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I‘ve mentioned before that it’s difficult for me to find my place in the evangelical Christian world of parenting resources because I disagree with so many of the extremes. In every stage of my life whether it was university, working days, dating, engagement, marriage and now parenting, I’ve had to discard the “truth” I was taught for a new way (note: not discard everything, just some things). More often than not I find myself charting a path in between ideas, ideologies, systems and beliefs. It was once a place of insecurity for me, but I know now that this is how it is – I do not fit in the evangelical bubble, and I will not force my marriage and family into this small space for which it was not intended.

I discovered Sally Clarkson’s writing about parenting through links Ann Voskamp posted to her site. Ann’s writing about a variety of topics significantly impacted the way I think about my life and parenting, so I was curious about Sally’s thoughts. That was over a year ago, Sally’s blog is now one of my must-reads, and it has been a particularly encouraging place when it comes to the topic of mothering. I have left encouraged, challenged, comforted and inspired, and I’ve often left with new ideas. What I love most is that she does not prescribe specific actions or fall into the “do this and you will get perfect kids,” instead I am thankful for the stories of her own family life and the traditions and ways that underpin their home life.

I knew Sally had written a book, but did not buy it until my friend Kara wrote about how the book was impacting her life, and then I knew I needed it.

I started reading it in the days after Baby was born. My mother-in-law was with us to help with Little Boy, so I spent my days in bed, resting, sleeping and reading. This is one of the first paragraphs of the book:

I stared at the wall, then fell back down into my bed. I pulled my knees to my chest and the blanket over my head as tears came down and these words tumbled out to my God: “I can’t be a mother today, Lord, I’m just too tired.”

– Sarah Mae & Sally Clarkson, Desperate, (p XV)

Well, I was in tears and the book had not even begun. I can’t be a mother today, those are words I have uttered time and time again to Husband in the early hours of the morning when little people were awake too early, and I was exhausted.

The book is written by two women, Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson, Sarah is younger with three small kids and Sally is older with four grown children. Both perspectives are represented in the book almost like a conversation between the two.

I devoured this book chapter after chapter, answering questions at the end, taking ideas to heart until I had to take a break because of the packing and moving process. I’ve been reading it again now, but slower, to savour and take in the thoughts and ideas, and also so that I can take time to think about what I want to do differently and what I am already doing well.

This is a wonderful, life-and-freedom-giving book. You will put it down chapter after chapter, encouraged and inspired to be the mother you want to be.

If you’re a mom with small kids especially and you need some empathy, comfort and support, this book is for you. Promise. It will not condemn or give you a one-size-fits-all plan (or promise to make your kids come out in a certain way), but on every page I heard the words of women who live and have lived the life that I’m living today, and it was a nice feeling to be understood and then also to be given new tools, encouragement and ideas.

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Here are some of the main ideas I’ve taken away from the book:

  • Create the community I want to have – instead of waiting for other people to initiate friendship, connecting points, catch ups, I can be the one to create a place for women, kids and families to connect (chapter 2)
  • Think about what legacy I want to leave with my kids, what things I want them to take away from their years at home, and begin making those things happen through daily, weekly, monthly and yearly traditions (chapter 3)
  • Speak hope to my kids, cast a vision for them of the kind of people they can become, give them strategies for how to win (chapter 4)
  • Be yourself. This point – echoing throughout the book – has brought so much freedom to my life and my parenting.

God gave me a personality. I am one who loves adventure and travel. I’m a social person who loves friends. I am a reader, thinker and have an artist sort of soul. God does not admonish us to sacrifice our personalities in order to please Him. Instead He calls us to uphold His ideals and designs. He wanted me to grow fully into the person He created me to be, in order to give to my children what they needed. The more I have learned to cultivate a life that is interesting to me, the more interesting my home has become to my children.

There are so many voices and opinions about motherhood and parenting today. You can become neurotic if you try to follow every bit of advice. It will kill your heart for motherhood if you compare yourself to everyone else’s ideals. You have to be yourself and live within the limitations of your personality and needs as a woman.

– Sarah Mae & Sally Clarkson, Desperate, (p87)

The main point I took away from page after page of the book is that the more free I am to be myself as I parent, the better is it for my family. I have mom friends who think of creative crafts for their kids, others play lots of sports together and others turn their homes into kid clubs and meeting spaces. Instead of doing what other moms do, I now live within my zone, I look at what I care about, what I’m good at, and I try to do those things as much as possible in our home. The more I do this, the more joy fills my heart, and more than anything, I want my sons to grow up in a home that is full of joy, not a home that is full of trying to be something or someone else.

If you would like a copy, I would love to give one away to you this week. Just leave a comment with your name and something you love about who you. That’s it. I’ll pick a winner on Thursday.

This post is Day 29 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time. 

(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)

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