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Why Modern Motherhood is So Much Harder than it Ought to Be, Part 2: What You Can Do About It

The first post in this series, talked about some of our “handicaps,” the ways modern society is set up to make being happy and successful as a stay at home mother much harder than it really should be. The end of that post, said that in order to overcome these handicaps, “You may also have to put yourself through rehabilitation and physical therapy for your attitudes.” Cristina wrote in and asked, “Please can you post an article about how to change the attitudes and start to rehabilitate?”

Here is my attempt at that post for Cristina. In a lot of ways I am still very much in rehabilitation myself. I still have so much to learn! But over the past several years, my attitudes really have changed. I have gone from feeling utterly worthless, forgotten, and sidelined to feeling excited, hopeful, and privileged.  I came to this new outlook along a very circuitous route, so I’ve tried to organize the steps I’ve taken into a more logical order to present them here. I don’t know if any of the things that have helped me will help others, but perhaps it will at least be encouraging to know that it is possible to change your cultural mindset, your value system, and your worldview.

Step 1: Exonerate Yourself and Your Noble Profession

The world has two lies about being a stay-at-home wife and mother: 1. that it’s easy, and 2. that it’s boring, depressing drudgery. So when we come to the realization that being at home isn’t easy, we are often tempted to blame ourselves and think that we’re somehow deficient in raw mothering material or innate womanly talent. And if our experience is one of boring, depressing drudgery, a lot of us never even think to do anything about it because it doesn’t occur to us that we can (short of returning to our previous employment). So the first step in rehabilitation is just to understand that these are lies, and give yourself permission to live like they are. The truth is that being a stay-at-home wife and mother is challenging and rewarding. Some of it does involve repetitive work, but so does being a lawyer, engineer, or organic farmer, and those professions don’t have anywhere near the bad reputations that mothering does. I don’t know you, but I can pretty much guarantee that the reason you’re struggling is NOT that you are too stupid, or too naturally disorganized, or just not enough of a “kid person” to succeed at this job. I can also tell you that you don’t have to be depressed or bored. Decide right now that you are going to turn your back on the world’s vision and do whatever it takes to get one of your own.

Step 2: Renew your mind

You can’t really get rid of a wrong way of thinking unless you have a better way of thinking to replace it. This is perhaps the strongest force for change in my life. There’s a saying, “You are what you think.” And it has certainly been true for me. Five years ago, while bouncing my first baby in her sling I read a book standing up that turned my whole world upside down. I was elated for weeks. I told my husband that finally I understood what I was supposed to be doing. The cloudy feeling of uselessness lifted. I got it. It was one of the biggest “Aha!” moments of my life. The book was Mary Pride’s The Way Home. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Another wonderful book that might have changed my life if it had been published when I was still feeling lost is Jennie Chancey and Stacy McDonald’s Passionate Housewives Desperate for God. Even though I read it recently, I still found it tremendously encouraging.

Both of these books will help you to glimpse how high your calling is and will shatter the myths of the world about your worth as a woman and your potential in the home. Get yourself some used copies and read them while you nurse the baby after the big kids are asleep.

Step 3: Find Fellowship

Nothing helps so much in any exercise program, whether physical or mental, as having friendly folks to do it with you. Mothers at home can feel isolated, lonely, and downright weird sometimes. It can make all the difference in the world to find other women who are working on the same things you are. If they don’t go to your church or live in your neighborhood, there’s always the community of cyberspace. Finding like-minded women on the Internet has been a tremendous source of strength and grounding for me.

A great place to find friends is through blogs. And for that Ladies Against Feminism is a great resource. Not only will you find lots of helpful articles on all aspects of being a wife, mother, and homemaker, but a great many of their articles are in the form of links to various blogs. Find some blogs that are encouraging to you, and become a regular commenter. Before you know it, you’ll be getting to know other commenters as well as the gal who writes the blog.

You can also visit other blogs and start reading the comments to look for other women you might have things in common with or want to learn from and start reading their blogs. Two great blogs with lots of encouraging content and a high volume of readers are Generation Cedar and Domestic Felicity. And it goes without saying that I’d love to get to know you here on my blog as well! ;)

Step 4: Tackle your personal problem areas

OK, so you get to the point where you no longer feel like a stupid, deficient, worthless freak, but you still feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. Now’s the time to get specific about you. Make a list of the things that feel out of control in your life. Realize that they probably bother you because you lack the necessary skill set to deal with them, and then, like any good student, work on your three R’s: research, research, and research. Start with the area that gives you the most trouble, and work until you find some solutions. Talk to people. Search the Internet. Read books. And then, try it! Implement what you’ve learned. But this is the most important part, pay close attention: Give yourself permission to fail. You might have to try something several times before you get it. It is only in failing that you will be able to find the gaps in your knowledge and ability so that you can then go out and find the missing pieces. Don’t give up in despair. Few things ever go right the first time.

Nowhere was this more true in my life than in the area of cooking. When I got married, I did NOT know how to cook. Meal plans from my first year included things like spaghetti from a jar and pot pies. That gets old pretty fast, so bit by bit I learned to make the things I wanted to be able to eat. Making my own whole wheat bread was something that was always a dream of mine, so once a week, I baked a loaf. It never rose. We ate it hot with lots of butter to accompany our canned soup every Thursday evening. The next week, I would try a different recipe, which would likewise flop. For weeks I did this. For weeks we ate dense, flat bread. I kept trying to find out why my bread wouldn’t rise. I learned all about proper kneading technique, homemade dough enhancer, and vital wheat gluten. And you know what? Today I can make fabulous bread (if I do say so myself)…as long as I use packaged yeast. Sourdough is my next project, and I’ve already had one glorious failure, so I’m well on my way to mastery.

Here are some things that I’ve struggled with over the years along with some resources that helped me grow in each area. You may have already found things that work for you (and if so, I’d love for you to share them in the comments section!), but if you’re looking for ideas, you may find a gem or two here:

Confronting my own sinfulness (anger, feelings of entitlement, etc.): The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace. This is a great book on marriage, but it also has a special emphasis on personal holiness that has been a huge eye-opener for me. If you feel like you’re chafing under some of what the Bible commands (like forgiveness, dying to self, or submitting to your husband), this book will be a treasure! And Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit by Teri Maxwell. This wonderful book isn’t just for moms whose children are old enough to be officially homeschooling! It could just as easily be called, Mothering with a Meek and Quiet Spirit, and it is GREAT if you’re like me, and you struggle with anger and irritation towards your family.

Feeling lonely and frustrated by the long hours my husband’s job demands: Creative Counterpart by Linda Dillow. This is a wonderful resource on marriage, mothering, and homemaking in general, but it has a lot to say to us wives of today who are suffering the effects of modern society on our beloved breadwinners’ career options. It won’t tell you how to fix your husband’s job, but it will help you with your own attitude.

Knowing what to do with a newborn: Breastfeeding Made Simple by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett. (Warning: this book has a not so discreet picture of a baby nursing on the cover. I just taped some paper over it and read it anyway. I was SO glad I did!) Not only is this the best researched book on breastfeeding I have ever seen, with the most up to date information on technicalities like latch positioning, but it also explains newborn behavior more clearly than anything I have ever read. I WISH it had been available before I had my first baby. It would have saved me so much consternation and bewilderment. Even reading it after my second baby was born, I was saying, “Oh! That explains it!” on nearly every page.

Child Training : Raising Godly Tomatoes. This is down to earth, common sense from a mother of ten on how to have the family you want. You can read it for free online or you can buy your own copy to cozy up with in your favorite chair. It’s a great sanity saver and slices cleanly through all the modern psychobabble about parenting so prevalent today. Also Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp, an inspiring blueprint on how to nurture our children’s relationship with God. And Parenting from the Heart by Marilyn Boyer, mother of fourteen. This is a delightful book that covers all stages of childhood from birth to marriage, and is great for those times when you just don’t know what to do with a house full of kids.

Time management: Managers of Their Homes by Teri Maxwell. This is the classic for homeschool moms, but the principles can be a great help for women in general, even if your children are still young, or even if you don’t have any. I do need to offer one caveat, though. While this book is truly wonderful for the most part, it does have a chapter on scheduling babies that is not medically sound. If you are considering it, and you have a baby, please read Breastmilk, Ice Cream, and Infant Feeding Schedules: How Much Space is on YOUR Counter Top? for an explanation of breastfeeding physiology and why scheduling feedings can be dangerous for some babies.

Cooking: The Internet! It is great to be able to just type “recipe for______ (fill in the blank with anything from whole wheat bread to Hungarian goulash)” and instantly find several recipes to choose from, many with reviews, advice, even step by step pictures sometimes. Plus, the Internet will help you decipher cooking terms you may not know, and it’s a great place to be able to actually talk to people who know how to cook via their blogs. (My online friend, Kathy, at Bona Vita has been a delight for me in this way. Just a few weeks ago, I asked her how she cooks her Thanksgiving turkeys, and she wrote a post for me about it!) And of course, we can’t forget all the “real” (offline) people in your life, too. Whenever someone serves you something you like, ask for the recipe and go over it asking questions if you need to. Most people feel very complimented and are glad to share.

Organizing: This is still a big learning area for me, but I have been helped by another online friend’s blog, Organized Everyday, in particular the post, Organizing for the High-Brow Types, and the before and after pictures from various organizing projects around her house. I have also enjoyed the book Clutter Control by Jeff Campbell.

Housekeeping: The absolute must have here is Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson, the definitive encyclopedia for everything from how to properly set the table for every kind of meal to how to get baby spit up off your favorite dress. It is daunting if you try to read it cover to cover, but it’s invaluable when you have a specific question. Put it on your Christmas list. You’ll be delighted. Just remember not to hold yourself to Ms. Mendelson’s standards on frequency of household chores. She only has one child, and he’s not a baby anymore! This book is a fabulous guide for the how of housekeeping, not always the how often. For a more realistic picture of a weekly cleaning routine, check out Speed Cleaning by Jeff Campbell.

18 comments to Why Modern Motherhood is So Much Harder than it Ought to Be, Part 2: What You Can Do About It

  • Cristina

    Wow, an excellent post !! It will be a project researching and reading the books you have recommended. But the blogs and sites I can look at now :-) Thank you so much for the monumental amount of time it must have taken you to gather all those links. :-)) You have placed me on a good path, a path that no-one I knew could help me find.

  • this was really encouraging:-) i struggle keeping on top of things.Caleb helps a lot, more than I wish he needed to. With our second on the way I am feeling a little more desperate to get myself organized! ;-)

  • Jessica

    Thanks for posting this. I am 23 years old and have been married for 3 years. We are expecting our first child in February ( a little girl!) A lot of my friends who are currently expecting at church are going to work outside the home because they “can’t stand” the idea of staying at home full time. They look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them I am going to be staying home with our daughter full time. Your post was very encouraging. Thanks! :)

  • This is a wonderful series of posts. Very thorough and the book references are wonderful.

  • amy

    Great post! I just want to say that I read the post you linked to about breastfeeding and schedules, and I just want to say you are so right. I have 14 month old twins. When I was pregnant with them and told the doctors I would be nursing them they responded with things like, “Give it a try.” “You will definitely need to supplement with formula though.” Those girls were born and I began tandem feeding them immediately. I was nursing them all the time at the beginning…probably every hour, but it was so worth it. They have never had a bottle. They flourished. The drs were in awe. They grew bigger, faster and healthier than most single babies. I kept telling people that God designed us to feed our babies, and He also gives twins, so of course we can do it. It has been such a beautiful experience. Anyway, I know that really didn’t have anything to do with your post, but I just wanted to let you know how right on you are.

  • What an excellent post! I’m linking to you today. Are you sure you’ve only been doing this for five years?

  • Great post! I really enjoyed it. I linked here from LAF. Keep up the encouraging words!

  • Thank you for all the wonderful book recommendations! I’m currently reading The Excellent Wife, and the Maxwell book as well. Loving them both. I’ll have to write down the rest that I haven’t read for future use.

    In my experience, coming home from a very high stress, high energy marketing job was a breath of relief. For me while climbing the ladder of my career, I had a secret fear that someday they would figure out I really had no idea what I was doing! It was a strange feeling…but once I came home, though I was not “ready” in the sense of having any homemaking skills whatsoever, I still felt like it was where I belonged and had peace. It must have been the grace of God! I am so very thankful!

    This post was very helpful still. Thank you Mrs. Parunak! I hope you are doing well these days and not sick anymore :)

    love,
    meg

  • Chelsa

    Another very helpful post! I just found your site yesterday while reading someone else’s blog and I think it is fantastic! I’ve been married 15 years and have 4 children (ages 12,10,8,6). When I got married I didn’t have a clue how to manage a home, cook, raise kids. I didn’t even like babies or babysit much growing up because I didn’t care for it at all. But I have been transformed by God’s grace and now I LOVE staying home with my kids all day long. The books that helped me the most were written by Michael and Debbie Pearl. TO TRAIN UP A CHILD and CREATED TO BE HIS HELPMEET. I can’t tell you how much they helped me (and our entire family). I learned what a Titus 2 wife looks like (I’m still learning of course) and I learned how to have children who obey quickly and happily and love me fiercely. We all enjoy being together all day, every day. It was not always like this, however. Before I found those books I was at my wits end by 5pm (about the time my husband came home from work). The kids would drive me crazy and I felt like I needed to get out of the house and do something for “me”, by myself. By God’s grace and a lot of training and self discipline I NEVER have days like that anymore. I love being home. By the way, the Pearls have a website called nogreaterjoy and they have a FREE magazine that is fabulous. Hope this is encouraging and helpful.

  • Hello! I’ve been offline for a couple of days – what a great post to start back with! I also enjoyed Martha Peace’s book, ‘The Excellent Wife”, and am currently studying another book from her, ‘Becoming a Titus 2 Woman’. It is challenging and encouraging and (just like your post) comforting to know that alot of women struggle in some of the same areas that I do.

    It is obvious from the traffic on you site that you are effecting and encouraging the women who come here – keep it up!

  • Jennifer Hall

    Hi Andrea!
    Cousin Jennie Here! I’ve been reading your blog when I can find an extra moment or two for the last 6 months or so. I actually responded to the post about Grandma and then my computer died just as I tried to post my response. I just didn’t have the energy to rewrite it. But tonight, again, I feel compelled to comment. I have read most of the books you mention in your post (not the ones written by Terri Maxwell) and I, too, think they are fabulous resourses. I think it is time for a review, as it has been quite a while since I read them. Good reminder… I have some other thoughts but public responding makes my tummy swim. :-) I’d love to chat if you find a quiet moment of your own!

  • Mrs. Parunak

    Jennifer,

    I’m delighted that you’ve been dropping by my blog! I’ll look forward to trying to give you a call sometime. We need to catch up!

  • J

    Great series! Thanks so much for sharing this. I am a husband and father of three who stumbled upon these posts from another blog. Perhaps I am opening myself up to receiving everyone’s gripes about their husbands, but I would love to hear more about what a father can do to help create the pre-industrial revolution family you talk about in the first part of this series. I do everything I can to help share the burden of parenting, but there is only so much I can do while also working in a demanding job.

    Clearly for my wife and me, the challenge is our need for income. We both work full time. My wife is a teacher and she has the summers off and she is off now for maternity leave. So in a sense she has been dabbling with staying at home and we would both like to make it permanent, but we cannot afford to go without her income permanently. I know it has not been easy for her to stay home for a lot of the reasons you discussed. I would like to be able to help her more but there is only so much I can do while working full-time. We are blessed in that I am able to work from home on some days, but I am limited in what I can do to help my wife because I need to separate myself from the family while I work.

    I have given much thought to the idea of moving out of the city so we can live in a place where we can have a lower cost of living thus making it possible to live on just one income. This would also make it possible for us to have more room for the kids to explore and play. I feel they get restless from being cooped up in a house with a small yard. I also think that this will allow us to raise our children in a place that is safer and has more traditional values. But reading your article, I realize that all of this is only part of the problem. My job is part of the problem too. Should I contemplate a career change that would allow me to work from home in some sort of family business that I can participate in without needing to exclude our family? At the end of the last article you suggest that we need to be “radical.” Am I insane for considering such a radical change from the cultural norms? I realize that today’s society is completely dysfunctional. I keep coming to the conclusion that we need to create our own “utopia” like you called it in the first article. We need to set ourselves apart and live very differently. But all this change is very intimidating and downright scary. Am I crazy to think this way? Has anyone made such a change and lived to tell about it?

  • Mrs. Parunak

    J,

    Thank you for your comment. In light of 1 Timothy 2:12′s admonition that women should not teach men, I am uncomfortable advising you on how you can best lead your family. However, the Vaughn family of Vaughnshire farm has made just the sorts of lifestyle changes you describe. Their blog might be a good resource for you as it is written from not only Beth’s but also Paul’s perspective. Paul Vaughn may even be able to answer your questions directly.

    Of course, if your wife would like to talk with me about anything, I would be more than happy for her to engage me in a discussion.

    All the best,
    Mrs. Parunak

  • Thanks for the great list!! It’s great to get your approval/ link. God bless you sister! You are encouraging so many.

  • Alyssa

    “OK, so you get to the point where you no longer feel like a stupid, deficient, worthless freak, but you still feel like you don’t know what you’re doing…Nowhere was this more true in my life than in the area of cooking. When I got married, I did NOT know how to cook.”

    Amen, sister! You’ve articulated my feelings exactly. I have to remember all of these homemaking skills are learned skills that won’t come to me overnight!

    “Don’t give up in despair.” I’ll have to work on that one. I will say all the books (you’ve recommended) and blogs I’ve been reading have been a tremendous encouragement. I have to remember, too, that we’re all in a spiritual battle with an unseen enemy that wants to destroy anything in our lives that honors God. It’s exciting to think of the generation of children that we faithful homeschool moms (and dads) are raising, and God may do some mighty work in America with all these little people being discipled by us.

  • Mary Pride’s The Way Home was a book I read almost 4 years ago when I first came home too! It rocked my world! Pride is so frank and “to the point!” It was just what I needed at the time! It really opened my eyes to the fact that alot of my issues stemmed from feminist perspectives that were so ingrained in me, I didn’t realize they were there.

    Once I realized that, I was able to ask “Hey, what is God’s will for my life and a wife and mother?” At that point, I began a journey of renewing my mind and really walking in God’s will for me.

  • I read part one of your article after someone pasted a link…Thank you for showing me that I’m not crazy!I cried when I read part 1 because that’s how I feel.Thank God my husband also does help, but it’s WHEN he’s here…

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