Motherhood and social media can be a damaging and deceptive combination—from the unsolicited parenting advice offered freely on Facebook to the perfect family photos found on Instagram. Online influences are contributing to greater gaps between expectation and reality, and some mothers are left feeling underprepared—or worse, inadequate.
In response, a handful of new books from religion and spirituality publishers aim to set the record straight on what being a mother looks like today. Stories depicting both the exhilaration and the exhaustion that come with parenthood seek to cut through the confusion and help stressed-out moms.
Mary Katherine Backstrom, a blogger whose writings have appeared in the Washington Post, shares a collection of essays on finding hope, humor, and spiritual wisdom as a result of parenting in Mom Babble: The Messy Truth about Motherhood (Abingdon, Apr. 2020). “It’s hard to explain the struggle I have with my oldest child,” Backstrom writes in the book. “Even typing the word struggle makes me feel guilty because he’s everything I hoped for in a son. But the truth is, sometimes the wild of his heart makes me tired—really tired.”
Backstrom goes on to describe her prayer for help and the answer that came in the form of a picture of her son playing in the ocean while she watched. “God reminded me that my job is simply to be there,” she writes. “Calm and consistent. To oversee the chaos of the wild. Not to tame it, but to quietly pull it into order.”
Kristen Howerton, a marriage and family therapist, draws on her experiences with infertility, adoption, and divorce to explore her insecurities as well as society’s obsession with perfection in her debut book, Rage Against the Minivan: Opting Out of Motherhood as a Competitive Sport (Convergent, June), which takes its name from her popular blog. Howerton argues that there is no “right” way to raise kids, writing that she hopes the book gives readers permission “to fail, to get back up, and to love with our whole hearts again the next day.”
Longtime Catholic Reporter journalist Peggy Weber reflects on her journey from insecurity to self-acceptance—as a writer, a mother, and a grandmother—in Enough as You Are (Loyola, Dec.). The book addresses today’s hypercomparative, social media–driven world and focuses on the biblical promise of God’s love for his creations. Weber also provides guided prayers, as well as tips on how to let go of fear and judgment.
Danielle Bean, author of Small Steps for Catholic Moms and the brand manager of CatholicMom.com, describes her experiences as an empty nester in Giving Thanks and Letting Go: Reflections on the Gift of Motherhood (Ave Maria, Feb. 2020). Addressing a range of emotions—including grief, hope, anxiety, and excitement—Bean sheds a rare light on a crucial moment in motherhood: when children are launched into their adult lives.
And finally, for moms-to-be, Expecting Wonder: The Transformative Experience of Becoming a Mother by Brittany Bergman (Fortress, Aug. 2020) focuses on the inward spiritual changes one experiences while pregnant rather than the physical aspects, such as weight gain and nursery preparations. “During a time that is so focused on the physical reality of growing a baby and preparing for a life with that tiny person, I offer these words as a love letter... to the unseen ways that you are changing and growing and being shaped,” Bergman writes in the introduction. “This book is about how each moment of pregnancy shapes us as we become mothers.”