It’s been out a while now. Maybe most people have already devoured their copies. Or at least read a review or two. But even so, I feel compelled to add my voice to the chorus of praise. Because a good book can never be overpraised.
Last night I read the last page, turned the page and realized it was the last, and wanted to cry. It’s over!?! But I only just started! At least there’s still daniellebean.com(Well, actually, it looks like now she’s on summer vacation. But she’ll be back soon. With more stories that make you laugh, cry, or both; stories that inspire as well as entertain. And cute pictures of her kids, which the book doesn’t have, its one flaw.)
The passages that particularly spoke to me:
In the end, I’ve rejected all the expert parenting philosophies. This isn’t because there’s anything particularly bad about any of them. Experience has simply led me to employ a different parenting philosophy in their place: my own. I call mine Do What Works Best for Your Family
Amen! Preach it, sister! After reading at least half a dozen parenting books, I’ve just about come to the same conclusion. It’s always good to have one’s own decisions supported by a friend and here’s my good friend, Danielle, affirming my gut reaction: forget the books, pay attention to my needs, Dom’s needs, Bella’s needs. What works for us is what works for us. But of course, I didn’t come up with a snazzy title for it.
Some women might not like what I have to say here, but because it has helped me so much in marriage so much, I’m going to just grit my teeth and say it. I think that modern so-called feminist thinking has done a great deal of damage to marriage by creating the expectation of a 50/50 sharing of household and childcare duties, particularly in families where one spouse works full time.
This much I have learned: if you keep score, everybody loses. The constant worrying and arguing about who does what, who did it last time, and who does more is not only unpleasant—it’s exhausting. And it makes everyone miserable. What ever happened to giving without counting the cost?[snip]
Ultimately, I find that splitting housework, like most other parts of marriage, works out best when both spouses worry less about fairness to themselves and consider the other person’s needs first. My work in the home serves my husband and makes his life easier and more pleasant—he appreciates that. And his work outside the home provides for our family’s material needs and enables me to stay home with the children—I appreciate that. It’s not a bad deal for either of us, really.
Stop keeping score, do what needs to be done, put your husband’s needs first. There, that wasn’t too hard. Why does it sound like such a revelation? Why does it feel so refreshing to hear it put so plainly? it needed to be said and now the air feels much clearer.
Now, in our house Dom does most of the cooking. He likes to cook and I really appreciate that. Because while sometimes I find cooking fun, doing it day in and day out feels like a chore. While I’m bragging on my husband, I’ll add that he also does dishes and puts his dirty laundry in the hamper. And takes out the garbage. And cleans up around the house. And changes diapers and gets up with the baby in the middle of the night. And I always tell him how much I appreciate these contributions to domestic tranquility and recognize them for the acts of love they are. But above all I recognize that he takes the hardest, dirtiest job of all for himself: he leaves the house every morning to go to an office and work while I get to be at home and play with the baby. Words can’t express how much I appreciate the sacrifice he makes for me and Bella.
All of which was a prologue to saying that even given all that, I still felt a little lingering cloud of feminist anxiety. Thanks, Danielle for opening up the window.
I also love the section where Danielle talks about treating sleep-deprived days as emergencies:
I would contend that situations like these are precisely why God gave us the wonderful gifts of baby swings, DVD players, and frozen foods.
You shouldn’t feel guilty about using emergency measures to survive an emergency situation.
But my favorite chapter is titled “Can I Really Have a Spiritual Life While Caring for All These Little People?” Danielle reassures us that we really can’t have it all. “The fact is, however, that the most any of us can do is ‘the best we can’ with what we are given—our individual abilities and circumstances.”
She reassures mothers of young children that we are called to an active, not a contemplative life:
This means that while spiritual meditation, daily Mass, and lengthy Scripture studies are noble and worthwhile pursuits, they are not necessarily the particular ways in which God is calling you to a closer relationship with him during this stage in your life. [emphasis mine]
What God wants most from anyone at any stage in life is cheerful obedience to his will. The fact that a young family requires your near-constant attention is a pretty clear indication of God’s will for the ways in which you should spend your days.
Whew, again she clears away some of the weights that have unnecessarily been weighing me down. I want to be more contemplative and so often feel guilty when I fall asleep during morning prayer or have to put the book away, office unfinished, to feed the baby her breakfast. But it’s not a Get Out of Jail Free card that Danielle is handing out. She also acknowledges that it can be easy to make excuses for yourself:
Of course, I don’t have time for daily prayer, I find myself nodding in agreement. I have all these little kids to care for! And of course, I can’t make it to weekday Mass—I’m just trying to keep my head above water! Scripture study? Not with my schedule! The Rosary? In your dreams!
She explains that she scrutinized her schedule, documented how she was actually spending her time, and compared it with her priorities. And discovered that she did have time to do all sorts of things that were much lower down on her priority list.
It’s about being honest with ourselves. Recognizing our situation, our limitations for what they are, God’s will for us. But also not making excuses, not letting God be second best.
There are so many wonderful nuggets of gold in this book. I’ll leave the rest for you to dig out yourself. Trust me, if you’re a mom, you want this book. The chapters are short. You can read one in the bathroom. I found this book migrating out of the bathroom, though. It followed me to the couch, to the kitchen table, to my nightstand. I read a chapter before my nap, another while the baby was playing with her green peas, another while I should have been doing something important; but I forgot what it was. Anyway, I don’t want to go on too long. I’m pregnant and tired and have to leave time to pray before going to bed. But I couldn’t let a day go by without sharing the good news of Mom to Mom, Day to Day: Advice and Support for Catholic Living. The thought that there might be someone who hadn’t heard of it yet was threatening to keep me up at night.
Next time I see my sister-in-law, Evy, I’m bringing her the book. I suspect she may need it.