Tuesday has arrived, and I am delighted to share with you a truly fun read. I read plenty of parenting/self-help books, and current ones always try to capture the tone of a friend on a journey. Some are successful. Some are less so. In her book Mom Connection: Creating Vibrant Relationships in the Midst of Motherhood, Tracy Bianchi nails the tone of mom-to-mom literature. Her voice is warm and funny–with a bit of been-there-done-that wisdom that made me want to listen up and dog-ear more than a few pages. The book is a nicely balanced mix of information, anecdotes, and opportunities for reflection.
When I first read the title, I expected Mom Connections to be about making mommy friends, joining mommy groups, and maybe signing up for a zumba class with other ready-to-get-fit mommies. To be truthful, I expected the book to be pretty fluffy, and I imagined little more than the light banter of most mommy magazines. I was pleasantly surprised. Bianchi touches upon the many crucial connections in a woman’s life, not only friendships. She gracefully moves from self, to family, to extended family, to marriage, to friendship, and finally, to the larger community. She points to the delicate complexities of in-law relationships and the essential communication in marriage. She does all of this with an eye toward identifying and creating “rhythms” in all areas of life. The concept of rhythm is the thread that runs through the book. Bianchi summarizes the idea best on page 20. She writes:
“…the perfect mother does not exist, yet some women seem to hold tight in the tornado and emerge stronger, more thoughtful and purposeful than they were the day their first child came home. They do not stive for perfection, but as they shuffle down the sidewalk, they have indeed found their groove. They are in sync with their own souls and the desires of their hearts. They admit the challenges yet embrace the messiness. They live vibrant, connected lives because they have settled into a rhythm.”
The structure of Bianchi’s work encourages readers to really examine the text, evaluate its usefulness, and ask oneself a series of honest questions. Each chapter concludes with questions and space to jot down ideas. In La Leche League meetings, we always ask mothers to take the ideas and tips that work for them and to feel free to leave the rest. Bianchi is doing the same. She never attempts to be a one-size-fits-all guru, but instead, she asks readers to note the information that is appealing or workable and unabashedly disregard the pieces that are not a good fit for our families. That tone permeates the entire book. The author’s convivial spirit comes through in the way she portrays herself as real. The stories of her marriage and her children are bright and funny because they are real. The story of her childhood friend is poignant because it is real, and Bianchi’s advice is easy to take because it seems to come from a real desire to see women truly thrive in these special, complex years of mothering.
Truly, I have only one complaint about Mom Connections. I sense in various places that the author is trying to help women thrive despite the trials of motherhood, and I really hoped for more of the often ignored sentiment that maybe our lives are better because we mother small kiddos. I liked who I was pre-children, but I like myself a whole lot more now that I have nurtured a baby, chased a toddler, encouraged a preschooler, and enjoyed an elementary kid. I’m tougher, braver, wiser, and happier. My marriage is stronger and more resilient. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, but the rest of the world wants to rehash the idea that we need to beware of “losing ourselves” in these years. You know what? I found myself when a little fellow was placed in my arms. I had hoped that Bianchi would be the one to say that the You who broke through when you became a mother IS the real you. Let’s celebrate HER. Biachi certainly celebrates motherhood, and at times, she recognizes the personal growth that can happen in motherhood. She has many positive things to say, but chapter four’s goal to help moms discover their gifts and talents falls very close to the “mere survival” message that I’ve seen in many places. Looking back at the passage quoted above, I cringe at the thought that this season of my life is a tornado that will pass. Maybe it’s just me…
I enjoyed Mom Connections. I would absolutely share it with other moms, especially new moms. I applaud Tracey Bianchi’s candor and humor. I love her attention to the difficulties that come with all relationships. I think she is at her very best when she discusses the challenge of navigating the pressures as a husband and wife seeking to carve out a family culture of their own. My husband and I had a wonderful conversation about our family’s “culture” in light of Bianchi’s Chapter Five. “Game Night: What Is Your Family Famous For?” is truly excellent. If, for some weird reason, you can only read one chapter, choose this one! Or maybe you need the one about making your own family traditions even when Great Aunt So-and-Soinsists that you have Jello at her house every New Years. That one is pretty great, too!
Would you like to win a copy of Tracey Bianchi’s book, Mom Connections: Creating Vibrant Relationships in the Midst of Motherhood? Please leave a comment on this post, and you will be entered in my drawing.
You have until Sunday, May 20th, at 6:00pm (Eastern). Deadline extended to Tuesday, May 22nd at 6pm. Thanks!