Pioneer Mom Vs. Modern-Day Mom: A Comparison

by Victoria Fedden
Originally Published: 
Kansas Historical Society / iStock

A Day in the Life of a Pioneer Mom

Today I rose at 4 in the morning to start the dough rising and stoke the fire so that we might have the bread baked by the time Pa and the boys got in from milking and feeding the livestock. I fried some salt pork, what little we have left of it from last fall’s hog slaughter, and we had enough fresh milk for the littlest ones, which was such a blessing. I still think sadly of the baby that starved when my milk ran dry and we had no milking cow nor any goats at the time, and the nearest neighbor who might have helped was 23 long miles across the prairie. I would have done anything to have had something to feed her. She was such a fair little baby.

She is buried by the vegetable garden along with the other three children we’ve lost: one lost to measles, one lost to scarlet fever, and one trampled by a bull. I wish we had something that could prevent these terrible diseases. I try to be thankful for the seven children who lived and are able to help out here on the homestead—I don’t know what Pa and I would do without them. I am also thankful that I myself have lived to the old age of 34 so I could see my first grandchild born this past year.

Pa jokes with me that for an old gal, I still look chipper. I’ve never gone a day without my corset, and my sunbonnet keeps my skin as pale as a linen sheet. I try to rub tallow on my hands at night when I can to help the bleeding cracks on my palms.

This morning we hoed the garden and sowed a new row of potatoes. After that, I set the littlest girls to churning the butter while the older girls helped me make headcheese. We made six pies, five loaves of bread, a pan of crackers and a pot of hominy, so we should be well fed. Thank the Good Lord in Heaven. Food can be so scarce this time of year.

Pa had to whip all of the boys because he caught them throwing stones when they should’ve been plowing the oat field. We have no time for fooling. A good whipping should teach them right, I daresay.

Later in the day, I allowed the littlest girls to play with some sticks and corn cobs on a stump near the clearing, but I warned them to watch out for panthers in the trees above. The older girls were nearby doing the wash in the stream. While they did the laundry, I boiled some ashes that I’d been collecting from the cookstove and hearth into lye to make soap, and I carried six buckets of water up to the cabin from the well.

Pa has been talking about possibly making the long journey into town (25 miles) next week to trade some pelts so that I might be able to purchase some new calico. The children are growing quickly, and I haven’t had a new dress for myself in three years. I would also be pleased for him to stop by the post office and see if there is a letter from my sister back East. I miss her so and look forward to our yearly letter exchange. I’ll have to make myself some ink from pokeberries and set to writing her immediately.

Last night Pa shot a bear that was poking around near the chicken coop, and we were ecstatic. It had so much meat, and we can use the fur to make winter coats or perhaps a new blanket. I roasted some for dinner and the boys ate well after a long day in the fields.

After dinner, we will read scripture by lamplight and go to bed. Tomorrow I must iron, complete the hats I started sewing yesterday, mend socks, bake bread for the weekend, change the straw and feathers in the mattresses, and sweep the dirt floor of our house, so it really won’t be such a busy day at all. Perhaps when I finish I will be able to sit and have a cup of warm water. I’m saving the last scrapings of tea leaves in case we ever get company, which is quite unlikely, but one never knows. I can hope.

A Day in the Life of a Modern Mom

I’m so annoyed, like seriously. I can’t even. I have had the worst day. I need a Xanax.

This morning when I got up, Ava and Jake totally refused to do anything I asked, and I tried to tell them we were going to be late for preschool drop-off which would then mean that I would be late for yoga—okay, not late, but too late to get my favorite spot right in front of the mirror next to the teacher. Jake wouldn’t put on his shoes, and Ava gagged on the green juice I made her, which really upset me—because do you even understand what a hassle it is to drag the juicer out of the cabinet, not to mention how much I freaking hate cleaning the thing? Neither one of them would take their Omega-3 chewables or their probiotic drinks. It was nightmarish.

On top of that—I can’t even believe I did this—I forgot to charge their iPads overnight so that they could watch videos on the way to school of that family who unboxes toys while I try to use my Headspace app to meditate while I drive. The kids were near hysterical that they had no iPads for the drive.

After I finally loaded the kids into my Honda Odyssey, I saw that they had spilled vegan cheddar bunny crackers all over the floor. Then we got stuck in traffic because I had to pass three Starbucks on the way to preschool—all of them had drive-thru lines overflowing right out into the actual road. It is too much, really, and all I wanted was a venti cold brew with coconut mylk. It just wasn’t happening today, of course, on the day I needed coffee the most.

I managed to get the kids dropped off for the day only to find there was a sub at yoga—this new teacher who plays too much dubstep and I can’t stand her.

After powering through yoga, I had to go to Whole Foods, and there were no parking spots. I almost had a panic attack and I was out of chromium and resveratrol, so it was definitely an emergency. But we need more organic orange-scented butt wipes and I wanted fresher microgreens, so it wasn’t like I could skip a shopping trip today. And I had to get home in time to let the cleaning lady in! I was almost late.

When I got home, while Yolanda cleaned, I went online and ordered myself a waist trainer. All the Kardashians use them. They’re the newest thing, and they make your waist teeny. Then I ordered two shirts for $500 (such a great deal!) and by then it was time to pick up my birth control prescription at the drive-thru pharmacy and then go get the kids so I could take them to creative-movement and imaginative-play class, followed by a playdate at the park.

Except, when we got to the park, I couldn’t stop worrying about how dangerous it is there. There were bees and mosquitoes, and a kid could totally fall off a swing and get really hurt—like skin their knees or something, hurt. Besides that, the slide was hot from the sun. Not cool. The heat actually caused Jake discomfort.

I noticed that my Botox is wearing off and I need to book another appointment, and I am so pale, eww. I need to get a spray tan. I was so fried from such a hectic day that for dinner I completely slacked and made the kids grilled cheese. I know—gluten and casein. I’m so ashamed. I wish I had picked up a pack of vegan almond cheese at Whole Foods, but my kids are so picky.

Anyway, like I said, I was tired, so I bathed them, then gave them their iPads while I zoned out with mine and participated in a heated debate on Facebook with some crazy woman in Ohio who thinks it’s OK to give a baby formula. She claimed her milk dried up. I bet she didn’t even call a lactation consultant.

Then I FaceTimed with my friend Julee, and after that I took a cute pic of Ava and Jake with the dog and posted it to my Instagram before they finally went to bed and I could finish my bottle of wine.

Such a long day. Honestly, I don’t even know how I do it. Motherhood is exhausting.

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