Saturday, February 23, 2008

Book Review!

Maybe it’s the timing. I recently read Shant "1,001 Nights in Iraq" based on his experience being trapped in Iraq for nine years and eventually getting out alive. Its a fascinating tale of a man stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time. Despite a horrible situation, which he had little control over, he maintained his integrity and honor, facing adversity with dignity.Shant's book ends with his faith intact and his outlook positive.

Then I picked up Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile's "I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids: Reinventing Modern Motherhood" This was a non-stop whine-fest penned by two middle class American moms about how hard it is to raise two kids and I knew I just had to break out the big guns.

Why did I read it? I thought the title was intriguing and it's obviously a topic rather close to home. According to the Amazon blurb, this book is supposed to help today's moms discover why they are 1) not happy, 2) overwhelmed with guilt and 3) faced with such huge expectations. I never had so much trouble getting through a book. For those of you who know me (and hugs to you all), that says something. I think the reason I had such trouble is because I was stopping every other page to yell, "Where the hell did you come up with that idea?"

Now the clever person would have sense enough to stop yelling at an inanimate object and put it down, but not me! I kept hoping that if I pushed through, I'd get to the helpful, insightful, uplifting part. Instead I found such gems as, "I thought having a baby would be like having a pet - oh, this will be cute, we'll be this happy little family." (no, I'm not kidding, it's on p.20) or, "I'm continually running away from my children. I love them but they just drain me. There's a poof of smoke at 2:30 pm when my help arrives and I fly out the door." (p. 30).

So now I've read the entire book, wrote a review on Amazon and am fired up enough to blog ("Yay!" says my friend Gail. "Oh Lordy!" sighs the rest of the crowd)

I think the answer to all the angst in the book is quite possibly the best line published in the English language: "It's not about you." (from The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren). Allow me to explain.

The authors start with the dedications that read "For (the children); we simply adore you. And for (the husbands), for being what matters most." Then they spend the rest of the book telling us how frustrated they are being moms and how the husbands just don't get it. This seems to me to be a contradiction. How can you have the deep rich relationships without the hard and dirty work that goes with it? That's what makes relationships valuable, the price you had to pay for it.

And who told these ladies that motherhood was about being happy? I love Leo Rosten's quote (its posted on my refrigerator): "I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all."

Yes, it gets draining: the dirty diapers, the whiney kids, the endless laundry. But the point is that this is the battle for a higher purpose: to be useful and contribute to making someone else's life better.

It would seem from reading this book that a lot of women quoted within do not realize the purpose of children. I don't pretend to have the answer to that question but one thing I do know is that children are not accessories, a check mark in our "List of Things to Do in Life". They are the refineries of the metal that is your character. With the right attitude, you will be a better person for having been a mother. With the wrong attitude, you're just killing time until the next event.

My dear husband, always the voice of reason, said, "Well what book would you suggest?" And that got me to thinking. I really don't have one book to recommend. My ideas about motherhood have been formed from 10 years of experience, reading (both motherhood books and non-motherhood books) and divinely inspired older women. Really, what it comes down to is realizing who God is in my life and what he has planned for me. Knowing what my larger purpose is doesn't make the pee on the floor or the markers on the couch go away (or even make me happy to deal with them) but it does put perspective on the circumstances and helps me cope better with the challenges of raising my five little darlings.

So now I need to be inspired. I'm going to read "The Bielski Brothers" by Peter Duffy. Its about three Jewish brothers, whose own families were taken to concentration camps during WWII, helped over 1,000 Jews (young and old) to escape to the forests of Poland to avoid the Nazis. How can such a depressing topic be inspiring? Because these brothers saw the bigger purpose in their lives, to live beyond themselves and face their challenge without whining.


Barbara in California said...

Wow, I can't believe I read the blog on the same day as the most recent post! You go girl! Do keep in mind that being a mom is certainly an "in" thing these days and the sad part is the mommies in the book are not satisfied with any part of their lives, not really. We should be sad for them for the lack on depth they experience.
Someday when I have finished being a student (and, yes, I should be studying right this moment) I will pick up one of the other books you mentioned.
Love, Mamala

GE is me said...

Yes, I was saying YAY! that my friend blogged! I absolutely love your insightfulness. (hhmmmm - spellchecker is telling me that I'm using a lot of words not in their dictionary.) So you say you've gained wisdom from divinely inspired older women my question to you is what does that make you to me? 'Cuz sista you are quite often divinely inspiring to me. :)
I thought for sure you'd say something about managing widgets.
Ah well, if I could be half as inspiring & entertaining as you.....
On those notes my sickly self must go to bed.

Thomas and Lisa said...

It is terribly sad that today's society views children as such a bother. Yes, I have 4 children and the job of parenting and teaching them is not easy. But I don't know many worthwhile things that are easily accomplished. There is no other job on this earth more important than being a mother.