Monday, December 14, 2009

Girl talk

My summer reading kicks off with two books about mothers and daughters - reviewed today and next week.

Book review:
Girl talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood, Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Mahaney Whitacre

Another great book from the girltalk bloggers. Mother-daughter team Carolyn and Nicole have made a book for mothers and daughters to help them grow closer together and really talk about the issues that women face today and how to be godly women in all circumstances. Using the language of biblical womanhood, they explore all aspects of life and the challenges for women as they try to be different from secular society.
The wonderful results of building our relationships on the foundation of God's Word are joy, peace, fellowship, and fun that make the mother-daughter bond strong. Far from being a duty or obligation, the mother-daughter relationship can be one of the greatest blessings of our lives...

This must be the aspiration of all mothers and daughters: the successful transfer of the qualities of biblical womanhood that sparkle with the gospel. - so that in the midst of this me-centred, self-focused, ungodly language of our culture, we can speak the refreshingly pure, altogether true and saving message of Jesus Christ. (p26, 27)
They have divided the books into 2 parts, I'll briefly summarise what each of them cover

I) The Forging of the Mother-Daughter bond - that God made our family, so the mother/daughters we have are his choice for us; how to maintain communication; conflicts; for mothers - their faith, example, love & discipline; and for daughters - their honour and obedience.

II) Biblical Womanhood in the Real World - navigating the realities of life: friendships, guys, beauty, modesty, homemaking, reputation, courting and marriage.

This was a helpful book that has already made me start thinking about areas where I want to be pro-active with my daughters. They are only 2 & 4, but it's good to think about these in advance!

Here are some things I liked:

1) Her advice about teenage years when girls tend to move away from their mothers. She talks about actively being present in those years and not allowing daughters to move away and stop talking to their mothers, because really they do need encouragement, advice and help in these years, even if they don't think they do.
Biblical womanhood is transferred through our example, our speech, and by teaching these virtues in the nitty-gritty of everyday life.

This process requires a relationship. Clearly, for me to exert any meaningful influence in my daughters' lives, I must be close to them. I must be consistently, actively and intimately involved in their world. And while this is important at any stage it is absolutely crucial during the teenage years. (p42-43)
2) The chapter on communication - she had five principles: Godly mother-daughter communication starts with Mum*, happens all the time, is about the Word of God, is open and honest and is possible through the grace of God. I found this helpful thinking about all the things we talk about in a day, and making sure that I am open to conversation all the time (even when I often I like a little silence!)

3) Her suggestions for a mother to show her tender love for her daughter: pray, take an interest, listen closely, encourage, express affection and make memories (p77-79)

4) The way she thinks through teaching our daughters the practicalities of modest dress, passing on the ideas of true beauty, dating boys and then moving towards marriage.

The only thing that sat uncomfortably with me was the emphasis on teaching daughters to be homemakers. Now I agree that we should be teaching our daughters how to manage a home, including cooking, cleaning and washing. However:
  • we should also be equally teaching these skills to our sons, and
  • I struggled with her emphasis on making the home beautiful. I don't think we need to be teaching them how to home-decorate, but how to manage a home. This assessment may be a little harsh though, it just seemed like there was more attention here to some things that I would see as unimportant (eg. how to wrap presents, etc)

However, I suspect even my hesitation over this is my response to societal views that women should not have to be at home doing all these things, even though, I have chosen to be at home and do all these things! What I did like was her emphasis that we can teach our daughters that there can be real joy in managing a home and it does not have to be seen as drudgery. We can choose to see it as a privilege to care for a family and their needs, or view it as an imposition that we are the cook, cleaner, etc. As mothers, we will be passing on our attitudes to these things, whether we realise it or not.

It's a book worth reading for any Christian mother with daughters, especially those approaching or in the teenage years.

* Note - they use 'Mom' for all references, but because it is more natural for me and most of my readers to use 'Mum' I have changed to that.


Anonymous said...

Hi Wendy

Thanks for your review - I haven't read the book but I pop by the Girltalk blog from time to time. I reckon they've got some good stuff going on, although I'm not sure it's a blog I'd recommend to single women thinking through the issue of 'biblical womanhood' - it seems rather preoccupied with marriage and family!

I was wondering how culturally bound you think their comments about making the home beautiful are? As in, is that an application of something else or do they make an argument for it from the Bible?

Meredith said...

Thanks for your review! I am a mother of boys so maybe I shouldn't even be popping in at this point but I agree with what you say about homemaking. And I certainly agree that boys should be taught the domestic ropes before they leave home as a gift to their future wives.

And by the way, I think you are amazing that you are reading books and writing reviews so close to Christmas. You must read very fast. Anyway, well done! I am looking forward to hearing what you have to say about the books on your summer reading list. Happy reading.

Wendy said...

Thanks for the comment Tamie.

You are probably right about recommending their blog to single women, as they are all married with families, that makes some sense that their blog tends in that direction - so does mine! Although if you look at the resources seciton of the website, they are arranged in sections which could still provide helpful material to all ages and stages.

As for the homemaking question - they do make an argument for it from the bible. They say we are to be 'keepers of the home' (from Prov 31, 1 Tim 5:14, and Titus 2:5. My NIV gives more of a 'manage the home' idea. However, I think they have taken it as a biblical mandate, that God has a call for women to be homemakers. They do not exclude working outside the home in this, nor do they exclude single women - but say that all women are to manage their homes, to be homemakers.

Later, Carolyn says "Homemaking involves so much more than just cleaning a house. The commands in Scripture to love, follow, and help a husband, to raise children for the glory of God, and to manage a home encompass a vast responsibility, everything from management abilities, to knowledge of health and nutrition, to interior decorating capabilities, to childhood development expertise, If you are to become an effective homemaker, they you must study these subjects and many more." (p151) Yes, I agree you want to have some ideas of how to raise children to know and love the Lord, but training in interior decorating I feel is over the top! She says that we want the gospel to come out of our homes, I agree completely. But, I don't think it comes out of an aesthetically beautiful home. My guess is that some of it is cultural, but I think they have extended it too far to claim it is biblical.

What do you think?

And Meredith, thanks for the comment! If truth be told, these ones I read a while ago - and as for the rest of the plans, they may collapse in the next few weeks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Wendy.

I must confess, I find the call to make one's home beautiful a little awkward. Partly it's because I wonder how far they're talking about taking it. If women are not to adorn themselves with jewels, etc, why is it encouraged to have a beautiful home? Not that I'm against beauty. But I wonder whether the same modesty and simplicity that is to be seen of Christian women ought to be reflected in their homes as well.

Related to that is an ethical question, one of how we choose to spend and use our resources - on making our already wealthy existence beautiful or on building homes for those who have none, for example.

Wendy said...

I think you make very helpful points Tamie, perhaps you have managed to define what my uneasy concerns were ...
it's helpful to think about. Thanks.