Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother, by Carolyn Mahaney


A fairly solid entry in the how-to-be-a-wife-and-mother category. Mahaney's perspective on sex is certainly less depressing than the Ricuccis' in Love That Lasts (for one thing, Mahaney seems to actually enjoy sex and delight in her husband). But honestly, a lot of this book was more discouraging than encouraging. The chapter on loving your children might be an encouragement to someone who already has kids, but to someone who is not yet a parent . . . well, it made me all the more terrified of the sacrifice and work that parenting involves. It sounds so hard!

Likewise, the chapter on working at home is less than helpful for those who either a) don't feel up to the task of being a stay-at-home wife and mother (which is a lot of us in this post-feminist era--we have been taught how to succeed at school and in the workplace but haven't the foggiest idea how to manage a family), or b) would like to stay home but can't (those who are sold on the concept but circumstances force them to keep working outside the home).

I don't think I would recommend this book to single women, either. Mahaney pays lip service to her single readers, encouraging them to keep reading because they may need this information some day, and they can better encourage their married friends, etc. But she offers little practical advice. How exactly is a single woman supposed to work at home when she also works away from home? It's nice to tell her she still needs to do something, but without practical advice, all you've accomplished is making her feel guilty for not being a better housekeeper and making her even more discontented with her singleness.

But the worst offender is by far the closing chapter of the book. Mahaney meant it as a tribute to her mother, who inspired her and set an example for her of godly femininity. Which is a lovely thing in and of itself. But either Mahaney succumbs to the temptation of loving hyperbole, or her mother was magic. Either way, the last thing that will encourage me on my quest for godly femininity is a tale of a perfect woman who did everything right, never (never?) complained, always (always?) served selflessly, etc. "Here is this amazing woman. You suck. Now go and be encouraged." Mahaney would have served her readers better by presenting the story of a flawed-but-forgiven woman. I can relate to that. That is a picture of the gospel. That means there's hope even for me.

Still, Mahaney's theology is solid enough, and it's not a bad book. Just not my favorite on the subject.

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