Give the Perfect Book for Mother’s Day
By Catherine K. Arveseth
So many honest and helpful books about motherhood this year! I’m inclined to tout it as “The Year of the Mother.” So here they are. With my favorites at the top of the list to help you choose the perfect book for Mom, daughter, sister or friend on Mother’s Day.
The Mother in Me
Edited by Kathryn Lynard Soper
Moms with a literary heart will find this book absolutely golden. Edited by Kathryn Soper, Editor in Chief of Segullah https://segullah.org/ – a journal for Latter-day Saint women, The Mother in Me is a collection of essays and poems about growing into motherhood. Contributing writers are members of the Segullah staff – twenty-nine Latter-day Saint women from all over the states who write about the reality of mothering young children from pregnancy through kindergarten. They explore the complexities, hardship, humor and joy of family, self and faith.
Each essay or poem is intimate and personal in its perspective on motherhood. From miscarriage and infertility to the pain of stillbirth and the miracle of adoption, these women write openly and reflectively about expectations, disappointments, surprises and unconditional love – all wound together in the divine truth that motherhood matters. “Not just in the sentimental ways we talk about on Mother’s Day” writes Soper, “but in the gritty, lovely, everyday realities of life.”
These women write out of profession and passion. You will laugh aloud. You will cry pangs of understanding and cling to your children with changed intensity. The exhaustion of newborn nights and busy toddlers, the self-doubt as a first-time mother, and the ever-present dirt of domesticity – it’s all there. Intermixed with the exhilarating joy of one reciprocal connection – mother and child intertwined, dependent on each other.
Even in the face of loss, heartache and endless work, these women have found beauty. Their prose and poetry capture the unpolished dynamic flow of motherhood, the delights and sorrows, as well as the development of soul that happens along the way. The more you read, the more you will want to carve out time to preserve your own memories and mothering moments.
Beverly Campbell’s foreword speaks to this, as well as the book’s audience.
Mothers of young children, read this collection for yourselves; grandmothers, give it to your daughters and granddaughters. And as you peruse its pages, ponder those significant moments etched into your souls – and consider recording them. We cannot get those moments back, but we can hold on to them with words, making them as eternal as the relationship we so cherish (xvi).
The Mother in Me is also about discovery. Discovering something powerful within when you are terrified of losing yourself. Discovering the uniqueness of each child so you can embrace their challenges as well as their inclinations and abilities. As Soper’s title implies, we discover the mother inside us, not in the ease of a predictable, pleasant path, but in the most testing and wrenching circumstances. Motherhood makes us something we would never be otherwise – women who comprehend God and His parenthood in a deep and burning way.
Soper writes about this in her essay when she relates the birth of her first child.
The next few days and weeks proved more exhausting – and exhilarating – than I ever could have imagined. Through trial and error I learned how to breastfeed, clip itty-bitty fingernails, and shampoo a head other than my own. I proved myself capable of getting out of bed at 2 A.M., feeding someone else before I fed myself, and wiping another’s bottom without recoiling in disgust. The hours passed in a blur, supersaturated with emotion: bold pride and fierce protectiveness, fear and self-doubt, tenderness so deep it hurt. I never knew my body could give so much; I never knew my heart could feel so much. And I was awestruck by my new role…I had hopped the fence into adulthood, and I was overcome by the thrills and demands of reinventing myself, of finding the mother in me.
(Kathryn Lynard Soper, Introduction: Beginning, 2-3).
Below are several other excerpts – taken out of their context (unfortunately) – but meant to leave you wanting the thoughts and stories that surround them.
It was so hard – the all-encompassing, overwhelming business of being pregnant, taking care of the home, the children, the family. It was impossible! No one could do it all. And how could there be time for anything else? How could I ever make a contribution to society? I wanted to “feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and administer to their relief” like Mother Teresa and my other heroes. But how could I ever do all that if I couldn’t even get the family’s underwear clean?
(Ailene Long, Intent to Do Good, 131).
Painstakingly, lovingly, I had poured myself wholeheartedly into creating something magical, and it was obliterated in ten minutes. I don’t want to admit that, after thirteen years of dedicated motherhood, I am the mangled cake incarnate, disjointed and stripped of distinctiveness. I have given myself away, piece by piece, until my personality, my individuality, and my uniqueness have become obscured behind diapers, laundry, and meal preparation. Some days, in the midst of raising four children, I feel like nothing more than a live-in servant, a human Kleenex, a biddable geenie whose own dreams and wishes are set aside time and time again.
(Lisa Hardman, Wonder Mold Mother, 218)
We don’t need to know everything in order to be ready to learn anything new…I still have my own questions about being enough. I’m still disabled. I’m still woefully lacking in housekeeping skills. I’m not very good at crafty things, and I refuse to accumulate the hoard of scrapbooking bits necessary to produce professional results. I can barely knit, and I’m glad there’s no dusting-proficiency test.
Mostly though, I have no idea how to ensure that my children walk in truth, especially in a changeable world with unchangeable Truth. I don’t know how to teach them modesty in the midst of nakedness, etiquette within rudeness, to be in the world but not of worldly thoughts and gesticulation. I am daily unsure how to show them a rod that is clearly marked, but sometimes dimly lit or hidden by glaring neon signs pointing toward great and spacious surroundings. But I do know who holds the answers, and I know how to ask the Teacher my questions, not with a raised hand, but with a bowed head…How remarkable are the answers that come to mothers for their children…A whisper of comfort in their ear, and even more often, a whisper in my own.
(Heather Harris Bergevin, Giraffes Kiss, 94-95)
This last passage comes from one of my favorite essays. On the brink of delivering my second set of twins, I am feeling just a bit overwhelmed at the fast and furious child-raising ahead of me. Emily Halverson’s words grabbed hard at my heart.
This is my greatest desire and my greatest anxiety – that it’s going too quickly and that I’ve had too many children too fast, to be able to squeeze all the life and love out of these moments that I can. I feel as though I’m in a race against time to suck all of the joyful marrow out of each stage before it’s gone.
An experience I’d had years before had foreshadowed the melancholy of change that motherhood would inevitably bring. Eden and I felt it together, even though she was not yet three. I was rocking her to sleep, singing her usual request, “Where are you going, my little one, little one?…Turn around and you’re grown. Turn around and you’re a mother, with babes of your own.”
As I sang those words, my voice thick with emotion, Eden looked up with watery eyes. She held my cheeks in her palms, and with my face in her tiny hands she said, “Mom, that song makes me sad.”
“Me too, Eden.”
We sat there in the quiet for some time and allowed tears to slip softly down our cheeks, swaying in that third-generation rocking chair and comforting each other with our closeness. For that moment, our souls connected as equals, and we grieved…Many days were colored by the paradoxical perspective of not wanting life to change, yet wondering if I could bear its chaos a second longer. I’d wonder how I would make it through the next twelve hours before bedtime arrived, while worrying that those hours would never be enough to harvest all the possible joy. How could I want to fast-forward, pause, and rewind all in the same breath?
(Emily Halverson, Watch with Me, 236-237).
The Mother in Me goes down on my list as best mothering book this year. It is masterful in its honesty, literary worth and ability to inspire.
My next two recommendations fall close behind. All three are “must-haves” for mothers with young children.
A Mother’s Book of Secrets
By Linda Eyre and Shawni Eyre Pothier
Linda Eyre and Shawni Pothier’s book of “secrets” definitely lives up to its title, offering keys that will make motherhood more “memorable, meaningful, and magnificent.” The Eyres make a tremendous mother/daughter writing team because they speak from different places. One is a seasoned and successful grandmother – still changing diapers, (but not buying them, she says) and working through mothering challenges of a whole new nature. The other is a devoted and engaged mother still “in the trenches” (as she calls it) with five children at home between the ages of eleven and two. Pothier writes, “If anyone wants to know what a place called Wit’s End looks like, just ask me. I visit there quite often” (16). Their dual perspective is one of the book’s greatest strengths.
A Mother’s Book of Secrets is full of entertaining stories, as well as enchanting full-color photographic portraits taken by Pothier. Pothier’s work is captivating, her use of light and perspective stunning. I loved the undiluted joy in each priceless image, the faces of her own children (both happy and sad), the love of family, siblings, and parents – raw and full of emotion. Her work radiantly captures the creativity and magic of childhood.
My Mother loved this book because she could relate so well to Linda’s perspective. She raised us (her six children) with the Eyres in tow, reading every book they wrote, implementing a myriad of their suggestions, teaching us joy, and giving us all she had with Eyre encouragement ringing in her ears. For this reason, she poured over A Mother’s Book of Secrets, loving every page.
I loved that Pothier takes her mother’s advice (which is excellent), but molds it to meet the needs of her family, knowing her husband and children may need a variation on a certain theme or a more individualized approach. This makes the book particularly real and applicable.
The book is organized into five parts: Look for Light in the Trenches, Have an Organized Offense, Analyze, Kids are Like Puzzles, and Give Ownership. As I read, I grasped onto a number of good “secrets” I wanted to implement. Here are some of them, as well as a few passages that will give you a feel for the Eyre’s conversational style and authentic message.
Shawni – “Trenches Don’t Last”
I had been skimming through my Newsweek, trying desperately to catch a glimpse into the real world – that world that had become foreign to me in many ways ever since I took on the title of Mother. Amongst the articles about politics and world affairs was Ms. Quindlen’s article [about living in the moment]. As soon as I read [it], tears came pouring down my cheeks. Yes, I’m sure some pregnancy hormones were involved in my outburst, but most if it was the pure realization that I wasn’t living in the moment enough. Sure, the trenches of motherhood I was slogging through at that particular time in my life were deep. I couldn’t see out. There was no light whatsoever at the end of the tunnel (at least not on that day). But when I came to that paragraph I was struck with the thought that I needed to find the light in my trench of motherhood. I needed to soak up my babies. Because if Anna Quindlen was wishing she’d cherished the moment a little more, I was sure I’d be right there with her if I didn’t get my act together and enjoy the now a little more. Her trenches were gone…nothing but a faded memory. Mine were still deep, and I was going to live it up in there (4).
Linda – “A Plan for You”
You are the greatest asset your family has. In taking care of yourself, you preserve that asset. That is a business term, but it applies perfectly to our role as mothers (37).
Shawni – ‘Be Your Own Kind of Best Mom”
It was a day when my girls and I had a serious plan. Dave was out of town with our older two kids, so Grace, Claire, Lucy, and I packed up the double stroller, clicked on Gracie’s bike helmet, and headed out for a four-mile run to the library. The plan was to check out books, listen to story time, and I’d be a Library Mom for the afternoon.
Well, we never actually made it into the library; but I did return two books that were two months overdue in the drive-thru book return as we ran. We took a break to take in the beauty of the horses, the strange emu and four nice dogs on the way. We stopped at the riparian preserve behind the library and fed the ducks. Then the girls wanted to stay and play. So I sat there with them and hung out in the gorgeous weather. Suddenly it didn’t seem to matter that we were missing story time and the other Library Mom things I had planned.
While the older girls played to their hearts’ content, I worked with Lucy on recognizing each of her sisters and showing me where her nose is. On the way home we looked for signs of spring and gathered a whole armful of wild flowers to bring home with us. I was compassionate both times Grace fell of her bike and howled like she was going to die because of a tiny scrape. I may not have been the Library Mom I had always longed to be, but I was the kind of mom my kids needed that day. And it felt good (80).
Linda – “Number One”
There are so many fabulous mothers in the world! I have seen their resilience, their creativity, their undying devotion to the quest of helping their children become the very best they can be. I know their devotion to their cause and I know that nothing deters them from thinking of inspiring ways to help struggling children. But sometimes I think we are better mothers than we are wives. I may be the leader in this fallacy. I remember clearly saying to Richard after the birth of our ninth child and after finding his dishes left around the house, “Richard, I have nine children and I really don’t think I can have ten children! You have got to take care of yourself!
I was right about his needing to put away dishes but dead wrong in thinking that he had to take care of himself. My very first priority, even if it doesn’t mean equal time, is loving my husband and nurturing that relationship through all the pandemonium of living that goes on at our house (82).
Shawni – “Attitude”
I guess what makes me frustrated is that I realize days like the one just described – yes, it all happened in the same, real day – was tough because of me and my attitude. I’m the mother, and because of that, I had the power to make a day like this one better. My attitude makes all the difference. And it’s not a little difference. It’s big. It’s huge. It can change the outcome of an entire day. Of course we can’t always be “on.” We can’t always have great little ideas for our kids that we explain in a cheerful way. Sometimes we just have an awful day. But when we can muster up a good attitude, it sure makes a difference! (92)
Linda – “Who is this Kid Anyway?”
As far as I’m concerned, one of the silliest bits of “wisdom” ever imparted to parents goes like this: “Children are like lumps of clay, and parents are the sculptors.” This leads parents to believe that with the proper time and influence children can be shaped into whatever parents would like them to be. So not true! I’d rather think of children as seedlings. Even though tiny seedlings look very similar as they sprout, in the end they will become who they are. Some will produce flowers – sunflowers, delphiniums, or snapdragons. Some will produce fruits – apples, oranges, and yes, even lemons. But they are who they are! A sunflower can’t be changed to an apple no matter how hard you try! The secret to how well each little seedling grows to become its best self depends on the gardener giving it the appropriate light, water, fertilizer, and love (99).
Eyre and Pothier’s secrets range from a shift in thinking like the ones mentioned above to actual tools like a thirty-minute Sunday Planning Session, a Mom’s Day Away, and the Five-Facet Review (discussing as parents your children’s status physically, mentally, socially, emotionally, and spiritually). Each bit of advice is practical, helpful and insightful – not to mention absolutely delightful. A Mother’s Book of Secrets is a treasure – for its photography, rich perspective and extremely useful wisdom. It is a beautiful book any mother of any age will enjoy.
By Mariah Covey Cole
I have nothing but praise for this book. I reviewed Contentment last month. For an in-depth review, click here. Cole made a contribution of inestimable worth by identifying the quality most women are looking for but do not realize is there for the taking. Her book is about being content “with the things the Lord has allotted us” (Alma 29:3). And finding that contentment in motherhood. She writes,
Over the course of many years and many conversations, I have found that the subject of contentment is near and dear to the hearts of women – especially mothers. Yet this feeling tends to elude us all too frequently. Often, women don’t articulate the feelings of discontentment they may have but rather allow them to simmer beneath the surface until they finally boil over in frustration. To make it okay to talk about finding contentment validates these very real feelings…and indicates two things: (1) One has to look for contentment; and (2) Contentment is there for the finding (2).
Contentment is for all mothers, especially those with young or teenage children. I bought copies for all my sisters, even the ones without children; it was spilling over with such strong, sound and selfless thought.
And those are my top three recommendations for Mother’s Day.
Two other books to consider are Daughters of God by M. Russell Ballard and Saying it Like it Is by Sheri Dew. Daughters of God features three classic messages from Elder Ballard about the divine role of women and a foreword by Sheri Dew.
Saying it Like it Is is a gem of a little book that highlights some of Dew’s most unflinching, honest and beloved insights. Scattered throughout the book are photographs Dew took herself while traveling throughout the world – many of which carry special meaning for her. Both books would make thoughtful gifts for any mother or woman in your life you wish to remember on Mother’s Day.
For an audio interview with Linda Eyre & Shawni Eyre Pothier on “A Mother’s Book of Secrets,” Click Here.
For an audio interview with Maria Covey Cole on “Contentment,” Click Here.
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