom gave birth aboard the Mayflower while en route. The second mother gave birth once the ship arrived and had docked in New England. The third mother gave birth a few months later but unfortuately lost her life during childbirth. Her infant son was also lost. Only one child/mother pair survived. The child born while en route was lost during the first harsh New England Winter.

Life was very difficult indeed. Strict rules abounded regarding family life and there were little if any resources available to mothers for support and carrying out household duties. More often than not during the first tumultuous years one did not know from day to day if they would have enough food to even survive to the following sunrise. Leaning on faith and God were about all they had. The Pilgrims learned from the local Indians and relied heavily upon the land to provide them with resources. They ate ground nuts, killed local fowl, fished, and began to learn to plant crops with the Indian’s help.

Mothers were expected to be meek and demure, quiet and obedient, faithful and pfamilyprayerure, to love their husbands as they loved Christ and their husbands were to be the Head of Household, to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and function as the religious and moral compass of the household. Children were strictly raised – even playing was seen as a sinful waste of time by the Puritans and children were even forbidden from playing on the Sabbath, perhaps an explanation of why children attended church sermons with their parents that often lasted six hours or more. Prayers were held twice daily, and the Bible was often the first book to which children were exposed. In fact, religion played such a large role in early American life that 80 percent of 17th century New Englanders had an Old or New Testament name. The name was often given at the baptism, something the Father of the family was responsible attending to when the child was two weeks old as “the mother at that time by reason of her travaile and delivery is weake and not in case to have her head troubled with much cares.” Nice to see they realized that mom needed a break even if it was from something as simple as baptizing her child.

Childbirth in early America was a difficult task as many children and mothers were lost during this time. Even in the healthiest of communities, 10 percent of children did not make it through their first year and three out of nine died before their 21st birthday. Yet families were large and a new child typically made an appearance every two to three years. Cotton Mather, a well known early preacher, saw eight out of his fifteen children pass away before the age of two. This loss came to be expected but still wrought the parents with grief. Puritan belief led that children were born into sin and were not innocent as is now believed therefore the loss of a child would seem to be that much harder – not being able to believe your child has gone to be with the Lord.

Wetnursinthewetnurseg was popular but did not fade immediately. Weaning was also done quite differently than it is today – maternal illness, pregnancy, acquisition of teeth (which as you nursing mamas know can be VERY painful!), or conflicting constraints on a mother’s time were all legitmate reasons to wean. Reasons sound familiar – method was very different. Weaning was not done slowly as it is today. It was done quickly. Either the child or the mother would visit a relative’s home until the weaning process was over. Once the child had given up nursing altogether, the family used the child’s name rather than the lovely endearing term of “it.”

The long robes and petticoats children were dressed in served to encourage children to walk rather than crawl like animals. Sometimes even wooden dowels were strapped to children’s backs to aid in achievement of proper posture. Neck Stays were even used to keep infant’s heads upright. (OUCH!)

Pilgrim families had it rough and there is no denying that when you have mounds and mounds of text telling you so. But they survived. They survived harsh winters not knowing how they were going to feed their families. They survived the loss of their children, their homeland, their loved ones, their traditions. But out of this struggle a bright light shone through and enabled them to grip to hope and form new traditions, new lives, new family structures. They adapted and developed new ways of handling whatever difficulties traveled their way. If they hadn’t, we wouldn’t be here today. If you take nothing else away from this article, take away this. Life isn’t about what happens to you. It’s about how YOU happen to life. The next time something difficult happens? Take the Pilgrim way out – dig in, grit your teeth, put your head down, and plow right through it. Tomorrow is a new day and if they did it, SO CAN YOU!

Sources:

Huck’s Raft by Steven Mintz

Domestical Duties by Willam Gouge, 1622

Wood’s New England Prospect by William Wood

Mayflower History.com: Families in Plymouth

A General History of New England by William Hubbard

Sharing the Journey with Ben Murphy


GQ or Maxim just not cutting it for you now that Junior’s arrived?

Then you may want to check out thefatherlife.com where Ben Murphy is one of the founding fathers. Yeah, I said it – FATHER. This totally hip online magazine is rockin’ to it’s own beat and marching along for modern dads daring to stay hip and balancing fatherhood. The Father Life is a mixture of fatherhood advice, life advice, and everything in between (including a couple of awesome articles by Shoshana Bennett on PPD just because folks in the forums were talking about it)

Ben Murphy, Ben Martin, Ben Loux, and Ryan Marshall are the brains behind this wonderful site and I came across it while searching for worthy and intelligent content on the web for fathers. So very impressed with what I saw, I emailed Ben (Murphy) for an interivew and here we are! I know, I know, June is over. It’s July. Trust me, you’ll be glad you read about this and I guarantee you’ll be emailing your husbands to tell them to check out this awesome site!

Tell me about The Father Life. What would a dad walk away with after reading your magazine?

Well, TheFatherLife.com is a men’s magazine created with dads in mind. When I became a father I noticed pretty quickly that all the men’s magazines on the market were for the bachelor set, while the parenting magazines were largely geared towards mothers. It blew my mind that there were no men’s magazines out there geared towards dads… so I got a couple of friends together and we created one!

Our magazine is all online (www.thefatherlife.com), all free, and updated with new articles every week. It’s designed for today’s modern dads who are every bit as involved with their families as they are with their careers and hobbies. A lot of these guys are family men who are also executives. They are also at-home-dads who’ve left the career ladder to spend time with their kids… So, our content is pretty well-rounded. Obviously, there’s a lot of fathering content, but it’s balanced by everything from sports, cars, and investing, to food, fashion, and music.

I want our readers to walk away from TheFatherLife.com encouraged to press on in this new ‘Fatherhood 2.0′ life that’s becoming the norm now for a lot of guys. It used to be that fathers brought home a paycheck and that was it… today’s fathers are turning that model on its head. As one of our readers put it to us a while back, “The Father Life is for guys who work hard, play hard, and father hard.”
How did The Father Life come to fruition?

It was really just seeing a huge void in the marketplace for good fathering media content — and thinking that we could in some way address it. We really started out to create the magazine that we wish was out there on the newsstands. And that is still our aim.  We figure that there are millions of other dads out there as well experiencing the same thing — and they’d probably be interested in a magazine like this!

The whole process has really evolved. I have a background in design and media, including some online magazine experience. So, I knew it was easy to do this in concept. I brought along my friend Ryan Marshall who has an extensive background in web design and my friend Ben Loux who has a background in Finance and Corporate Compliance. It helped that all three of us saw this need for fathering media. We’re all around 30 years old with careers and young families, so we have a lot in common. And we all knew each other from back in college so it was a really good fit.

The three of us started TheFatherLife.com as a quarterly publication so that we could fit it into our schedules. But it’s grown from there to where we’re currently publishing a number of new articles every week. That’s due in large part to how well-received the magazine has been as well as to bringing on Ben Martin, our Editor-In-Chief, last fall. He’s been able to focus solely on developing content and has done an absolutely tremendous job!

The newly updated version of our site is rolling out this August and will have a similar feel, but will allow us to really expand the reach of what we’re doing exponentially. I’m really excited about it! We’ll be posting new content almost daily when that site rolls out.

The success of the magazine has really been from our readership and from the writers who contribute content. The magazine exists on reader-generated content and it’s really been amazing! And our readers are incredible providing their feedback and ideas to help the magazine evolve…
Share with us how you approach fatherhood with your own family.

My wife and I have two young daughters and I’m really just focused on enjoying it. That’s easy to say in a vacuum – harder to execute in the whirlwind of every day life, but I just love my family and love the family life. Having kids puts everything else in perspective… It really is what sparked TheFatherLife.com.
In an interview at www.fatherville.com, you were asked to come up with one word to describe parenting and you responded “Marvelous Chaos.” Share with us what Marvelous Chaos means!

Things are crazy and never quite what you expect — and yet somehow everything falls in place and it’s more wondrous than you could have anticipated… it’s a joy of the unexpected that comes from having kids around.

I want to commend you on your Postpartum Depression articles by Shoshana Bennett as it is important for fathers to understand how they can help their partners during such a difficult time. Have you had any personal experience with Postpartum Depression or known anyone who has? If so, what were your feelings about the situation and what advice would you give to a father currently facing a similar situation?

I’ll be up front that I haven’t personally had interaction with postpartum, but the advice I would give is to be as supportive as you can… and get advice from other guys who have been in the same situation.

The thing I love about the Postpartum articles is that they’re one of the best examples of our readers shaping the content of the magazine. During a 6 month period we were seeing forum posts and receiving emails from guys who were saying, “this postpartum thing is crazy and I want to be supportive of my wife, but I don’t know where to start!” And so those articles emerged entirely from that dialogue.

If you could tell us about one of the most joyous moments you’ve experienced as a father, what would it be?

I think it’s when my kids are just lost in the moment and truly happy… the satisfaction of knowing that you somehow created a context in which they are just loving life and you are privileged to be there and enjoy that moment with them. I guess that’s a pretty abstract answer, but I hope it makes sense…

On the flip side, share with us one of the most challenging moments as a father.

I’m the type of guy who wants to do a lot of things and do them all well… I’m very ambitious and take pride in how I execute things. So, with a family, I don’t have time for everything and I have to set limits. Prioritizing my time for family and limiting my other interests is challenging. I assume all fathers go through this, and I think it’s just a time in one’s life when you start to finally figure out who you are and what’s worthwhile to you. My family comes first.

We all know we need to take some time for ourselves to keep our sanity and sense of self hanging around. What are some of the things you do to keep your sense of self and not lose yourself in your roles as a father and husband?

I’m an artist and I still work on my artwork whenever I make the time (www.benmurphyonline.com – be warned, it’s edgy). I also love outdoor sports and do as much trail running and mountain biking as I can. I like naps too; naps are wonderful!

But you’re right – as great as being a dad is, you can’t give yourself over to it entirely or you lose your sense of self. The same can be said for a career or anything else really. In the end, taking care of yourself helps you take care of those around you. And we try to encourage guys to still be themselves along with being great dads. We say, “Yes, It is possible to be a great guy AND a great dad!” And I hope that our content helps dads accomplish that…
Do you feel fathers are largely ignored by the media at large?

I don’t know – I wouldn’t say ignored. The media is driven by “what’s hot right now” and I’m not sure if fathering has been as hip until now… I feel that TheFatherLife.com is hitting at a time when the whole idea of a “dad demographic” is just starting to gain traction. And in a lot of ways TheFatherLife.com is and will be in the midst of shaping the new (and improved, I hope) perception of dads in popular culture. There are a lot of wonderful emerging dad blogs out there now as well as baby products for fathers (www.diaperdude.com is a good example) — that wasn’t true just a decade ago. A lot has really changed with the internet, and perhaps that’s driven some of this shift. I’m certainly noticing a lot more fathering content now in the media and I think it will continue to grow and improve.

Last but not least, if you had a chance to give an expecting father (new or experienced) just one piece of advice, what would it be and why?

To enjoy it. Just enjoy it. You only get to do it once, so make the most of it.