[BOOK REVIEW] The Christian Mama’s Guide to Parenting A Toddler

Some months ago (I think it was June?), I was heavily bogged down by work, pregnancy, and parenting an 18 month old who was entering the Terrible 2’s seemingly prematurely. I was feeling stressed, sad, burnt out, and overwhelmed. I often felt that I was doing a terrible job of things, and would count the hours until sleep time so I didn’t have to deal with the world. It was a bit of a dark moment in time for me, and I made my concerns and frustrations known to my husband. Being the star that he is, he decided it would be a great time for us to lean back in on our Bible readings, and perhaps start looking into parenting reading material to help us make sense of the changes in our lives and the new challenges we were facing together. We both love to read but hadn’t gotten our hands on many parenting books, so we thought this could be worth a try.

In a show of support, he spent one evening researching the best books for mamas on the internet and came up with a reading list for us to share. The list included (among other titles): Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel, The Christian Mama’s Guide to Parenting A Toddler by Erin McPherson, and Desiring God by John Piper.

For the purposes of this review, I am writing about The Christian Mama’s Guide to Parenting A Toddler, which was the first of the stack that I sunk my teeth into as it seemed to be the quickest, lightest of the reads, and I wanted to be able to hit a groove.

Motherhood is hard, and no mom in the history of the entire world has been a perfect mama—no one. With that in mind, even in your worst mama moments, cut yourself some slack. God has used some of the hardest times I’ve had as a mom—times when I wasn’t sure if I would survive the day, much less eighteen years—to show me how to depend on Him. And in order for God to use these trials to help me learn and grow, I have to let go of them and give them to God. Only He can make our paths—and our children’s paths—straight.

– Erin McPherson, The Christian Mama’s Guide to Parenting A Toddler

This book touts itself as a guide to “Everything You Need To Know To Survive (And Love) Your Child’s Terrible Twos”. It promises tips, tricks, and anecdotes to help you through the journey.

While the book was short, it was packed with themes that cover everything from tantrums to toddler-friendly recipes, so it would be too difficult to synthesize every key takeaway into a single blog post. As such, I will instead discuss the 3 things I liked most about it; and the 3 things that I thought could have been done better:

FIRST THE LOVES:

  1. Humor: If you can’t have a sense of humor about things, life (especially life with Terrible Twos and Threenagers, and so ons) becomes drudgery very quickly. Erin shares many a challenging tale with a little dose of humor as a nice reminder that hey mama, you’re not alone
  2. Lists: As you already must know if you follow this blog: I love lists, and apparently so does Erin McPherson. Each chapter has at least one list pertaining to the theme (anything from 5 Tips for Getting Your Toddler to Develop A Taste for Real Food, to 10 Creative Consequences for Toddlers)
  3. Timeouts: Each chapter includes a “Timeout for Mom” section in which Erin advises ways to take a step back away from the craziness of mothering, and just breathe and recalibrate. Each time out includes a prayer as well, for mama and toddler alike. I loved this because it actually really helped me get back in the prayer groove too

NEXT THE COULD-HAVE-BEEN-BETTERS:

  1. Relevance: There were several chapters as a working mom that felt irrelevant, but at the same time the key takeaways are worth reading through anyway
  2. Substance: Some of the content was just fluff. Some things I felt were sacrificed in the interest of maintaining that good humor and/or light-hearted tone. My main gripe was that it was not practical + biblical in nature. It was sometimes fun + a little biblical, more often fun + a little practical, but never all three, and the biblical piece was lacking considering it’s a “Christian Mama’s” guide
  3. Parenting Style: I think there’s always an element of personal style in parenting that goes into these types of “self-help” books, but I found her style sometimes too personal that it sacrificed practicality. For example, when I saw her advice on feeding, a lot of it was practical recipes sacrificed the “well and healthy” bar I would personally aspire to. Her methods of getting kids to eat things were more about sanity and convenience than wellness, and I think while there’s something to be said for both camps, it’s useful to have both camps represented in a parenting book that’s marketed to “all Christian moms”

In all, I enjoyed the read, but advised my husband (who hates fluff) against bothering to read it (he had planned to, to get a good glimpse at the material I was also reading and better support me in my motherhood journey). At the end of it, I felt a sense of calm: that despite the craziness of motherhood, not only was I not alone, but I was participating in an incredible journey that I should be counting the blessings of daily rather than counting the minutes down until it’s over. 

8/10 would recommend to other Christian mamas if you are in hard times right now and need an extra girl power boost.  But the rating drops to 5/10 if you’re in a good place, well-versed at parenting books, and are looking for more biblical and scripture-based advice.

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