I’ll admit that when I have a question about motherhood and homemaking, the first place I turn is Pinterest. That’s great for inspiration, but when you really need to soak up wisdom, nothing beats a good book. I am a voracious reader. For every book on this list, there are 5-10 that did not make it. Those ended up as donations. The books on this list are ones I treasure, worth the real estate they occupy on my bookshelves. These are my top recommendations for moms who want depth, meaning, great stories, and great advice.
Books for New Moms:
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth is the only book I recommend about childbirth. It is informative and empowering, and most importantly, strips the fear out of childbirth. Our bodies are made to bring forth life. Ina May will help you believe that. The book is divided into two sections, birth stories and an in-depth explanation of the natural childbirth process. I read the second part first, which gave me the confidence to know I could give birth naturally. The birth stories were my inspiration and coach. Before I gave birth, I used these tips to prepare. When I was in labor with my son, these stories came to mind, like so many women accompanying me in the birth process.
You can find the courage and strength to do this naturally. If you are even the slightest bit curious, read the book. I remember leaving it on the shelf before I had my first child. So much of the difficulty we had in her delivery could have been avoided if I had set my fear aside and pursued my desire to deliver naturally. If you are fearful, I hope you will find encouragement and strength in reading this book!
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is my least favorite title of the books on this list. Despite that, it is an amazing resource. If you want to breastfeed, this book can help you make it happen. I read it while I was pregnant with my first and it prepared me so well. I knew what to do in the newborn stages and why. I had conviction about my decision to breastfeed. I knew what pitfalls to look out for when I went back to work, and how to navigate pumping and traveling while I was away from my baby. No frantic googling necessary; it was all here. It has great tear-out pages for easy reference and for caregivers. Especially in those early sleep-deprived days, it can be difficult to remember anything, so posting some of these pages on your fridge can be a lifesaver. This book can be read cover-to cover or used as a reference.
Best Books for SAHMs
In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms is an audio book I have listened to several times (there’s a print version too, but I prefer to hear the author read it aloud). Popular radio host Dr. Laura shares anecdotes from her life and from her listeners that illustrate the power of staying home with your kids. This is the book for you if you are on the fence about going back to work or need the courage to discuss that decision with your husband. It is also great for helping you to remember why you made the crazy decision to quit that well-paying job to change diapers and wipe up spills all day long. I will say that it is a difficult one to listen to when you are a working mom who longs to be home with your kids. Listening to this gave me the courage and strength to quit my job so I could be more present while my kids are still so small.
If In Praise of Stay at Home Moms is an emotional appeal, Being There: Why Prioritizing Mohterhood in the First Three Years Matters by Erica Komisar provides the science to back up the argument that, in the first three years of life, kids benefit most from having a parent as primary caregiver. If you are like me, truisms and anecdotes are not as convincing as reasoned arguments and scientific study. Komisar presents both in an accessible way, as well as tips for maximizing your time with your children when both parents must work outside the home. I applied some of her tips when I was working full time, and within a day, they started improving my relationship with my 2-year-old.
Spirituality of Motherhood and Homemaking
A Mother’s Rule of Life: How o Bring Order and Peace to Your Home by Holly Pierlot is part testimony, part how-to, and part invitation for self-reflection. Pierlot shares how she went from frazzled mom to developing her own Rule of Life in imitation of monastic life. She provides reflections on what she calls “the five p’s” (prayer, person, partner, parent, provider) and guides the reader in integrating and prioriting them for a fulfilling life. More than a routine, a Rule is an intentional, spiritual philosophy for the rhythm and spirituality for how you spend your days. Pierlot includes substantive reflection pieces at the end of each chapter, inviting the reader to meditate on her own life. These can be used in each season of life to moderate the Rule one develops to be most helpful and appropriate for changing circumstances.
Graced and Gifted: Biblical Wisdom for the Homemaker’s Heart by Kimberly Hahn is my favorite exploration of the spirituality of motherhood. Each chapter is based on a line from Proverbs 31, the beloved description of a noble wife from the Hebrew Scriptures. It is packed with beautiful scriptural interpretations to pray with, as well as practical tips for incorporating the biblical vision of homemaking in your own life. The appendices include helpful outlines, a guide for using the book in Bible study, and practical checklists for implementing some of Hahn’s strategies. If you’d prefer a quick and dirty (but uplifting!) take on the spirituality of homemaking, check out this podcast by Nancy at Just One Small Thing, The Holiness of Housework.
The Catholic All Year: Compendium Liturgical Living for Real Life by Kendra Tierney is steeped in tradition and packed with practical ideas for bringing the traditions of our faith to life in your home. Her book can be read cover to cover as a way to follow along with the liturgical seasons or used as a reference. The best part about her ideas, as she says, is that they fit into what you were already going to be doing anyway. Perfect. Before you buy, you might like visiting her blog at Catholic All Year for a preview of her witty and inspiring style. For more on the “why”behind sharing these traditions with your kids, read this.
The Catholic Home by Meredith Gould is shorter and more narrowly focused than the Compendium. As a convert from Judaism, Gould has a beautiful appreciation for the traditions and celebrations of the faith. Her book is a journey through the liturgical year and focuses on the meaning, history, and celebrations of the seasons rather than the individual feasts (although she does include feasts of particular relevance to each season). I actually used these chapters to jigsaw the liturgical year when I was teaching high school religion and it worked quite well.