In their encouraging “we’ve been there” style, Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk enable mothers to:
- Identify the ten myths of motherhood our current culture perpetuates
- Replace the lies with the truth of what God says in the Bible about mothering
- Acquire practical tools to help them form new and improved thought patterns and healthy behaviors
- Forge healthy, supportive relationships with other moms of all ages and stages
- Confidently embrace the calling of motherhood as they care for their families in their own unique way
A six-session video Bible study for group or individual use is also available.
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About the Author
Ruth Schwenk is the founder of the popular blog The Better Mom.com and co-founder, with her husband Patrick, of Forthe Family.org and the podcast Rootlike Faith. She is also the trusted author of several books with Harper Collins Christian Publishing, including The Better Mom Book and Devotional, and co-author with Karen Ehman of Pressing Pause and Settle My Soul. Ruth is a Michigan football super-fan, lover of all things HGTV, and a self-proclaimed foodie. But her greatest joy is her family. She lives with her husband and their four kids in the dreamy college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Read an Excerpt
Ten Myths Moms Believe (And Why We All Need To Knock It Off)
By Karen Ehman
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2015 Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk
All rights reserved.
Hoodwinked: The Mythical Mosaic of Motherhood
Mother [Muh ther] — noun. A woman who does the work of twenty for free. See also saint.
As a mother, it is my job to take care of the possible and trust God with the impossible.
— Ruth Bell Graham
* * *
Creeeeeak. Thunk. Creeeeeak. Thunk.
So went the old wooden teeter-totter in the neighborhood park at the dead end of our small-town street. The light green paint was peeling and the metal mechanisms were in dire need of a good oiling, but the children didn't care. They happily passed the time. Up. Down. Up. Down.
Creeeeeak. Thunk. Creeeeeak. Thunk.
A few friends and I (Karen) had gathered for an afternoon play date. It was a blustery fall day, the vibrantly colored leaves hanging on for dear life before being blown away into the crisp autumn air. As the children played on the swing set and merry-go-rounds and such, we moms chatted.
My first child had been born late in the spring. Now she sat bundled up tightly in the stroller, catching an afternoon catnap. The other mothers also had infants, but older children as well. And a few of the ladies were now approaching being the mom of a half-dozen kids.
Our conversations were all over the map. Sleep schedules. The best brand of diapers. What to do for an ear infection. (Call the doctor? Or squirt garlic oil in their ear?) And some with older children discussed what to do when your youngster has a squabble with another child at church or school. And of course we talked marriage — how to find time to make that a priority when it seemed like every ounce of physical and emotional energy was being drained from us constantly throughout the day just being a mom.
I sat there soaking it all in. As a new mom, I wanted so desperately to get this mothering thing right. And I not only wanted to get it right, I was pretty sure I already knew how to do it right. After all, I'm pretty observant. And can be quite opinionated. When I combined my observations with what I thought was the right opinion, I was pretty sure that if I just did all the right things on the front end, my kids would turn out wonderfully. And I was somewhat judgmental of those moms I encountered whose kids did not seem to be "turning out right."
It didn't matter that I was only about four months into my mothering gig, I was pretty confident. Well, at least outwardly. To be totally honest, at times my mind secretly migrated to a place of fear. Am I doing this mothering thing right? Will my kids turn out okay? And am I making the right choices about how I am mothering them? And what I am feeding them? And how I am disciplining them? But rarely did I let my guard down, exposing my insecurities or admitting my doubts. Nope. On the outside, I was calm, cool, collected, and confident. But inside my mind I had to give myself an occasional little pep talk to remind myself that I knew what I was doing.
I had a lot of other beliefs about mothering in general. Some beliefs I gathered by observation. Some were wishful thinking. Some beliefs other moms told me were true. Some I read on the pages of a popular parenting book. These beliefs Velcroed themselves to my impressionable mama mind and affected not only my perspective on mothering but also my behavior. But most of all ... guess what I discovered about these beliefs?
All of them were dead wrong.
The Myths of Motherhood
These beliefs are the myths of motherhood that mess with us. That trip us up. That keep us feeling deflated and defeated. That prevent us from forging deep and meaningful relationships with other moms because we feel we have not measured up. That taunt us with wrong thinking about ourselves and about other moms. Or that put a pinch in our hearts toward our children and their behavior.
These are the myths of motherhood we will explore and dismantle together:
* Mothering Is Natural, Easy, and Instinctive
* The Way I Mother Is the Right (and Only) Way
* I Am "Just" a Mom
* Motherhood Is All-Consuming and All-Fulfilling
* A Good Mother Can Do It All, All at Once
* Motherhood Is a Rat Race
* Motherhood Is the Luck of the Draw
* Everything Depends on Me
* I Have to Do It All Right, or My Child Will Turn Out Wrong
* My Child's Bad Choice Means I'm a Bad Mom
I don't doubt that you could come up with some myths of your own, even beyond this list, because motherhood is not a playground. Oh sure, there are aspects of motherhood that are a downright delight, pieces of the motherhood puzzle that snap easily into place and make us smile. It is a deep, deep joy to be a mom. Our children often make us proud. But not all things motherly are packed with pleasure, causing us to sport a smile. A bigger-than-bite-sized chunk of our motherhood role is downright wearisome. Even worrisome. And our heart's layers can start peeling away, exposing our woe as we ride the teeter-totter of parenting. Up and down. Up and down.
Creeeeeak. Thunk. Creeeeeak. Thunk.
That is often the sound of a mom's heart as it bumps and bangs through life. And only Jesus can smooth out the ride as he allows us to gain his perspective, replacing the myths with the truth of his Word.
You Are Not Alone
Moms all over the world share this common thread of weary wondering. One minute we have it all figured out, and the next minute it all unravels. We asked over three hundred moms if they had preconceived notions of what motherhood would be like, and an astounding 83 percent answered, "Yes, absolutely!" Every single one of those moms commented that those preconceived notions were dead wrong. Whether it was through their judgment of other moms before they became a mom themselves, or just an ideal world of motherhood they created in their mind, there was a common thread among our sisters in the survey; a resounding chorus of feelings of loneliness, weariness, and disillusionment was expressed by these women. At the core was this, though: motherhood just isn't what they had expected, and they feel totally caught off guard and unprepared for this reality.
Sarah C. shared simply what many moms feel. "I'm not the mom I imagined I'd be. It's so hard to carry out all the ideas I had in my head. Motherhood is so much harder than I ever dreamed."
Sarah is certainly not alone. We read this same sentiment over and over again.
Cindy B. said,
Naturally, I was going to be just like my mom. ... In the sixties, my father traveled six days a week leaving my mom to raise me, four years old, and my twin brothers, one year old. After having three children, she was skinny, gorgeous, and perfect. She was always put together with hair and makeup and a cute outfit that fell perfectly on her perfect body. Every photo of her looked like a Barbie doll, including our home, which was perfect and immaculate 24/7. To this day, I'm honestly not sure how she did it. It wasn't a phase. She is still that way in her seventies. Fast-forward twenty-five years ... I couldn't understand with just one baby at the time, what I was doing wrong. Why was I so exhausted all the time? Why would I cry at the drop of a hat? I was born to be a mom, right? Ask me as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up and I'd tell you "a mommy" without hesitation. Apparently, I was doing this mommy thing wrong. On a good day, my hair was brushed, and on a really good day, possibly my teeth! A five-minute shower was a luxury (unfortunately for my husband, it wasn't a daily luxury), but actually blow-drying my hair was not. I was supposed to fit back into my skinny jeans, like my mom, but shockingly I was still wearing my maternity sweat pants and looking six months pregnant! Sleep eluded me as did an explanation as to why I had achieved my dream of motherhood and was so clearly doing a terrible job. I questioned every choice I made because I certainly didn't know myself at all! This poor, innocent little baby girl was given a raw deal by getting me for a mother. What would become of her and how was I going to get my act together and become a REAL mother, you know, like Laura Petrie, Carol Brady, and Ma on Little House on the Prairie?
So how do we approach motherhood with a "right" view? How do we throw off the myths that have us all horribly hoodwinked?
Making a Mom Mosaic
It was a crisp and clear fall afternoon with ocean-blue skies and white puffy clouds that looked like spun cotton dancing in the air. My (Karen's) three young children, all elementary age, didn't put up the normal fuss getting their clothes on and their shoes tied that morning. The reason for their cooperation? It was homeschool field trip day.
Several families were going on an outing to an art exhibit an hour away from home. Field trips meant fun — hanging out with friends and learning something new. And my kids loved packing a lunch to eat with the other students when the educational part of the day was all done.
As I strolled through the art gallery that morning I saw many amazing creations. There were vibrant oil paintings on canvas. Pottery pieces crafted from common red clay. Hand-blown, shiny glass objects. Collages crafted from items found in nature, such as wood and stone and shells. But the one that most caught my eye was a breathtaking mosaic that took up an enormous spot on the museum wall.
A mosaic piece of art is a very clever creation. Hundreds of seemingly broken pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials are purposefully put together on a flat surface, creating a collage of color. While each individual piece isn't anything spectacular on its own, when they are strategically arranged, they combine to make a simply stunning image.
If you step back and view a mosaic piece in its entirety, a picture emerges. Perhaps it is a scene from nature such as a landscape of snow-capped mountains or a deep blue ocean with colorful fish swimming about. Maybe it is a snapshot of a skyline of towering or historic buildings. But more often than not, a mosaic is crafted to depict a person or persons.
Many of us have formed a mosaic in our minds of the perfect mom. Throughout our years growing up and into adulthood, we have collected tiny pieces of colored glass that we have mentally arranged in our mind to form a snapshot of just what we think a good mother should be. When we step back and gaze at the image we have fashioned, it too can take our breath away. And by that I mean leave us huffing and puffing for air as we race to try to replicate the image in our own lives.
Was there a mom in your childhood neighborhood who always fed the kids on your block fresh-baked cookies and glasses of lemonade?
You deposited in your mind's bank that a good mom does that effortlessly and cheerfully.
Did one of your friends in high school have a mom who not only made it to all of her children's sporting events to cheer wildly in the stands, but she also held down an important job in the corporate world?
Another characteristic deposited. Of course you got the strong impression that a good mom should both bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan.
You picked up another piece of colored glass for the mosaic of your mind when you, as a new mom, were having trouble keeping your toddler quiet in church, but a few rows ahead of you sat a mom of a half-dozen children who never moved a muscle throughout the entire service. This made you think that a good mom must know how to keep her children quiet when the preacher is preaching.
Did you visit the home of a new friend who has children about the same age as yours? Her home was not only tastefully decorated but also void of dust and clutter-free. Your mind migrated back to the scene you left at your house that morning: breakfast dishes still on the table, peanut butter smeared on the counter, and a trail of crumbs on the floor that would make Hansel and Gretel squeal with glee. Piles of dirty laundry. Dust bunnies. Toothpaste in the sink. And toys strewn about far from their proper home in the big plastic toybox.
Piece by piece we have crafted in our imagination a stunning mosaic of just what a mom should be. But there is one teensy-weensy fact we forget about mosaic depictions of people.
They are not real.
And though a real mosaic may be lovely to look at during a leisurely stroll through a cultured art gallery, a fictitious mosaic of motherhood is a horrifying sight for a mom who is trying her best to do this mothering thing.
But it isn't just our "real life" encounters with other seemingly capable and competent women that tempt us to craft an unrealistic image in our minds. A brief walk through recent history illustrates the mixed messages mothers have been fed. Images of the perfect stay-at-home mom, the liberated and freethinking woman, and the career mom. There have been a lot of moms to choose from — and to be thoroughly confused by!
Perhaps you remember Leave It to Beaver? The late 1950s and early '60s gave rise to a sitcom featuring "The Beaver," a likeable elementary-aged boy who was always finding his way in and out of trouble or adventure. His mom? June Cleaver was the ultimate picture of a woman in the '50s and early '60s. She was the ideal homemaker — always proper, ever wise, and consistently reliable. She was the picture of what a mom should be. In many ways, she was a motherhood mosaic come to life on the television screen!
The late 1960s and '70s saw tremendous change in society. Previously held views on sexuality, behavior, and gender roles were undergoing a "revolution." June Cleaver seemed like a woman and mom from the dusty and distant pages of history. For so many years, women had been wrongfully denied certain rights and opportunities. Seeking equality and fair treatment, the woman of this era was freethinking, liberated, and progressive. The sitcom Partridge Family showcases this shift. A widowed mother, Shirley, not only raised her five kiddos alone but also worked as the leader of a musical group comprised of the clan. They traveled around in a bohemian bus performing for crowds of screaming teens. Along with managing her career, she had to deal with the ups and downs of raising a brood of kids with their own challenges and antics. Shirley seemed to do it with ease.
And then came the 1980s and '90s. The popular Cosby Show portrayed both the husband and the wife as financial providers. No longer was just the husband working outside the home; in many cases, the mom was as well. The message during this period was of a competent and capable career woman (hello, unflappable Clair Huxtable!), who still easily managed the majority of parental responsibilities. What was implied was that you can and should have it all!
Then there were the anti-heroines, the "realistic" moms created out of a backlash against all these perfect women. Just look at Roseanne and Debra Barone in Everybody Loves Raymond. Instead of plying their families with delicious home-cooked dinners, they burn their casseroles and unleash torrents of sarcasm and anger on their unwitting husbands.
Then in the 2000s, with the Internet and the advent of social media such as Facebook, the amazingly organized mom, the creative mom, the oh-so-spiritual mom, and the every-other-kind-of mom imaginable migrated online and developed ten thousand faces. Not only your best friend, but also the friend back from high school and the woman you met at Bible study and the blogger you follow online are now all pushing their seemingly perfect images of motherhood at you ten times a day (or as often as you check Facebook, peruse the pins on Pinterest, or spy a snapshot on Instagram).
Where do all these images of motherhood leave us? How could women today not be a little confused on what we should do or be? The debate on womanhood and motherhood is still being waged. Just those brief and general strokes of history help us to see why understanding who we are as moms has been so difficult. The messages in our culture have not only been conflicting, they have been confusing. So if you are feeling a bit perplexed, there is good reason to be! We have formed a conflicting image in our mind from the people we've known — or the ones we spied on television or the Internet — of just how a good mom behaves.
Scriptural Standards for What Makes a Good Mom
Now let's not be so quick to just blame society at large or the Internet or television in particular for causing us to concoct an image of perfection in our minds. Sometimes our wrong line of thinking can be traced directly back to the lofty standard of one of the most famous females in Scripture: the woman we encounter in Proverbs 31.
Of course all Scripture is God breathed. It is useful for teaching us and training us and helping us correct our behavior (2 Timothy 3:16). It enables us to pursue godliness and to stay away from evil. Scripture is perfect. But imperfect people can put a certain — and incorrect — spin on the Scriptures. Sometimes we do it to make a point we are so desperately trying to exert. Other times we are just repeating what we have been taught in the past about a particular portion of the Bible. And sometimes the voices of past preachers and teachers echo in the chambers of our mind, and we just cannot see a passage any other way than the way we have been taught.
Excerpted from Hoodwinked by Karen Ehman. Copyright © 2015 Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsForeword by Candace Cameron Bure, 9,
1. Hoodwinked: The Mythical Mosaic of Motherhood, 11,
2. Myth #1: Mothering Is Natural, Easy, and Instinctive, 29,
3. Myth #2: The Way I Mother Is the Right (and Only) Way, 39,
4. Myth #3: I Am "Just" a Mom, 53,
5. Myth #4: Motherhood Is All-Consuming and All-Fulfilling, 63,
6. Myth #5: A Good Mother Can Do It All, All at Once, 77,
7. Myth #6: Motherhood Is a Rat Race, 91,
8. Myth #7: Motherhood Is the Luck of the Draw, 105,
9. Myth #8: Everything Depends on Me, 119,
10. Myth #9: I Have to Do It All Right, or My Child Will Turn Out Wrong, 135,
11. Myth #10: My Child's Bad Choice Means I'm a Bad Mom, 153,
12. No Longer Hoodwinked, 173,
Yearly Personal Inventory for Moms, 194,
A Mother's Prayer for Her Child, 197,
A Mother's Week of Prayer Prompts, 198,
Ten Memory Verses for the Too-Busy Mom, 207,
Minute-Long Mom Pep Talks from Hoodwinked, 211,
About the Authors, 217,