A book review: The Mom Walk
Sally Clarkson is one of my favorite mom-ish writers. In moments of desperation I have bought many kinds of parenting books. I probably have 15 or 20 at this point. Most of them have been started but not finished. It is a rare day for me to finish a book. My friend Kim gave me a one to read several years back called The Mission of Motherhood. I read it, skimmed it, didn’t really get all of it. I knew there was a great deal of rich truth in it, I just was so new to the journey and was quite possibly fairly overwhelmed with a firstborn who had significant health problems and a new baby who was extremely challenging in other ways.
About two years ago I read another one of Sally’s books, The Ministry of Motherhood. I finished it in two weeks. It resonated so much with the heart that God was beginning to develop in me for this new task of parenting. About that time someone very close to me, whose opinion mattered greatly to me, told me something I’ve not been able to forget. We were talking about a family member and another woman in our lives. She said the same thing about them both.
“They have poured themselves so much into raising their children. They have given everything they have. They haven’t made time for themselves to do other things. I wonder if they even know who they are anymore. ” But it was said with such a disapproving tone. One that communicated volumes to me. It told me that the investment they made was somehow not enough. That they needed to be also working at a ‘real job’, volunteering at church, taking up hobbies for fun, signing up for graduate school, something more. It left me feeling like I didn’t measure up to her standard and that somehow I should be able to have both worlds. Hobbies, work, volunteering, school and mothering too.
I was seriously thinking about quitting working my part time job at the time. I didn’t do it for a long time. I wanted to be able to ‘maintain my own self and life’ to ‘earn money and contribue to our finances’ and to ‘get another degree behind my name’. My marriage suffered. My kids suffered. My heart was split down the middle. Working with a needy population as a social worker. Taking care of 3 kids 4 and under. A husband in a challenging ministry position that meant our life was observed by a lot of people all the time.
I finally did quit working. When I did I felt like I let so many people down. I could not do it all. I could not have this great job and raise these sweet kids and serve at church and support my husband the way he needed me. I simply couldn’t do it. In those overwhelmed, trying-so-hard-to-live-up-to-it-all months I heard God whisper to my heart over and over…they need your whole heart, you have to let it go, trust me to provide for you, let go. This job was something I adored. It was fulfilling, I saw people’s lives changed, I could provide tangible help for them. I was proud of the 7 years I spent doing it. It broke my heart to move on.
This may seem like a big tangent from the book, but all this to say that Sally’s perspective on mothering is unique and bold in that she is not afraid to speak to the issue of mom’s being at home and raising their children. I am quite sure it has cost her, it isn’t a popular opinion. But it’s what God has spoken to her heart and it is powerful. The Mom Walk was refreshing and just the reminder my heart needed for where I am at.
If there is one area almost all mothers I have ever talked to complain about, it is how inadequate they feel to fulfill their roles as good mothers…There are so many standards they feel they must live up to….Our teeth should be white, our bodies tight and sleek, our clothes ever hip. Our house must be straight, organized and decorated as perfectly as a Pottery Barn catalog home. Nutritious homemade meals should be an every night affair. Reading to our intellectual children should be a daily habit after we’ve hosted stimulating devotionals….this is a recipe for discouragement and depression.
When I am accepting the limitations of my life and learning to dance through each day because of the joy I have from being accepted by God, my attitude helps fill their cups and make them feel that they are a part of a happy home…it sets a tone of love and joy in my home that feeds their own hearts with life and love.
Goodness, this has gotten too long. All this to say, it’s taken four children but I am learning to let go and to walk confidently in the role God’s given me for this season. I didn’t apply for grad school, I didn’t keep working at the job I loved, I didn’t keep giving of my time at church, I didn’t limit God’s plan for our family to include two children like I thought I wanted to, I didn’t pursue new hobbies or even keep up with old ones, I didn’t keep slaving away in efforts at top notch cleanliness, I didn’t do a lot of things I felt great pressure to do.
But I am doing the things I’m supposed to be doing right now. I am spending my days with four energetic little loves that amaze me and bless me and exhaust me. I am loving my husband the best I know how. I am trying to simply love and bring life to whatever people cross my path every day.
The books I’ve read of Sally’s are the most written in, loved ones on my shelf. They speak deeply to my heart. They have encouraged and equipped me to do what I am doing right now…trying to get wild crazy boys to sleep without biting their heads off in the process. Choosing relationships with my children over rigid rules is a overriding theme in her books and it’s one that is continually shaping the way I interact with my kids.
Sally’s blog is always a blessing too, it can be found here.