Friday, January 10, 2020

Book Review: My Other Name is Mom

I was first alerted to My Other Name is Mom when Lisa the niece sent me a WhatsApp note: "Have you read this new Mennonite mom book on the market? It's one of the more realistic, relatable, and inspiring. I get tired of the type with formulas and cliches. This lady has . . . lots of hearty stuff to chew. It's mostly about the more typical young and middle stage of parenting."

"Interesting!" I said.

Serendipitously, the author herself contacted me two weeks later. Could she do a guest post and introduce her new book?

I said yes.

Mary Burkholder talks to you like you're a grownup. You know how to think, and you don't need to be either patronized or revered. You might not have known what you were in for, but you chose this mothering path, and you want to do it Biblically and well.

This was the book I needed thirty years ago. It might well be exactly what you need right now.


Now I Am a Mom
by Mary Burkholder

“When I grow up, I want to be a mommy,” a second grader I know wrote. It struck me as very sweet. I don’t remember all my aspirations as a girl, but I know mommy wasn’t at the top of my list—though I did make preparation against that day by creating a list of twelve names, just in case.
I really wanted to be either an artist or an author. By the time I was eighteen, I had settled on author. I recall an alluring fantasy of remaining single, living alone, and producing best-selling novels. I’ll be the first to admit that I was a prime candidate for feminism; I craved independence. I wanted to follow my dreams. Why should I choose to tie myself to a family?
What if I never got to do anything I really wanted to do?
That was eighteen years ago. Now I am a mom. I do not live alone. And I have yet to write a novel. I still love to write, and I still dream of writing best-sellers, but somewhere along the way, my priorities have changed: being a mom has shifted into first place.
Do I mind?
Let me tell you about a night of my motherhood I’ll never forget; I remember it for two reasons.
The first is because we were taken unsuspectingly by an epic flu epidemic. Four of my five children were ill with the stomach flu on that awful night. I had tucked them in and gone innocently to my own bed for much-needed rest—rest that proved elusive. It seemed just a few short moments later that somebody called, “Mo-om!” Somebody was crying.
I have never seen such a wretched flu, before or since. It had no end.
I trekked upstairs and downstairs, into my bed and out of it again. I changed their pajamas and their bedding. I scrubbed the bedroom carpet and the bathroom floor. I situated buckets that remained largely unused. Even my breastfed baby—I always thought they’re not supposed to get sick—regurgitated everything all over me, the crib, and herself as soon as I stood up to place her back in her crib. After every cry, every call, every re-tucking in, I thought, surely this will be the end of it. Hope springs eternal, and unrequited, springs yet again.
The other adult in our home was incommunicado. Far, far away in another part of the house, he did valiant battle with his own insides. I suppose I should have been deeply grateful I was not sick that night. I suppose I should have joyfully consoled myself that at least one of the children was not throwing up. But at 2:00 a.m., fog-brained and lethargy-limbed, all I could feel was utter hopelessness when someone called Mo-om once again.
It was a night of despair and dismay; an unending saga of dragging myself up from fragmented dozes to stagger to the rescue. I longed for Mom to take over, but I was Mom. At one point, crouched on the carpet with Lysol-scented rag in hand, I had a single clear thought: I never signed on for all this. This is the second reason I remember that night.
This moment of clarity made me think about how I had gotten here: Is motherhood something I’ve chosen? Or did I blindly follow a path of expectation patterned for me by my mom and her mom and her mom? Did I fall unsuspectingly into a trap laid by a church group that promotes motherhood? Do I believe in the importance of my role, or do I just have to like the place I’ve found myself in? How did I get here?
It began when I said yes to a certain dark-haired, dark-eyed young man, and we went out for supper on a Tuesday night. He asked for a second date and I said yes. And much later, he asked me to marry him and I, enamored, said yes. Why had I ever thought I wanted to be single anyway?
We planned a small Friday-night wedding. We bought a little house on a hill in the woods. We honeymooned like the two kids we were and came home to try to navigate realities of an adult world. We were in love and happily unaware of ever-after affects. Children were on the distant horizon—little unknown someones out there who would likely enter my life at some point. I am not a big planner, and I did not have a projected timeline—insert child here. Temporarily freed from other responsibilities, I was writing.
As the years of our marriage went by, one by one, they came along: cute, sweet, funny, endearing, exasperating little additions to our family. And before I knew what was happening, I had become a real mom.
“Mom, help me,” they call. And “Mom, it hurts,” they cry. And, “Mom, look at me,” they shout.
I hug them and spank them and kiss them and read them thousands of stories. They eat up my time and energy. And I don’t want to imagine my life without them.
My children have stolen my sleep, worn me down physically, worried me, aggravated me—oh and they’ve puked in their beds—but they bring me so much joy, and I love them with my heart and soul. My only regrets about mom-life are times I did not show the love, did not feel the love, did not love the moment; because no matter how dreadful, moments are fleeting. I have found identity and security as a very loved, very tired member of this family—even through the gorier bits. I have chosen this. I keep choosing it. And I do believe in it.

Mary Burkholder’s new book, My Other Name Is Mom, highlights the importance of a mother’s
role in the home and in society and counters basic feministic ideology with Bible principles. The
book is refreshingly candid about the tough parts of motherhood, but joyously expresses the
fulfillment and identity found in embracing the role. Mary and her husband Lyndon have five
lovely children of which they are most biasedly proud. Mary has written other books which you
can find on her website.


  1. Oh it's sounds like a book I wish I had when I had littles. Thank you for the book review.

  2. Oh how I can relate to the stomach flu story. I went through that with our three youngest when my husband was out of town one week. So I put the 2,3,and 4 year olds on pallets around my bed on the hardwood floor and it was easier to deal with but that was an awful night for sure.

  3. I am currently reading the book. What I appreciate about it is its honesty about the hard, while still bringing out the joy of the journey and the gift of even having children. I am not one who just naturally loves motherhood, and I find it difficult, and I get discouraged when I hear the moms who are really good at it and seem to love every minute...I wonder what is wrong with me and how to get there. But Mary Burkholder somehow encourages me. As do my friends, who tell me that I am a good mom and that they like my children. S