Most people dread growing up and becoming just like their parents. I am sure we have all thought at one time or another, “When I become a parent, I’ll never…” This is especially true for women whose pasts are marked with abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction. Most women desire to be good mothers, but how can a woman be a good mother when she did not have a positive example of one? “How can I become the mom I want to be after I’ve already made so many mistakes?” T. Suzanne Eller sets out to help women answer those questions in The Mom I Want to Be: Rising above Your Past to Give Your Kids a Great Future.
The book is broken down into three sections: Facing Old Weaknesses, Growing in New Strength, and Giving Your Kids the Gift of the Future. In Facing Old Weaknesses, the first step in the healing process is to take a long look at your generational history. Family problems often go back generations, and understanding the past will shed light on your present. Eller shares her own journey: “As I dived into my mother’s past, I easily drew the connection from my grandmother to my mother to me…It broadened my perspective—and it helped me understand the “why” behind some of the events [of my life] and change my own behavior. It allowed me to ask the most important question: Was I handing the same set of problems to the next generation?” Eller says it is important to look for patterns of behavior through one’s family line to enable a mother to see if she is falling into the same “flesh patterns” as the other women in her family. According to Eller, this broadened perspective “allows you to extend a measure of grace.” The final steps in the initial process are to redefine your image and learn to forgive.
In part two, Growing in New Strength, Eller encourages the reader to change her perspective (count her blessings), set boundaries in her sticky relationships, step out of her comfort zones to try new things and take risks.
The final portion of The Mom I Want to Be centers on letting go of the past so that a mom can have a future with her children. Eller discusses the importance of making memories, setting realistic parenting goals, and learning new parenting tools. The final chapter is a short anecdote from Eller’s life in which she shares an encouraging example of the good fruit she is enjoying now that she has three grown children. The book also includes a small group discussion guide and a list of additional resources.
Eller’s mother shares her story in her own words in the opening of each chapter. I enjoyed this aspect of the book, as the change in their relationship over the years became evident. Their transparency alarmed me at times.
While I am sure Eller has a sincere desire to help women find peace and healing, this book falls short of sharing with women the true way to find them. She relies too heavily on popular psychology methods. I agree with the idea that one generation will pass to the next generation its sins. The Bible speaks to this issue quite clearly. I take issue with her use of “flesh patterns” rather than sin, and the implication that I am not held responsible for my sin when I had a terrible example for a parent. As she does not call sin sin, she absolves herself of recommending a Savior. Eller fails to name Jesus as the only one who is able to help women be the moms they want to be. Even though each chapter ends with a prayer addressed to “Father” and a verse from The Message, I cannot escape the idea that Jesus is intentionally left out of the book. The only exception is when she discusses Peter walking on water and Jesus having to pull him up. The emphasis is on Peter walking on water, not Jesus being there to pull him out. Even then, Eller does not use his name. If it were not for the verses from The Message to end each chapter, Jesus would not be mentioned by name at all. At the end of chapter one, Eller offers an invitation of sorts: “You don’t have to do this alone. At some point, when you are comfortable, I hope you will allow God to be a part of the journey if you haven’t already done so. Faith was an integral part of finding peace and healing in my life and heart. It wasn’t a crutch. Rather, it was understanding that God cares about my journey and me.” Eller does not share how God helped her to find peace and healing nor does she offer His Gospel. God is not the main actor, YOU are. Each chapter of this book is full of steps and guidelines to remember and sentences to repeat “until they become true”—none of which will give a woman a heart that can love and forgive, a clean conscience, or the ability to be the mom she wants to be.
Eller’s story is interesting, and I do not doubt God did a major work in her life and the life of her mother, however, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend this book.