I was so ready to love that book (certainly influenced by lots of positive reviews all over the net), but somehow that book didn’t speak to me, even though I certainly am a “mother in a hurry”. So I’m a bit bitter in my disappointment, but it’s because I do love her voice and really wanted it to “work out”.
Kenison’s book is about slowing down, about being present to our children and letting enchantment and simple pleasures into our lives. Of course I agree with her on many points. Of course I can’t find fault in her project, and I’m striving to get there too, every single day, but I found her voice a bit self-righteous and her advice a bit simplistic. For example, she urges families to get rid of TV to better enjoy time together. Indeed! Yet she spoke to my younger self, not where I stand right now: we’ve done it several years ago, and while I really support this decision and appreciate the benefits day after day, it didn’t magically solve my time problems. (Or perhaps I would be worse if we had kept the TV. Certainly.)
One thing started grating on me very early on: she doesn’t speak about work, nor to working mothers (although she mentions working free-lance from home). My point is not to start yet another chapter of the “mummy war”, but to mention that she conveniently dismisses the nitty-gritty of mothers’ daily life. She doesn’t even speak about all the chores and toil stay-at-home mothers have to manage. I guess that her book speaks to American suburban mothers (Desperate Housewives style?), than to an inner-city, European working mother.
Or perhaps that’s another proof that Americans are always so positive and that French people are grumbling all the time.
So, trying not to be a grouchy French mother, I want to make clear that it’s not a bad book at all. It works better if you read it like a memoir of her life with 2 pre-teen young boys (but older than toddlers and babies), in rather privileged circumstances. I loved the chapters where she talks about telling stories to her boys and making room for magic (tooth fairies and house brownies) in her daily life. I appreciated that she approached the question of spirituality but didn’t force anything religious on the reader (either Christian or other). And she obviously has managed to reach a point of balance and peace as a woman and a mother, something most of us yearn to. But it makes me realize that this quest is highly personal and that there’s no easy solution for everyone.
Perhaps the book is a produce of the end of the 1990s, and we all see things differently now 10 years later. I suspect this because I find myself much more at ease with Kenison’s blog and the excerpts of her new memoir I read on the web than with this book. The next memoir I started after hers is from a friend of hers, Karen Maezen Miller: Hand Wash Cold, and it resonates a lot more to my 2010 ears. I’ll tell you more later!