Memoirs on Motherhood

I spend a lot of time reading. Well, wait, let me be clear. I don’t have a lot of time these days. The time of lazy afternoons spent moving from one position to another on the couch or under a tree, while enjoying a book for hours have long passed. Reading typically looks like two or three books shoved into my purse, covered with sticky lollipops and coffee stains and slowly falling to pieces as they are read, bit by bit, in parking lots or my driveway while children have fallen asleep in the car, or in waiting rooms for appointments. Reading sometimes looks like my Audible app blaring through the speakers of the car as we hustle from piano to violin to school and to the vet, and driving that last block just a little more slowly so I can finish listening to the very last part of whatever history book I’m trying to cram into my brain because I just have to know ALL THE THINGS.

Reading also looks different in that it used to be a form of escape. I loved reading books that put me into a different world and let me be someone else and experience something else, even if it all came to an end as soon as I folded the page corner and shut the cover for the night. 

Now, I find myself reaching out for people who are living lives that look a lot like mine. I am just as likely to read a memoir as I am fiction and find it just as enjoyable and in many ways, even more satisfying. Now, I’m not seeking the escape as much as I’m looking for a shared experience … a life with which I can identify. 

Memoirs on Motherhood | Houston Moms Blog

I love reading memoirs on motherhood. It’s a window into the soul of another person, walking your same path, that you can’t get from a conversation on a playground bench. Verse 19 of Luke 2 {“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart”} is one that wafts through my mind so often when I take the time to look at my children and be present in the moments of their lives, and that’s what reading these memoirs has helped me to do … treasure up all the things and ponder them in my heart. 

In January of each year, I often make a list of books that I plan to read throughout the year. If you are looking for a good read in the genre of motherhood memoirs, I would encourage you to give the following a try. {And two of these women live in the greater Houston area, so aren’t we lucky?}

Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family by Catherine Newman

I first read this while pregnant with my second child, and the timing was impeccable. Catherine Newman chronicles all of the excitement, fear, and wonder that comes with preparing to welcome a second child into your family. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I read her words and thought to myself, “Yes! Exactly! That’s exactly what I’m feeling.” While I wondered whether I could possibly love another child as much as the one I had, and learned to cherish and say goodbye to the time where it was “just us,” her words and insight let me see through the eyes of another mother who had traveled the same road. 

Feathers in My Nest: A Mother’s Reflections by Beth Moore

I knew Beth Moore through this book, as an author, before I ever watched her bible studies or saw her on a stage. The voice that comes through in this book, at times heartrending in its honesty, is one of contemplation, observation, and appreciation. Facing an empty nest that is anything but empty, she looks back, in a series of vignettes, through raising her children with a voice that is at times insanely funny and at other times stabs you right in the Mommy Heart. I cried my way through this book … when I wasn’t laughing. And I just love her perspective. I don’t really know how to explain that statement, but when you read this, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Reading this book made me a better mother, both in seeing the significance of seemingly unimportant moments that should be treasured in my heart, and in learning to be a little more gentle with myself at the end of the day when I’m looking back through the hours. 

The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother’s Memoir by Katrina Kenison

I first read Katrina Kenison’s earlier memoir, Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry, chronicling her life as a mother to two young boys and her determination to protect them from the fast-paced world around them. I fell in love with her emphasis on free time and the peace and insight that comes to children when you just let them BE and with her desire to keep life simple and real. As my children are aging, I find that I have this looming terror of what motherhood will be like when it doesn’t involve cleaning up countless toys and spending every minute of every day with my children, when they start to grow into making decisions on their own. When I found  out Katrina Kenison had also written a novel about her children in their older years, I had to read it. In The Gift of an Ordinary Day, she chronicles her impulse to sell their home, the one her children grew up in, and buy a ramshackle property in the countryside in New Hampshire. By uprooting themselves and saying goodbye {and these chapters are painfull} to all they had known as “home” and learning to live without one for a period of nearly three years, and moving themselves to a place that is closer to nature and to the family’s heart, they are forced to come to terms with what “home” truly is to each of them. This book will make you want to scrap your life in the city and move your family to a cabin in New Hampshire, seriously. But what’s more important than the physical mechanics of what is happening in the memoir is what the memoir has to say about searching, and home, and slowing down, and love, and trying to live in a way where all of those things can be more easily heard and felt and understood. Now if we only had a cabin on a hill in New Hampshire…

Churchy: The Real Life Adventures of a Wife, Mom, and Priest by Sarah Condon

Sarah Condon is my Mom Crush, y’all. I first began reading her writing through the Mockingbird Ministries blog and then followed that up with her regular appearance on The Mockingcast, a podcast I listen to religiously. {See what I did there?}  Aside from being hilarious with an adorable Mississippi accent that comes through even on the page, she has this ability to break past people’s bull, the bull we feed ourselves, the bull others feed us, and the bull we feed right back to them. I loved this book because her writing is so convicting and in the world of carefully curated Facebook profiles and Instagram feeds, we could use a little conviction to remind us of just how much of a mess we all are, how much we need saving, and that the act of trying to save yourself is a Sisyphean work of futile frustration. If I had to choose one sentence from her book that captures the reason why I love her perspective so much it would be this one, where she has just finished talking about the importance in our later years of the memories we make as young mothers:

I cannot help but marvel at a God who gives us enough energy to do the work of love and makes our hearts tender enough to miss it.

She flip-flops with ease between humor and sentiment and writes in a way that is so very real and completely devoid of pretension, and her message is one that, as mothers, we all need to hear again and again … and again. 

Any favorite memoirs?  I’d love to find out yours in the comment section below!

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Jennifer grew up in Houston before heading to Austin for seven years to attend the University of Texas as a history and government major and continuing at UT for law school. An attorney by day, in the evening she trades high heels and ambition for wet kisses and warm hugs from her three children - Kieran {Dec 2005}, Sawyer {Jan 2011}, and Birdie {Sept 2014}. Her many vices include an intense passion for all things Bravo and her plan for the future is "more cowbell." You can find her at the duck pond, the zoo, on Instagram @jen.e.underwood and blogging at Treading Water in the Kiddie Pool {}.


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