Saturday, July 30, 2011

book review: just moms

This book, Just Moms: Conveying Justice in an Unjust World, came out last spring from Barclay Press. It's a collection of essays from moms in peace churches about the challenges and joys of being a mom and attempting to raise kids who care about peace and justice in our violent and unjust culture. I know several of the women who wrote chapters, including the two editors, Melanie Springer Mock and Rebekah D. Schneiter, so I was excited to read this book, and I definitely enjoyed it. I appreciated that they chose essays from women in different stages of parenting--parenting small children up through parenting children who have children themselves.

Even if the essay "His Pink Shoes" by Amy Lutz was not first in the book, I probably would have read it first anyway. I figured I would get some good pointers on what to do with a boy who loves pink, or at least be able to commiserate with another mom. My son LOVES pink. Pink is not my favorite color. I find myself unsure about what to do often when we have to buy something (like shoes) and he gravitates toward the pink ones. Do I let him choose? Or do I shelter him from the teasing he would likely receive from others who say he's wearing girl clothes? I appreciated Amy's story and thoughtfulness, and I wonder with her why we have to have such rigid boundaries about what's OK for boys in our culture.

Marilee Jolin's essay, "Uniquely Qualified," hit particularly close to home. Her oldest daughter and my oldest son are about a week apart, and we have prego pictures together at Thanksgiving in Massachusetts. She writes, "My journey toward my Ph.D. ended when Mira was born. I know putting school on hold was the right choice, and I'm glad to be able to stay home with her. Still, I sometimes feel my daily activities of diapers, dishes, laundry, and play dough do not give Mira the clear message I'd like to send her about female ability and ambition" (29-30). She wants her daughter to know that women can do things just as "important" as men, women can achieve things and can be the ones who work outside the home. She fears this isn't coming through because of her family's choice that she be the one to stay home with the kiddos while they're little. I have this same fear for my sons--not that they'll not know they can strive for a career they enjoy, but that they won't have the role models of how to also allow their future spouses to perhaps be the ones who focus on their careers while the men stay at home with the little ones (assuming there ARE spouses and little ones--I'll leave that up to my boys!) I remember my dad staying home with my sister and me when I was little, and my husband Joel stayed home with E for a while, but E was too little to remember it even now. The other day E was role playing, and we were elves at the North Pole. He said something like, "You're a girl elf so you cook all the meals." How's that for gender stereotypes???

Several essays had to do with boys and guns, or the topic of guns and public settings where others are socializing our children. These topics are difficult, and no one had a really good answer, but it was nice to know others struggle with the same issues and to see how they handled it.

In "The Economics of Bouncy Balls," Melanie Springer Mock talks about cheap toys, the violence they cause between siblings and the violence they cause due to oppression of those in other countries sitting in factories making our cheap toys that will be loved for only two hours or so. How do we live in a Christ-like way in this culture? She says, "But if I am honest with myself, I am just as much a consumer--and, by extension, a potential oppressor of the poor--as anyone else who has rejected the idea that when Christ means we should sell everything, he really means everything." Convicting, anyone?

And then there's Lisa Graham McMinn's "Starbucks-colored Glasses." She and her daughter, Sarah, then in middle school, saw a homeless woman. Another Starbucks customer treated this woman poorly, and Lisa apologized to her. Sarah suggested (later) that they invite the woman to live with them. Lisa compromised by taking the woman dinner, and doing so each week, building a relationship with this woman. Lisa now sees in her grown daughter an intentionality about standing up for the rights of the oppressed and actions that encourage solidarity with them. This is an inspiring story, one I want to emulate as a parent. I try to listen to the compassion that my kids exhibit, and follow when God speaks through them. I want to do that more and more often as they grow up, not only for their sakes but for mine as well.

That segues nicely into my next planned post, during which you will get to hear about E's lemonade stand for a homeless shelter!

4 comments:

Laura Dunn, LPN, IBCLC said...

Darryl has designed the covers for the last two books that you have reviewed. :)

naturalmom said...

I should check this book out. I feel like I don't parent in a way that really emphasizes peace and non-violence. My kids know what I think and they know what they are taught in First Day School, but it can be hard to be consistent. We've had the conversation about the cheap toys for example, and I've refused to buy things like super-cheap party favors, but we still get Happy Meals from time to time and don't turn down the toy. (I often find myself torn between my own ideals and not wanting to suck all the joy out of their childhoods. It's tough.)

I also struggle with the role-modeling as a stay-at-home-mom. Tonight my youngest son (almost 4) and I were talking about jobs. He said, "When I grow up, I can do the dishes like you!" Heh. :o\
I got news for him though; he doesn't have to wait until he grows up!

Anonymous said...

Dear Cherice,

You wrote:
"Still, I sometimes feel my daily activities of diapers, dishes, laundry, and play dough do not give Mira the clear message I'd like to send her about female ability and ambition" (29-30). She wants her daughter to know that women can do things just as "important" as men, women can achieve things and can be the ones who work outside the home. She fears this isn't coming through because of her family's choice that she be the one to stay home with the kiddos while they're little. "

Please forgive me if I am misinterpretting you, however, this sections implies that staying at home and taking care of children and the household are less ambitious and important than a "career" that a man has.

To me this is deeply disturbing. The work of homemaking is one of the most important things a person can do. It doesn't matter whether it is the mom or dad, simply that it is done. To aspire to be a "housewife/husband" is not lacking ambition. It is not a job lacking importance. It is simply a path that does not reward a person with a paycheck.

Devaluing what is tradionally female or feminine is one facet of misogny and a deep failure in the feminist movement.

I do enjoy reading your posts and look forward to checking this book out.

Thank you!
-Rachelle

Ralph Beebe said...

Good review of a good book, Cherice. My response to Rachel is agreement, but I don't think that is exactly what Cherice was saying. Anyway, I agree that staying at home to nurture the family is an excellent choice, as is working some and home-parenting some can also be productive. Wanda (Cherice's grandma) stayed at home until our kids were in high school. A job change, from teaching in high school to teaching at George Fox, cut my salary by 40 percent, so she worked half and then fulltime. I think the issue is how much love and attention we can give our kids. In Cherice's case, she lives close enough to several family members that we also serve as pseudo-parents. I think it works well.

Ralph Beebe