Only yesterday, I received a copy of Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches by Mrs. Rachel Jankovic for reviewing; I have read it from cover to cover today, and am now sitting down to write this.
Loving the Little Years is a great read for busy mothers; written by another busy mother who has no time to be particularly long-winded, this little book is full of succint, straight-to-the-point advice on how to survive (and thrive) in daily situations of kitchen messes, diaper blowouts, and squabbling children.
Right now, a book on motherhood that makes me nod and say, "yes, I've been there" is a welcome and comforting read. I giggled like mad as I read, "when taking the garbage out becomes a "destination", you know you are really in the trenches!" - well then, perhaps this isn't just me who says to her girls with the air of announcing a surprise party, "let's go for a walk to take out the garbage". Admittedly, the garbage bin is a little off the road from our house, but anyway, it's nice to know someone sane enough to actually complete a book and get it published can relate to what you feel.
Having said that, I have two issues to take with this book. One is the mention of spanking as an acceptable discipline method. I simply cannot agree with this; I do not wish to enter into an argument, and there is really very little to be added on this matter. By the way, this was also what put me off a bit while reading For the Family's Sake.
The second issue is a general message I felt, while reading, that every difficulty can be dismissed by telling yourself, "stop complaining and count your blessings. There's no justification to feel overwhelmed when there's work G-d obviously wishes you to do." Now, this can be good advice in many situations, and moping is, certainly, not a very productive attitude. But there are also circumstances when people go through genuine hardship such as tragic family situations, crumbling marriages, illness, bankruptcy, and other experiences in which simply telling oneself to cope with it and move on can result in even worse burnout and depression. There really are situations when we must call for a stop and accept, with humble grace, the help of people who are sent our way in those troubled times, to support us until we can pull ourselves together.
I understand the reasoning behind not wanting to give in to negative feelings, but in retrospect, looking at certain periods of my life as a mother when I felt very hurt and vulnerable, reading that I'm not supposed to feel overwhelmed, nor speak of it, would not have been very good advice. In fact, it would have made me feel even guiltier for being inadequate than I was already feeling. Sometimes what we really need is comfort, unconditional love, tenderness, compassion and support. We always have that in our Creator, but there are times in our life when we need the material manifestation of His love in the people who surround us.
Also, I believe that one must know one's strengths - as much as possible, anyway, as we do tend to err both ways; both in saying we can't do something we later manage to pull off and even do quite well, with G-d's help and mercy - and in trying to tackle something we cannot do without stretching ourselves very thin. We are, after all, blessed with different gifts, and what is easily possible for one is excruciatingly difficult for another. We must know our weaknesses - no, not to indulge them, but to allow room for growth by reasonable, individual planning.
Now, I'd better wrap this up because it's getting a bit long for a book review post. I will summarize by saying that the book is definitely worth a read, even if you don't agree with everything you find in it. If you are a mother of little ones, you will probably relate to many passages, and will most likely crack a good laugh or two - which, in my opinion, is the number one test that makes a self-help book worthwhile.