Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Handbook for Catholic Moms Offers Kindness, Encouragement for Moms

When I was a new mom, I received much wise counsel from my own mother during many a late-night conversation.  For example, my mom very gently told me (and I’m sure laughed silently at the other end of the phone), that my child would be potty trained before college, and not to focus too much emotional energy in that direction.   

Even with my mom’s great advice, as I get older in my parenting journey, I often wish I could write a letter to myself and time travel it back to the younger-mom me. The letter would tell me things to worry about (and not), as well as things to do differently and things to not change at all.

The chief message of The Handbook for Catholic Moms stresses something I—and many older moms-- would put in this “younger me” letter.  That message is: self-care,--emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually-- is not an indulgence or a weakness, but one of the most important gifts you can give to yourself, and your family.

The Handbook for Catholic Moms is helpfully divided into four sections: heart, mind, body and soul, focusing on the different ways moms can take care of ourselves.  More than anything, though, what shines through the book is Hendey’s kindness and her passion for the Catholic faith.

Some of my favorite nuggets:

*Heart: In the chapter on marriage, Hendey suggests getting out the special wedding album/photos from time to time for kids to see.  This is great tradition to do around an anniversary date, something we do each year at our house.   It sparks great discussions and happy feelings about the event that started each family.

*Mind: Hendey challenges mom to try an activity that stretches you creatively, whether knitting, cooking or writing.   Making time for a creative endeavor can provide dividends in happiness and satisfaction.

*Body: Hendey candidly shares her own treatment for breast cancer, and challenges women to not neglect regular health screenings.

*Soul: I loved the simple but beautiful reflection penned by Hendey’s childhood pastor on praying the Rosary and devotion to Mary. Also not to be missed are the list of saints favorites, for moms, from moms.

Sprinkled throughout the book are quotes from scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, church documents, and quotes from the saints.  A great feature are the stories shared from a range of Catholic moms (and those who love them.  There’s everything from Mary Ellen Barrett’s account of facing her son’s autism to podcaster mom Pat Gohn’s three principles for lifelong learning, to Catholic financial guru Phil Lenehan’s call for moms to be good stewards for their families. Each chapter ends with Catholic Internet and other resources for helping moms navigate a particular area, as well as encouraging but not overwhelming, “Mom’s homework.”

I can’t begin to describe how glad I am that “The Handbook for Catholic Moms” is not a parenting book. Like most moms, I’ve read more than my share of parenting books, been in helpful book groups with other parents, had and witnessed heated discussions both online and in real life about “the best way to parent.”

While some of this can be transformative, every family is different and there are many “Catholic” ways to parent.   Fortunately, The Handbook for Catholic Moms steers clear of this by providing solid, both catholic (as in universal) and Catholic (as in centering on our faith) nurturing for moms.

The Handbook for Catholic Moms is a great read and gentle pick-me-up, especially for those women are newer at motherhood, but provides real encouragement and guidance for all us moms out there in the trenches.

You go, moms!

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