12 of My Favorite Books on Parenthood (with a cross-cultural spin)

Though mentioning “parenting book” sometimes elicits groans and eye-rolling from many in society these days, I am the type of over-achieving ex-teacher who tried to read every book I could on parenting BEFORE I even gave birth. Needless to say, there are many books that did not make the cut.  The books below are less practical, more spiritual, less “do do do” and more about learning to have grace with yourself.

Many of the parenting books also have a cross-cultural element. One of the most freeing revelations I have had in my four years of parenting is: They do it differently in other countries. Several of the books on this list give a glimpse into how other cultures tackle some of the major parenting issues in ways that are often overlooked or even criticized in the western world.

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting (now with Bébé Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting), by Pamela Druckerman  
From Amazon: “When American journalist Pamela Druckerman had a baby in Paris, she didn’t aspire to become a “French parent.” But she noticed that French children slept through the night by two or three months old. They ate braised leeks. They played by themselves while their parents sipped coffee. And yet French kids were still boisterous, curious, and creative. Why? How?”

Fit to Burst : Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood, by Rachel Jankovich
From Amazon: “Fit to Burst is a book of parenting “field notes” written by a mom in the thick of it all. It is chock-full of humorous examples and fresh advice covering issues familiar to moms, such as guilt cycles, temptations to be ungrateful or bitter, enjoying your kids, and learning how to honor Jesus by giving even in the mundane stuff. But this book also addresses less familiar topics, including the impact moms have on the relationships between dads and kids, the importance of knowing when to laugh at kid-sized sin, and more. A thoughtful follow-up to Loving the Little Years, Rachel’s first book.”

How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere in between)), by Mei-Ling Hopgood
From Amazon: “A tour of global practices that will inspire American parents to expand their horizons (and geographical borders) and learn that there’s more than one way to diaper a baby. Mei-Ling Hopgood, a first-time mom from suburban Michigan, now living in Buenos Aires, was shocked that Argentine parents allow their children to stay up until all hours of the night. Could there really be social and developmental advantages to this custom? Driven by a journalist’s curiosity and a new mother’s desperation for answers, Hopgood embarked on a journey to learn how other cultures approach the challenges all parents face: bedtimes, potty training, feeding, teaching, and more.”


Instant Mom, by Nia Vardalos
From Amazon: “In Instant Mom, Nia Vardalos, writer and star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, tells her hilarious and poignant road-to-parenting story that eventually leads to her daughter and prompts her to become a major advocate for adoption.”

Long Days of Small Things, by Catherine McNeil

You can read my review of this book here, but here is an excerpt: “If you are a mother looking for a book that throws open the windows and invites pure, fresh, breathable air into the room of your soul, then you need to read Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline. When I was pregnant with my first child, I read books on motherhood like I was cramming for a test. I was determined to do it right. Now that I’m five years in, I’m realizing I don’t need to read books that add more for me to do, but books that validate me for what I’m already doing.”


Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches, by Rachel Jankovich
From Amazon: “Loving the Little Years is a bestselling book of thoughts for mothering young children. It’s written by a mom, for you moms — for when you are motivated, for when you are discouraged, for the times when discipline seems fruitless, and for when you are just plain old tired.”

Mom Enough: The Fearless Mother’s Heart and Hope, by Desiring God authors
From Amazon: “Are you mom enough? The cover of a popular magazine asked this haunting question in bold red letters that hung over the startling image of a young mother nursing her four-year-old. When the issue hit newsstands, it re-ignited a longstanding mommy war in American culture. But it turns out this was the wrong question, pointing in the wrong direction. There is a higher and more essential question faced by mothers: Is he God enough? This short book with twenty-four short contributions from seven young mothers, explores the daily trials and worries of motherhood. In the trenches, they have learned how to treasure God and depend on his grace. The paradox of this book is the secret power of godly mothering. Becoming mom enough comes as a result of answering the burning question above with a firm no.”

The Mother Letters: Sharing the Laughter, Joy, Struggles, and Hope, compiled by Seth Haines
From Amazon: “After his wife Amber had given birth to three boys in three years, Seth Haines saw that she needed encouragement in the day-to-day drama and details of motherhood. Secretly collecting nearly six hundred wise, honest, and sometimes hilarious letters from other mothers across the world, Seth compiled these “mother letters” as a gift for her. Amber and Seth have chosen the best of those letters–including letters from some of the most influential writers and bloggers online today–to include in a beautiful book perfect for the mother in your life.”

The Mystery of Children: What Our Kids Teach Us about Childlike Faith, by Mike Mason
From Amazon: “Just as Mike Mason’s best-selling The Mystery of Marriage explored the parallels between marriage and our relationship with God, so does The Mystery of Children illuminate key spiritual truths modeled in the complex parent-child relationship. More than a manual on parenting, this book is for everyone who wishes to become childlike in heart or to be closer to children-two desires that are intimately and wondrously entwined.”

(The Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason is my husband and my favorite marriage book, though it is definitely more abstract and spiritual than practical.)

Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us, by Christine Gross-Loh, Ph.D
From Amazon: “Research reveals that American kids lag behind in academic achievement, happiness, and wellness. Christine Gross-Loh exposes culturally determined norms we have about “good parenting,” and asks, Are there parenting strategies other countries are getting right that we are not? This book takes us across the globe and examines how parents successfully foster resilience, creativity, independence, and academic excellence in their children”

Sacred Parenting: How Raising Children Shapes Our Souls, by Gary L. Thomas
From Amazon: “Parenting is a school for spiritual formation, says author Gary Thomas, and our children are our teachers. The journey of caring for, rearing, training, and loving our children profoundly alters us forever…even when the journey is sometimes a rough one. Sacred Parenting is unlike any other parenting book on the market. This is not a “how-to” book that teaches readers the ways to discipline their kids or help them achieve their full potential. Instead of a discussion about how parents change their children, Sacred Parenting turns the tables and demonstrates how God uses children to change their parents.”

(Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas is another one of my favorite marriage books)

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids, by Kim John Payne
From Amazon: “Today’s busier, faster society is waging an undeclared war on childhood. With too much stuff, too many choices, and too little time, children can become anxious, have trouble with friends and school, or even be diagnosed with behavioral problems. Now internationally renowned family consultant Kim John Payne helps parents reclaim for their children the space and freedom that all kids need for their attention to deepen and their individuality to flourish. Simplicity Parenting offers inspiration, ideas, and a blueprint for change.”


Plus one documentary:  

Babies
From the film’s website: “Babies simultaneously follows four babies around the world – from birth to first steps. The children are, respectively, in order of on-screen introduction: Ponijao, who lives with her family near Opuwo, Namibia; Bayarjargal, who resides with his family in Mongolia, near Bayanchandmani; Mari, who lives with her family in Tokyo, Japan; and Hattie, who resides with her family in the United States, in San Francisco.”

What are your favorite books on marriage or parenting? 

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22 Favorite Podcasts of 2016

22 Favorite Podcasts of 2016


This was the year of the podcast for me. I’m convinced podcasts are the stay-at-home mom’s version of continuing education. Podcasts turn mundane tasks like folding clothes, getting dressed, washing dishes, driving to the grocery store, cooking dinner and even showering into opportunities for personal growth and development.

Most of the podcasts I love fall into the categories of social justice, motherhood, writing/creativity and spirituality. Many of these have altered the way I now view the world. Thanks to each of these hosts for sharing their time, wisdom and connections with the world. Many of you are changing history right from your tiny padded bedroom closets. Thank you.


On Motherhood: 

A Mom’s Missionfield
I love the concept of this show and appreciate that Tiffany Castleberry doesn’t expect moms to drop all other callings when they see two pink lines on a test.

God Centered Mom
This show is so solid. Not a bit cheesy or fluffy, Heather MacFadyen plans challenging, encouraging and practical episodes that truly help you to be a better mom.


The Global Mom Show
If I had my own podcast, this would be it. I can really relate to wanting to raise kids with an awareness of the world outside of our small sphere.


On Race-related Issues:

Pass the Mic
Of all the podcasts, this one has impacted me the most this year. These African American men offer their intelligent, Bible-based perspective on the race issues in our country.

Faithfully Podcast
This podcast is newer to me, but has guests that discuss the intersection of faith and race and I really appreciate the insights I’ve gained from their discussions.

Kin City
I love that this podcast focuses on Chicago since I lived there for fifteen years. It’s a fascinating look at many of the social issues in Chicago today.

Code Switch
Code switch discusses current race issues from a more secular perspective since it is put on by NPR. But they have a way of handling heavy issues in a light way that I appreciate.


On Holistic Living & Spirituality

Seminary Dropout
(He also has a new podcast called OnRamp focused solely on racial issues that I’m excited to listen to!)
Shane Blackshear has some outstanding guests.  This show steers clear of evangelical buzzwords, clichés and assumptions. I appreciate the fresh perspective and focus on looking at Jesus and the Bible instead of just going through with the motions of Christianity.
 
The Practice
The Practice is the church service of a subgroup of Willowcreek that is attempting to integrate ancient church practices into their community worship. The speakers always usher me straight into the presence of God.

The Liturgists
This episode was the most powerful episode I listened to on race all year. Please listen if you haven’t! I would put The Liturgists into the category with Seminary Dropout of hosts who appreciate real, raw Jesus-following above status quo evangelicalism.

Persuasion
This podcast focuses on current articles or events in culture and spends time discussing them from an intelligent, Christian perspective. The discussions remind me of talks we would have late into the night about topics that our college professors would have brought up during my days in Christian college.

Quick to Listen
This and the following one are podcasts put out by Christianity Today.  This one takes on controversial issues, attempting to reframe them from a Christ-centric perspective.

The Calling
This podcast, also put on by CT, has had some fascinating guests recently such as Michelle Higgins, Propaganda, Shauna Niequist, Katelyn Beaty and Jemar Tisby. At the beginning of the podcast, the host always asks about a person’s calling, which is a topic I love to think about.

Epiphany Fellowship
This is one of the African American pastors I am listening to each week in my attempt to desegregate the Christian messages in my life.

Faith Conversations with Anita Lustrea 
I just discovered this podcast recently and have binge-listened to about ten of her episodes.

On Being
I have a girl voice crush on Krista Tippet. She is my favorite interviewer. She is SO well-prepared, thoughtful and inspiring. Unlike so many hosts, she rarely interjects herself into her interviews and does an outstanding job of drawing insight from the souls of those she interviews. LOVE.

Shalom in the City
The premise of this show is that we are all able to contribute to “Shalom,” or peacemaking in the cities where we live. Osheta has a variety of guests who are incredible world-changers on both large and small scales.



For Fun: 

Sorta Awesome
This podcast has THE BEST Facebook hangout group. I go here with questions before I go to my Facebook timeline! But the show itself is fabulous and after listening I always feel like I just sat down to have an intelligent conversation with a couple of girlfriends.

What Should I Read Next
My husband, narrator Adam Verner, was on this episode this year! Anne Bogel also has a fabulous voice and has contributed to the addition of approximately 100 books on my Goodreads to-read list. If you need suggestions for books to read, this show is for you!


On Writing:

Ann Kroeker, Writing Coach
Each of these episodes last anywhere from three to seven minutes as she provides snippets of encouragement for writers of all kinds (which I am in constant need of). I’m thankful for her wisdom.

Hope Writers
This podcast also provides lots of valuable advice for writers.

Beautiful Writers
I liked some of these episodes more than others, but loved the episodes where they interviewed professional writers on their daily rituals and practices in writing.

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Check out my “Monthly Mentionables” posts for more of the specific episodes I loved this year!

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What were your favorite podcasts?
COMING IN JANUARY: 12 DAYS OF BOOKS SERIES
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22 Favorite Podcasts of 2016