Book Review: Wonder Women

When I took this tiny little book out of the package, I was a little surprised.

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“It’s just so….tiny.” I wondered if it would even be big enough to say anything of value.

Yes, it does. And I’m reading it again.

Title:

Wonder Women: Navigating the Challenges of Motherhood, Career, and Identity

Author:

Kate Harris and Andy Crouch

What it is about:

This tiny book is one of many in the new Frames series, a collection of books put out by the Barna group, a trusted research group interested in the intersection of religion and culture. You may recognize a couple of books that the president of Barna, David Kinnaman, has written- unChristian, You Lost Me, and The Next Christians. In this series, each book takes one of today’s trends and provides current research on that topic, and then provides a thoughtful analysis as well as a way to reframe the conversation in a helpful way.

In Wonder Women, the author Kate Harris does a good job of analyzing the research that was done in 2013 on women’s identity as it relates to motherhood and work. One of the most surprising (and troubling) statistics that I discovered in this book is that while many women feel overcommitted at home and at work, hardly any women feel that way with their church and friend commitments. In fact, when asked which areas they would like to improve in, the highest percentages were first at church and next with friends. The research seems to indicate, from what I’ve read, that perhaps women don’t have as many close friendships as we seem to have. It is common to hear that women are highly relational and have an easy time making friends, while most men in our country do not have close relationships with other men. Could it be that many of us women actually don’t have close friends, but are afraid to admit that, feeling like we’re “the only one”?

Kate does an even better job at explaining the tensions that modern women feel in relation to juggling all of her responsibilities and opportunities. To have kids or not have kids? To stay at home or work part-time or work full-time, or perhaps a combination of these? If a woman chooses to work, what area to pursue? What does “career” look like for a mom? So many questions, but most of the “answers” surround managing logistics. Kate shares about her own tensions:

On the one hand, I find deep joy and satisfaction in my role and responsibilities as wife and mother. I aspire to fully and imaginatively stewards the gifts of my family and home. At the same time, I feel drawn to launch new projects, meet new people, and engage in all manner of interests and responsibilities that take me away from home. (p. 31)

Kate wants to turn that conversation altogether. Instead of managing “tensions”, what if we just admitted and embraced that we are whole people for whom life does not fit into compartmentalized boxes?  She uses the idea of vocation, creation, constraint, incarnation, covenant/community, coherence, and consent to spin the conversation around, challenging women to recognize themselves as whole beings who are doing Kingdom-work, wherever they are. She encourages women not to just choose something because you feel like you have to be one thing, but to pursue God and feel free to walk in the spaces He creates for you, all the while realizing that we have constraints on each one of us (men and women alike).

I loved that this short book gives a thoughtful alternative to the “you can do it all” message that our culture gives women without the churchy “woman’s place is in a home” response.

My takeaway:

ONE of my takeaways (man, there are so many) is to not despise the constraints of life (which for me right now is having many young children, the need to sleep, and a lack of financial resources). Kate opened my eyes to the fact that simply by being human, we have constraints, as seen as the incarnation.

These particular confines draw our attention to the fact that God himself, who has all the universe at his disposal, was not atwitter about maximizing potential, ‘having it all’, or chasing down effectiveness. Of course, his power was not constrained, as we see in his miracles and resurrection. But he chose to take on human constraints. with all his wisdom, he did not choose to transcend time or space or decades or even the rote mechanics of gestation, labor and delivery. Rather he chose to work through the same ordinary human constraints we all face- he did not see these as impediments but rather as purpose. (p. 58)

Questions I’m now asking:

What are the constraints in my life that are staying put, and how can I learn to embrace them?

If I apply the idea of vocation (rather than career) to my life, what are the words and ideas that I could use to describe my vocation? (this one is a question adapted from the book)

How can the church do a better job of furthering this conversation- talking about vocation, limitations, disappointments, community, and brokenness?

Where can you go to learn more?:

Here’s a bit more about the Barna group, and specifically about the Frames series.

You can learn more about Kate Harris by visiting the Washington Institute of Faith, Vocation, and Culture.

Thank you to Booklook Blogger for providing a complementary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

**Please note: some of the above links are affiliate links**

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