Motherhood As a Spiritual Discipline

Motherhood As A Spiritual Discipline - Parenting Like HannahOne of my concerns with feminism is that instead of giving women “more options” as advertised, it has instead marginalized the roles of wife and mother. We are constantly fed a diet that if we aren’t trying to “have it all” or making sure we “are happy and fulfilled so our children will be” -which evidently only happens in the work place – we are somehow not reaching our potential.

I was interested when I was offered a chance to review a new book Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood As A Spiritual Discipline by Catherine McNeil. McNeil takes the book Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster and adds a new dimension to it. (The author and I agree Foster’s book is great.) She takes the twelve disciplines discussed by Foster and mourns the fact she no longer has time for them in the hectic nature of raising three little ones.

Then an unplanned event helps her reframe her season of motherhood as a spiritual discipline in and of itself. She discusses the areas in which the every day tasks of motherhood have helped her grow spiritually. Within each chapter, she also adds three shorter practical sections where she lists specific tasks common to most moms and gives tips for how to use them to grow spiritually.

Let me say, I love her concept. I absolutely believe focused Christian motherhood is a boot camp for spiritual growth. I appreciate McNeil was able to realize part of the reason we are not growing spiritually as much as we could during the season of motherhood is because we don’t slow down and become intentional. In fact, most of her practical tips for growing spiritually through every day tasks include slowing down and being more mindful.

What I realized while reading though, is that I have used the busyness motherhood can create as an excuse. How many times was I “too tired” to read my Bible or pray more than a sentence prayer? Yet as I read McNeil’s book, I remembered nursing our daughter for 45 minutes at a time several times a day. That often was, but probably more often should have also been time spent in prayer. I probably could have managed reading some scriptures on my phone, too. (Okay, I will give myself a pass on that one as there weren’t Bible apps then!)

Unfortunately, I am torn as to how the author handled her realization. I think she did a great job in encouraging moms to slow down and take advantage of those moments they are currently using to zone out or watch a device. What disappointed me was that she didn’t go a bit farther. Yes, any time focused on God is better than none, but why settle for a few seconds and a sentence prayer, when you actually have an extended amount of time and can engage in some serious meaningful prayer?

There were a couple of sentences containing some theology one could argue was wrong, but they could be overlooked for the important message the remainder of the book was trying to convey. My biggest disappointment was not theological so much as it was that the author ultimately bought into the lie of feminism.

She makes it clear, she expects most moms work – and she’s right, they probably do. My question is that if motherhood is as vital spiritually for moms and their kids as she says it is – why not encourage moms to put all of their efforts into motherhood? Why not encourage them to do with less things, so they can cut costs to stay home? Why not applaud women who have realized how vital their ministry of raising godly children is to their children and the church?

I understand there are some women who truly have no choice and must work so their family can eat. I admire them, for honestly, I don’t know how they do it. For most of us though, the second income is about having a bigger house, a nicer car and the extras in life. Yet, I spend untold hours every week working with and hearing about children all over this country whose secular and spiritual lives are a disaster. They have been left to basically raise themselves, by parents who work constantly and then put them in organized activities the little time they do have together.

I wish the author had been brave enough to tell her readers that the way to really impact the church and the world is to put everything you have into this season of motherhood. I wish she had written that they will be swimming against the culture, but the rewards are worth it. I wish she had helped them feel the call of the ministry of their children with whom God has blessed them. I wish she had reminded them motherhood is but a season and there will be plenty of time to revive or create a career once their children are grown.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a great book for helping moms reframe how they view motherhood. I think one can’t read the book and continue to live Satan’s lie that motherhood is a time for spiritual stagnation. I think she gives some tips for great baby steps to begin focusing on growing spiritually through the season of busyness and chores motherhood creates. I just wish she had taken the full leap into the higher calling of spiritual disciplines and ministry and really challenged moms who are capable of more than a second of prayer or reflection here and there. There are some for whom that is all they will be able to achieve, but for most of us moms – it’s still phoning it in and not our full potential.

So, young moms especially, I do encourage you to read this book. Take her suggestions. But then do what she doesn’t address – stretch yourself and see what your godly potential really is and how you can minister to your kids in such a way that they become godly, servant leaders in the church. That is the ultimate Christian mom challenge!



This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. Affiliate links are included for your convenience.

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Thereasa Winnett

Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking.

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