REVIEW | Motherhood Without All The Rules

Motherhood often “feels like both too little and too much,” according to Maggie Combs. Not only do I have to agree with this sentiment, but I think it summarizes the feeling I often struggle with most on a day-to-day basis. Many of us moms try our best to remain faithful to the belief that motherhood is important (it isn’t quite so difficult to believe that it is hard) but we often find ourselves stuck in ruts of seemingly empty monotony that challenge this view. There’s the never-ending cycle of dirty laundry and dirty dishes; the constant need for emotional perseverance as we correct the same issues in our children’s character multiple times each day; and the list of a hundred small-but-essential administrative tasks that we need to complete by the end of the week. And how is it already time to make another loaf of bread?! Didn’t I just mop this floor yesterday?! Where have all of those tiny socks disappeared to?! You get the picture.

I often find myself wondering at the end of the day – a day that, in hindsight, bleeds into all the ones preceding it – whether or not I am actually accomplishing anything of value in my life. And then I find myself asking if there is something truly important that I’m missing (or, more accurately, forgetting to do) that would fill that insecure, bored-but-always-busy hole in my heart.

The world has many answers to these two questions. In Motherhood Without All the Rules, Maggie Combs addresses several of the most common worldly standards and lies that confront Christian mothers as they wade through the chaos of daily life, including:

  • “You need an escape”
  • “Be more than just a mom”
  • “You don’t have time for quiet time”
  • “Image is everything,” and,
  • “It all depends on you”

These Stressful Standards are combated in each chapter with Gospel Truths that are rooted in Scripture and supplemented with relevant anecdotes from Combs’ own life as a mom.

One of my favorite quotes from this book encapsulates Combs’ perspective of this constant spiritual, mental, and emotional battle that Christian moms must endure. She writes, “Because you live as already saved and redeemed, but not yet holy, perfect, and sanctified, following God’s best way will always be a fight to choose the gospel over the false hope the world offers in its system of rules for mothers.” (17) Functioning as a thesis statement for the entire book, this perspective offers an anchor of hope and humility for Christian moms who find themselves overwhelmed by all the means of personal redemption the world has to offer (that is, redemption that the world claims to offer). Combs repeatedly highlights the inconsistencies and trivialities that characterize the world’s promises in contrast to the reliable and enduring promises of the Gospel found in Scripture.

This contrast is important because the lies brought to light in this book are not insignificant; they are quite pervasive in our age and culture, and are very, very tempting to believe – especially on the (many) days where mothers are made to be keenly aware of their sinful shortcomings and basic human limits. On such days, we know we need redemption. And we can choose to find this redemption by submitting our lives to Christ . . . or we can toy around with hollow redemption substitutes that encourage us to work for our own salvation by proving our value and goodness through our roles as mothers. When we choose the latter, we obsess over our children’s habits, clothes, diets, behaviors, achievements, friends, and so on. We start to believe not only that we can save ourselves by being great mothers, but also that we can save our children.

In regard to this inclination, Combs writes that “if you expect to find your life in motherhood, you won’t. What you will find is that there are endless opportunities for service and sanctification.” (97) This places our roles as mothers in proper perspective – viewed in light of the Gospel and the weight of eternity. Only when we accept this will we find the God-given power we need to love our families well for His glory. Motherhood is a means of sanctification, not an end that gives us the justification our souls long for. That justification can only be found in Jesus.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Moody Publishers as part of their blog review program. All opinions are my own.

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