Friday, August 8, 2014

Parenting Books Part II

To be completely honest, I had no intention of reading Momnipotent. I wasn't even sure if I would read it once I found it in my swag bag. I flipped through the pages and saw that some of the pages had flowery designs and instantly remembered that my femininity was broken.

But, it was suddenly in my adoration bag, and seemed like a nice contrast to The Screwtape Letters. The chairs in the adoration chapel are uncomfortable, and awkward when you fall asleep, so I try to read.

The author, Danielle Bean, really is easier to relate to for me than the other authors on parenting that I have read. (I might not have burst into tears over turtle food, but I have found myself pregnant and literally stuck in a pantry while I sobbed on the floor. It's nice to be reminded that I am not the only imperfect mom out there!) It might just be that I am in a different place in life. When I read now, my mind sometimes floats towards "What am I getting out of this?" or "What do I want others to know about this book? While I am only halfway through it, Momnipotent certainly has some points for me to consider, though to be frank, I skip over the true/false quizzes and the answers that are sprinkled through out because they are not what gets the gears turning and they feel sort of obvious to me.


Bean makes sure to hit the popular subject of femininity. I mean, come on. It is a book about being a mom, right? We are living in the midst of the Mommy Wars and opinions that never end about what women are all about. She includes quotes from St. John Paul II that I know very well. Bean asks and answers "Where do we find our worth?"

I am not sure I am satisfied with the answer to this question that is given by many Catholics, including myself at times. My "feminine genius" does not feel feminine at all. While I might experience more emotions than my husband, the emotion I feel most often is annoyance at all the emotions with which women are saddled. I don't watch Lifetime for Women (Project Runway doesn't count.) and I don't really appreciate rom coms. I don't fit the stereotype. I am not a nurturing mother, if I am being completely honest. I don't know how to be that, and it certainly does not come naturally when my children need it from me.

All this the femininity and "different yet equal" talk prompts for me, is more questions.

What happens when your feminine genius is broken?

What does it mean if accessing the "feminine strengths" is just as hard as it is for you to pee in a urinal?

I can start to build answers to these questions by asking myself where my worth comes from, and I believe that the answers extend past motherhood. Every person: single, married, religious ordered, man, woman, teen, and child has to figure out answers to that question often throughout life, and the answer changes.

The Morning Offering

Bean has some reflections on The Morning Offering that are helpful. Mostly, that it is a good prayer for me to remember and to try to teach the kiddos. Let's be real: it is hard to hear The Prayer Before Meals 45 times a day. I will shoot for a little variety in the weeks to come. But. I still have to ask:

Who are these moms that find a way to include prayer time into the day to day life?! Am I doomed if I have trouble getting a handle on my own prayer life? I worry that I am just not built for that. Why does it feel so much more difficult to accomplish for my life than it looks in others?

Mom Martyrdom

In my SAHM circles, I hear this theme often. I also hear it in the working mom circles, because don't we all have roughly the same list of things to accomplish? Bean touches on this issue, but I wasn't entirely satisfied with the conclusion.

I get it. There are times when I do things that need to be done for the wrong reasons. Sometimes I might do it just to prove I can, or to try to yank out a "WOW, MOM/WIFE! You are the most amazing person in the entire universe and I will never be able to thank you enough." Care to guess how many times that has worked?

The vast majority of the time, I am merely trying to pull my weight. If I had to spend my days away from the house and come home to a mess I did not create or supervise, I would feel like crap. So, the drive to finish the to-do list has less to do with martyrdom and more to do with putting in my fair share of the work.

Realistically, in our situation, there are two adults that are responsible for all household duties, including financial support. If one of us can't do it, is it really martyrdom to accept that you are responsible for that task when you have the more adjustable schedule?

To conclude, I am interested to finish the book, and I don't mean this to be a criticism of Momnipotent more than I mean to talk about the questions that books on the subject of Catholic parenting continually raise. I am truly looking to hear your input on the matter: I'd love to talk about it with others that are facing, have faced or one day might face the same questions.


  1. As a 38-year-old woman, I love the Morning Offering. I was never taught to pray in the morning as a child, and I just learned the morning offering within the last few years. It is definitely one that I am teaching to me children.

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts. I am not sure yet that I need to read the book. I think I will wait to decide until after I read your final thoughts! :)

    1. So far, I have not come across much that is "fresh," you know? It is not a painful read or anything but I don't know that it is a must have for me.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jess! There is so much here. I have worked hard over the years to accept what I have chosen and been given in this life. It has taken me years to grow in my faith and I still have a ways to go. We incorporate prayer in small, simple ways and try to do it at least a few times a week so it commits to everyone's memory. I do get down in the dumps if I talk or read too much about what others are doing to enrich their children's lives through prayer or whatever else.
    Humility before God is what I always come back to when I struggle with comparisons or feeling inferior in some way. I am here to serve God and my family. There has been such an ebb and flow to motherhood and being a wife for me. Now that my oldest is only a few years away from leaving I cherish things I never used to. This ebb and flow has also shown me that things are never really easy just always changing.
    You said you do not see yourself as nurturing... I have had times when I seem to lack what I think my kids might need from me. I came from a home of super - yellers and so I default to that type of over-reacting sometimes. So now I look at our liturgical year as Catholics as a way for me to challenge myself to break out of those molds.
    Well, those are my thoughts and I can't wait for your final thoughts on the book. Thanks for writing this!

    1. I think that is why I tend to skip parenting books: I feel more like me if I am doing things how I would do it instead of trying to match someone else. I'm not a hugely affectionate person, and I like my space. Those things can seem contrary to being a parent, so it is more work for me in rather ordinary ways than I think others experience. I don't hear about a spectrum or different feminine abilities, only comparing/contrasting them to masculine abilities, so it just gets frustrating to hear strengths or traits lauded as feminine genius when I seem to lack them, I suppose. Thanks for your input!

    2. I know the term "feminine genius" is supposed to be positive but maybe it just creates another standard we try to live up to :)

  3. I have wondered about this book. I, too, feel like I'm not a "typical" girl. I don't feel nurturing and I also don't pray as much as I should.. I don't much of anything as much as I should do

  4. I find most parenting books not particularly helpful, but I just finished the most amazing book that is written for everyone (of any faith): The Jesuits Guide to (Nearly) Everything by James Martin, SJ. It's a book about taking an Ignatian approach to life (and explains that for those of us who were hazy on the concept), and I finished it and am about to start from the beginning to catch what I'm sure I missed. Maybe it's just the right book at the right time for me (currently transitioning from being a high-functioning professional to a SAHM with baby #3, combined with a cross-country move and other major life transitions, so lots going on here), but I think it's really worth a read, perhaps because the audience is so broad instead of the usual mommy books.

    1. I think I have heard the author is pretty great. Thanks for the rec! It sounds like it is more up my alley.


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