My Practices of Mothering - A Book Review

Stretching like a giraffe.
Arms swept high above their busy minds.
Legs sharply pointed downward, toes aligned.

And the giggles.
Oh the laughter.

Allllll at 4:00 AM in the morning.

Sure there was lightening. Little thunder. Not enough to pass off their alert and oh so very awake state on. 

But the snickers were too much. The infectious giggles, making it impossible for me to hold back my own chuckles here and there. 

What little girls think of doing animal yoga at 4:00 AM? Chances are, more than I give credit for.

This is not to mention their excitement in discovering various letters they can create with their little fingers. They have been awake far too long. I'm now convinced. 

It's no secret to those whom I talk books with that I believe Sarah Bessey to be one of the most significant Christian voices at this time. She often has shared that Jesus Feminist was the book she was meant to write. If this is so, Jesus Feminist is the book I was meant to read.

As anticipation for her new book, Out of Sorts, continues to grow I'm drawn back, once again, to her very first published writing, My Practices of Mothering.

If Jesus Feminist is the book I was meant to read, My Practices of Mothering is the book I was meant to live.

Very near to Sarah's story, Jake and I had three babies in just shy of four years. There has to be another word other than intense to describe mothering in this season. If so, I have not yet found it.

The tension of engaging and embracing the beauty of the everyday as I wade through the depths of caked grime, loud words, constant demands, EMOTIONS, and little rest, has often found me gripping tightly to the railings outside our bedroom doors.

Resting there with both hands pressed hard against wooden barrier I often have to catch my breath and remember the wise words of Ann Voskamp, "Nothing is an emergency. Only amateurs hurry".

It was by chance that I came across My Practices of Mothering. I'm sure it was a late night or dark morning. Those slow hours I'm often offered the space to soak in words and thoughts, through dark ease of the evening or the shadows welcome before the sunlight.

And in those dark hours, those hours of more questions than affirmations I began reading.

"But the truth is: I enjoy mothering. I enjoy it a lot. Even the daily quotidian rhythms of it are good, good, good. 
I even enjoyed those years when I couldn't leave the house without someone sympathetically commenting 'Wow, your hands are full.' 
Not because I have it all figured out and do things right all of the time (I don’t). 
Not because I’m the best mother in the world (I’m not). 
Not because my tinies are absolutely perfect and the gold standard of childhood (they’re not - trust me). 
And not because every day is filled with rainbow-and-unicorns-and-cupcakes (I wish). 
No, the reason I enjoy mothering tinies on the day-to-day grind is mainly because I do this stuff. And it helps me."

How I could relate. Sarah, once again, was singing my song. I knew I needed her help, her stuff, as I stood in the very center of truly enjoying motherhood while also feeling very lost all at the same time.

My Practices of Mothering is not about advice or suggestions or even making a one-size-fits-all version of motherhood. It's about offering permission. It's about increased empathy and gentle reminders that we, as mothers and fathers, have all we need to love our children and parent well. Parenting is very, very hard work and Sarah understands that. She understands that it's constant and tiring. You get the feeling that she, too, has spent hours sorting out the mess and struggles, beauty and delight of motherhood and that the last thing she would want is someone telling her what to do as she worked through her own exhaustion and joy.

What she shares though, in her years of parenting three tinies, is that through mothering, parts of her heart were exposed to the torrential and refreshing rains of the everyday. It was here in the rain she had a choice. Whether to live into and embrace the brokenness or simply exist sit down and drive.

Sarah continues, "I call them Practices because that’s what us Christians have often called spiritual disciplines, but really they’re just things I do over and over again, kneading them like yeast into my life. Everyone has their own practices. Most of mine come from my own parents but then I picked up a few others from books or friends or mentors. And my practices may not work for you and your family. After all, this is just what worked for me, right then, in that season."

What reading through and building into these disciplines did was offer me permission. Permission to make space, acknowledge, and honor this season of mothering while also reminding me of simple ways which I can more fully embrace it. 

Over a year after first taking in Sarah's words I'm reminded of her practices once again as I sit with these two giggly girls in the 4:00 AM hour.

Remember, speak life instead of shame.

Remember, assign positive intent, not blame.

Remember, offer realistic expectations, not personal control.

Remember, replace harsh punishments with gentle discipline not .

These girls need permission to be girls. When everything in me wants to speak harsh dark words of, "GO TO SLEEP!" "What are you doing up?" "BE QUIET!", to remember that it's in mornings such as these that memories are created, that margins in life are meant for embracing. It's in moments like these that I must embrace realistic expectations, speak gentle words, remember they are people too and, perhaps join them in a round, or two, of animal yoga.