A Stop on the Tour…

Blog tour, that is!

I’m excited to share with you MomSense: A Common-sense Guide to Confident Mothering by Jean Blackmer.

First, let me tell you a little about MOPS, the organization responsible for this publication. “MOPS” stands for Mothers of Preschoolers.  MOPS International is a Christian-based organization that serves mothers of children from birth through kindergarten by providing informative speakers, a chance for conversation and friendship, mentorship from experienced moms, and refreshment.  I don’t just mean coffee and doughnut holes.  MOPS offers a chance for refreshment of the spirit.  A rest.   I attended my first MOPS meeting on the same day that I received an e-mail asking me to participate in the 2011 Blog Tour.  Weird coincidence?  On to the book…

Ms. Blackmer’s book is not a hard-hitting text for a child development course.  You probably will not find yourself shocked by a completely new, astounding revelation.  Instead, it is a cup-of-coffee-with-a-good-friend kind of read.  It’s a I’ve-had-a-really-hard-day-and-I-need-to-know-I’m-not-alone book.  Instead of feeling your jaw drop at pages and pages of revelatory information, you will be nodding at the familiarity of Blackmer’s observations and anecdotes.  Any revelation will not come from the content; it will come from YOU, inspired by the author’s warm tone and her ability to draw you close and expose those shadowy places in your heart where you beat yourself up, question your worth, and feel certain that everyone is better at mothering than you are.  This book does have the potential for epiphany if you dive into it as a tool for self-reflection, not an instruction manual.

MomSense isn’t meant to be prescriptive.  This is not the kind of parenting book that tells you how to parent.  You won’t find tips for diapering, breastfeeding, or making the perfect tuna noodle casserole.  MomSense isn’t that kind of book.  It doesn’t ascribe to a particular parenting style, and in that, the book becomes accessible to mothers in all their wonderful variety.  But because of the potential breadth of audience, readers should be prepared to take what fits and leave the rest (good advice for most decisions regarding the raising of a family).  More about that later.

So if MomSense isn’t a how-to-parent book, what is it?  Jean Blackmer makes good on her title; the book guides you toward confident mothering, not just going through the motions, not just accepting what’s good enough.  She points readers toward a loving, mindful mothering that comes from a place of certainty in one’s place of authority in the home but a humble willingness to learn.  Authority and humility — now that seems like a good mix.  Blackmer reiterates the need to openly acknowledge our weaknesses and see them as places for growth.  The author won my heart when she advised and repeated that moms find the humility to apologize to their children.  In doing so, they model the healthy practices of apology and forgiveness.  In my own mothering, I have seen the value of saying I am sorry when I do not use my voice kindly or my hands gently.  I expect the same from my kiddos.

Early in the book (page 39, to be exact), Blackmer offers an anecdote that is, for me, the essence of her concept of confident mothering.  Here, the author uses the story of “Ben and Betsy” to illustrate values-based parenting.  Basically, if your parenting decisions are made in response to pre-selected, shared values, you can be confident in the choices you make.  In other words, principles that drive your family’s way of life can be the road map for the daily choices we all face.  For instance, if you value quiet evenings, drop a few extracurriculars and choose a novel to read together as a family.  If you want to emphasize physical fitness, cancel your Netflix membership and redirect those funds toward the YMCA.  See what I mean?`

The very accessible “Ben and Betsy” story and other real-life anecdotes (including great ones from the author’s own experience) are the strength of MomSense.  They succeed in welcoming readers, saying “you are one of us, and we aren’t perfect.”  I find the early segment on critical thinking and decision making less strong.  On one hand, this section serves to define “MomSense,” and the author’s careful, sensible attention to these rather academic ideas does well to elevate the call of motherhood to the status of any other career.  I truly appreciate that!  On the other hand, the issues were necessarily watered down for the style and length of the book, making me feel like the book was trying to be something it is not–a sort of literary identity crisis–at the risk of losing my attention and making me question the author’s intentions.  Luckily, the book came to life when Blackmer launched into Section 2.

Section 2 makes up the bulk of the book, and this section outlines some of the characteristics that many of us wish to bring to our mothering.  Patience, respect, calm, joy, and love are among some of the qualities of note.  The segments are filled with stories, tips, and questions to probe reflection.

The book closes with Section 3.  This section steps beyond the rather private, internal world of mothering to the external reality that we are not alone in the process…or we shouldn’t be!  Blackmer discusses the relationship between a mom and her husband or other parenting partner, and she goes on to reflect upon the value of friendships.  She does not hesitate to acknowledge God’s partnership in meeting the challenges of parenting. The entire book touches upon snippets from the Bible to encourage moms and an overarching faith-based focus, and this section in particular rings with the sound of scripture and Biblical principles.

So let me get back to the “take some, leave the rest” concept.  Because the book uses stories and quotations from real moms, there is the risk of “butting heads” with one of those real moms.  Please don’t allow that to turn you away.  My husband and I have chosen to parent our children in the vein of Attachment Parenting (kind of a hybrid version, I admit).  One of the stories was a breastfeeding success story.  Yay!  I teared up and cheered aloud.  I even read the anecdote to my husband.  On the other hand, I was so sad when one couple chose to let their child “cry it out” in one example (page 42).  I actually had a physical reaction to the story of a mom who was trying to get her daughter to go to bed.  The child pounded at her mother’s bedrooom door, screaming for her momma.  The section was about consistency.  I’m for consistency, but I would never be consistent in that manner.  No.  I would have chosen a different approach and been consistent in my own method.  Reading the story, my stomach clenched, my face flushed, and my palms got clammy.  I almost put the book away, but I stopped myself.  I reminded myself that this book is not the end-all be-all answer.  What my husband and I value simply does not align with what the mom in the example valued.  That’s okay.

I don’t know what kind of reader you are, but I’m the kind of gal who keeps favorite books  at hand for frequent reference.  I re-read many books many times but rarely in full.  This will be one of those books that I keep around for a reminder.  Despite some differences of opinion, MomSense: A Common-sense Guide to Confident Mothering lifted my spirits and renewed my belief that I’m up for this most rewarding and blessed assignment–being my kids’ mommy.

I would love to hear how your own “MomSense” has come into play in your life.  Do you recall a time when you just knew what was right for your child?  Jean Blackmer emphasizes that our MomSense is a combination of heart and education and experience.  What inspired you to make the decision?  Information?  Someone else’s opinion?  A gut reaction?

If you aren’t a mom, think how you’ve seen “MomSense” at work in others or how you’ve felt a kind of quiet wisdom inside yourself.

When you comment, you’ll be entered to win a copy of Blackmer’s book.  One entry per person!  Comments will close on Sunday at 11:59 pm.  Thanks for participating!

7 thoughts on “A Stop on the Tour…

  1. As the author of MomSense I’m thrilled to hear this book touches your heart and some of your hot buttons. Your MomSense is unique to you and learning to trust your instincts and respect others decisions it a big part of being a mom.

    Keep talking to each other through out your mothering journey – because no one should mother alone!

  2. Brystal

    Great review! I’ve enjoyed many of the MOPS books and would like to read this one, too. My own MomSense started for me when I was pregnant with Contessa (she’s 6 1/2 now). My mom told me that whatever advice I got, I should listen to it, pray about it and then do what was best for my family. No one else knows the tenor of their family like the mom. I have taken that advice and used it, ever since.

    I also think that we, as moms, don’t realize our importance as culture makers and culture changers! The things we do (or don’t do) in our homes will travel with our children as they grow and into their lives as adults. It’s an impressive (and scary) amount of power we wield.

  3. Marilyn

    Loved the review of this book. I’m a mom, but of adult children; I’m a grandma of two boys 4 and 6, and a granddaughter, aged 16. My daughter raised her daughter (mostly alone from age 2 – 8); after a second marriage and two more children, along with the help of my son-in-law, has done a wonderful job of raising the children. She has taken advice from many sources; some advice works, some doesn’t, but they continue to learn and do what’s best for their family.

    From the sounds of the “review”, this book would be useful to every family raising their children and learning from others, especially during those “hard-day-am-I-alone” times!

    Thanks to Ms. Blackmer for writing the book and to Erica for the review. I’ll tell my daughter about this book!

  4. Judy

    As a mom of a teenager sometimes I wonder if I have been a “good” mom. My son tells me often that I am the best mom in the whole wide world (he is 15 and I am proud of the relationship we have). I think I need this book to reinforce the good that I have done and maybe work on the not-so-good. I can’t wait to read it, I think my Sister would enjoy it too, this summer she was voicing some concerns about her “mothering” skills.

  5. Mom

    I really enjoyed reading your book review. although my daughters are now married and I am a grandma of 3 wonderful grandchildren (and a baby on the way) I find these types of books very interesting . Sounds like a book I would enjoy reading too. thanks for introducing it to us.

  6. Heather

    Sounds like a great read. I definitely have learned to trust my own instincts in raising my now 28 month old son, and I know that I will be more confident and do some things differently when my daughter is born in the next few weeks. In the beginning, I paid too much attention to advice from other (well-meaning) people. Now I know that my own thoughts, feelings, and reactions (as well as those of my husband) are really the important ones, and other people will have to accept the fact that WE are the parents. 🙂
    The other things I have learned are that we all have ‘those days’ and that having like-minded other parents to talk to is essential!

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