Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Three Good Reads Provide A Study of Motherhood

In an effort to avoid reading Les Miserables (unabridged), I read three books about motherhood that I thoroughly enjoy: Living in a Locker Room: a Mom's Tale of Survival in a Household of Boys, by Paula Schmitt, Small Town Soup: Good For What Ails You, by Karrie McAllister, and Life's Work: Confessions of an Unbalanced Mom, by Lisa Belkin. The books focus on life as a stay-at-home, or work-at-home mom. While these three works illustrate different perspectives about the stresses of raising children in the modern world, all of them share similar feelings about the vocation of parenthood.

Author Paula Schmitt is also the Founder and Publisher of Mom Writer's Literary Magazine. Living in a Locker Room is her very funny reflection on raising four boys. Schmitt is writing from the perspective of a work-at-home mom living in the Northeastern part of the United States. This book would make a great baby shower gift, as it provides a lot of down-to-Earth information about caring for, and living with children. The way in which Schmitt replays the controlled, and sometimes out-of-control chaos of raising young boys is both endearing and hilarious.

Karrie McAllister writes from the perspective of a work-at-home, mid-western mom in Small Town Soup: Good For What Ails You. She is also the Web Designer for Mom Writer's Literary Magazine. I'm particularly interested in McAllister's book because she self-published it through, something that I would like to try in the future. This collection of humorous essays is inspired by a column that she wrote for a local newspaper. What a fun read! There are even great recipes included.

As a parent, my life feels more unbalanced and chaotic than ever, but at the same time, it is more fulfilling than ever. I often wonder if that makes any sense at all. Schmitt and McAllister provide some confirmation of these feelings, with descriptions of the horrors of grocery shopping, eating out with children, potty training, or the endless winter season visits to the pediatrician. These gals make me feel normal, and for that I thank them!
"How many snotty, drippy red noses flowing everywhere have been wiped -on my shirt, no less?" writes Schmitt. (36)

"No one ever told me that multiple children would mean multiple days of exhaustion." says McAllister. (63)

While it is clear that these moms put raising their children ahead of their own interests, they all express the need for creative, productive personal outlets in their lives. They so cleverly turn their parenting experiences into fodder for writing and business pursuits.

Belkin's book Life's Work: Confessions of an Unbalanced Mom is inspired by her parenting column in the New York Times. It deals with her struggle for balance while maintaining her identity. She is raising young children in her 40's. Belkin's inner struggle during her pregnancy reminds me very much of my own, although I had my first child at 28 years old. Ultimately, she creates a way to accomplish all her goals.

"My mother worked, and I turned out okay...Yes, Evan's mother would work, and Evan would be okay. But whether his mother would be okay was far from certain...'How did you do it? I asked my mother in a tone that was more accusation than compliment. How did you study for the bar exam and keep us fed? How did you write your thesis and proofread our homework?' "(65)

Belkin eloquently goes on to describe how her mother saw pursuing her career as being an adventurer, whereas she views it as a being a failure (at parenting). She says that in fact, it was her dad and her mom, working as a team, that ensured her feelings of being loved. (Her dad worked as a dentist in an office attached to her home, so when mom could not be present, dad could.) I think this story is a beautiful testament to how marriage has evolved.

All three women find a way to put family before work, and find some sort of balance. Although these three mothers are very different, their fears and struggles as parents are similar. To read about mothers from different walks of life and different areas of the country makes me feel like a fly on the wall at at parent support group meeting. The books help me tremendously to widen my perspective of parenting. (They are all available at
Stayed tuned for feedback on two more books I'm currently in the middle of reading: The Other Daughter by Miralee Ferrell, and The Story of A Soul by Saint Theresa of Lisieux.


Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

They all sound like good reads! Les Mis doesn't really offer much insight into motherhood - fatherhood, yes. Except that I'm glad I'm raising kids in the current century and don't have to witness the sadness of kids living in the streets of Paris, or smell the sewer of Paris, or be completely dependent on men.

Loren Christie said...

Hi Elizabeth,
Yes, I agree, but it would be fun to visit modern Paris!

Putz said...

i am one of the embaraassing lost boys

Paula said...

Thank you Loren. Very nice write up! *smiles*

Karrie said...

Aww, shucks, Loren. Thanks for the nice review!
Get working on that book of yours-- I'll be first in line to get it. :)

Dear Internet Traveler,

Welcome to my writer's blog, started about six years ago for fun. Over time, the writing I have posted has ranged from personal reflection, to Long Island history research, to tall tales for my own amusement, to feature articles for local newspapers. As you can see from topics listed here, I travel in many mental directions in regard to interests. Click on the tabs and labels to explore my strange mind which senses that you may be having a criss-cross day. If so, perhaps this blog will distract you. However, please note that if you tell me my blog is beautiful just to get me to advertise rhinoplasty surgery and cheap drugs from Canada in your comment, I will ask the gods to give you a tail that cannot be concealed.


Loren Christie

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