Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe, I almost returned it without reading it. I guess I was feeling like I'm not really in the right place to need this book. I'm beyond those exhausting years when I had little ones consuming every minute of my day. I remember those desperate days (I didn't have help and I didn't have a spiritual mentor cheering me on from the sidelines) and when I forget, I can always look back on my first blog posts to see how frazzled life often was in the chaos of small children. I'm not exactly "desperate" now, but then again, it is summer, so I have boys around all day long and the days can be longer than when I get the reprieve of school.
Even though the chaos has calmed for me, I still struggle with the demands of motherhood. I suppose my heart longs for something more fulfilling than keeping a house clean and bodies clothed and fed. Life's daily tasks feel too boring and my heart desires a larger goal. Despite a clear calling to be there for my children, I find it hard to throw myself into my mothering role wholeheartedly.
I think the book holds a great message for any mother, whether she finds herself in the throes of mothering very small children or not. The most significant message for frazzled mothers (and a message I repeated as a mantra to myself back in the days of small children chaos) is "this too shall pass." The days of weariness and constant vigilance, when the demands our children place seem to never end, will indeed give way to an easier rhythm, a time when the children can fend for themselves more and even help with tasks. Alongside that message, is the message that "you are not alone." All mothers with small children experience the exhaustion and the mental, emotional, and physical depletion that comes with giving of one's self to such an intense degree. I remember those days when I seldom got away for any down-time and stayed up way too late into the evening grasping for moments alone where I could find some sort of personal identity apart from my small children.
There were also messages for mothers in general. I think the two that hit me the hardest centered on avoidance and intentionality. I felt deeply convicted about my habit of avoiding my mothering role. The chapter was entitled, "Escaping," and I saw myself in the pages. There are numerous ways of attempting to escape from the pressing needs of our children, but my primary method of escape is to run to the computer to write a blog post, check on Facebook, or check my mail (as if I often get important mail - ha!). Even though I tend to do this in the early morning hours, as my children are just waking up and not quite in the needy stages yet, I still choose this method of escape during the day when I am sick of hearing "Oh, but Mom ..." (my youngest son's favorite phrase - he uses this in the form of "hey Mom," not in a rebellious tone or anything, but it is constant throughout the day). After reading that chapter, I felt a real need to re-assess my need to run to the computer throughout the day.
Moreover, I really felt convicted about the need for intentional mothering. I don't approach my role with goals of what I hope to accomplish in forming my children. After reading this book, I want to be more intentional. I want to take the time to consider what it is I truly want to enrich into my children's lives. I think I do a really good job of blessing them with the love of learning and reading. They get that from me in droves. But there are other areas I need to be more intentional about.
While Sarah Mae's passages were honest and vulnerable, it was sometimes hard to read the passages by Sally Clarkson because it made me feel inferior. She seemed to be on a pedestal with perfect parenting. She's the mom who played music and lit candles for dinner time (never allowing them to sit in front of the television eating, just so she could have a quiet meal with her husband), had her children write on a variety of subjects to ensure they became thinkers, provided them with character-building and spiritual enrichment books, etc. It was almost too much, at times. Still, I understand that her role in the book was to provide mentoring passages. You can't exactly mentor if you aren't at a higher level of experience, so ...
I think a final take-away from the book was an encouragement to practice being more content in the role God has given me. Sally writes, "We get caught up in the hectic cycle of endless tasks and often end up finding our lives to be a barren wasteland of burdens.... Living a life of joy and contentment and imitating Him in our homes requires a willingness to see our lives through the lens of God's eternal perspective.... To move from feelings of desperation to delight requires that the eyes of your heart and the attitude that you express be ones that exemplify God's own heart and attitudes." Aligning myself more to His vision can only strengthen my ability to see my role with greater purpose and fulfillment.
Thus, I would recommend this book to any mother who feels overwhelmed with mothering. What an important role we play in the lives of our children. I am truly thankful to God that He has blessed me with three entirely different individuals, who are in my care for the moment and who have the potential to do great things for the kingdom of God and for our struggling society. I cannot do my part on my own strength, but need to daily lay my strengths and weaknesses at His feet, so He can move within me to make me a better mother and to do what He wills in the lives of my boys.
Personal disclaimer: Shortly after the birth of my third son, I sank into a debilitating depression. If I had encountered this book at that point in my life, I would have thought there was something wrong with me because I could not shake the depression by a firmer reliance upon the Lord. There are times when medication is, indeed, necessary, and I would not want a young mother who is facing such a depression to think they should somehow be able to spiritually lift themselves out of depression. I almost didn't make it through those desperate years because I failed to admit (at first) my need for medication. If the struggles are so deep that you don't want to go on, please seek out medical help in addition to the spiritual encouragement offered in books!