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The Myth of the Perfect Mother: Rethinking the Spirituality of Women Paperback – September, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 190 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Books (September 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080106466X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801064661
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,128,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What happens when the very faith community to which a confused and overwhelmed mother turns for help contributes to her depressed state by preaching a message of impossible idealism? Barnhill, editor of Christian Parenting Today, bravely tackles some ingrained perceptions and attitudes toward motherhood within the evangelical Christian subculture. Based on sound research and the stories of more than 50 women surveyed, her book compiles a compelling case for re-evaluating and exploring the myths of motherhood. When churches elevate the role of motherhood, and family life in general, to "a position of importance that is out of synch with the call of the gospel," women struggle "with the incongruity between who God created them to be and who the church tells them they should be." Addressing such key topics as depression among mothers, disciplining children, the importance of work and the need for relationships, Barnhill finds her strength in the personal anecdotes peppered throughout the book. Her writing is well-informed, honest and engaging, but could be fine-tuned at points. Although she briefly mentions some practical suggestions for churches and ministers, like starting up a Bible study for mothers with childcare included, the book could benefit from additional advice on how best to change the distorted theology she so successfully identifies.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Carla Barnhill has been in Christian publishing for 13 years. She is the former editor of Christian Parenting Today magazine and also served as Associate Editor of Campus Life magazine. Carla is now a freelance editor and writer, working with publishers such as Zondervan, WaterBrook, Baker, Tyndale, and HarperOne. She is the author of Blessings Every Day and The Myth of the Perfect Mother. She is a featured columnist in Today's Christian Woman magazine, a guest blogger on Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership website, and the co-founder of The Mommy Revolution (
Carla has spoken to thousands of mothers at MOPS conventions, women's retreats, and churches around the country. She is a sought-after source of new ideas about motherhood, parenting, and the spiritual formation of children.
Carla lives in Minnesota with her wonderful husband, her dopey dog, and the three best kids ever created.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Kimberly M. Chastain on November 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
Carla Barnhill does an excellent job of expressing what many Christian women have felt for a long time, but were afraid to express publicly. Our guilt is often false guilt placed by churches and others. Also, I appreciate her support and focus on Christian Working Moms. Christian Working Moms are often a silent minority in the church. I would highly recommend this book for a new and refreshing perspective.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Medefind on August 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
To Carla I would say: Thank you for being so brutally honest and for being courageous enough to address this hot button issue to the Christian culture.

For any interested in a book leading to good or, perhaps, heated conversation, this is perfect. The author brings up topics that have long needed thoughtful analysis in the church, such as: Are we overly focused on the nuclear family? Do we use our children as an excuse to not reach beyond our family? How can churches better serve their working and single moms? And, the over-arching question, what does God truly expect from women who have chosen to be followers of His Son?

In her honesty, the reader quickly discovers that the author has and still does suffer from depression. In some ways, this makes her uniquely qualified to speak on the subject of burn-out, guilt and the burdensome social expectations that come with parenthood. Personally, had I the chance, I would have suggested that the author keep this volume as an unpublished journal, and then, 15 or so years from now, having had time to process all of her emotions and thoughts (Carla, I assume writing this book was a very emotional process for you?) write her book then. Maybe she should write a followup book. Perhaps in that book she could focus less on providing criticism and more on some thoughtful solutions, less venting and more helpful analysis.

I found this book sorely lacked a positive vision for motherhood. Whether working or staying at home, mothers today desperately need concrete models of motherhood that inspire us toward all that parenting entails. I think Carla would agree with me that the choices we make in parenthood deeply affect our children. But I think this failed to come out in her book.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on March 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
love, love LOVED this book. I only gave it 4 stars, because I wish it was a bit longer with a bit more analysis. I really enjoyed this because I am in that stage of my life and am sick to death about hearing what kind of mother I am suppose to be according to the great Christian evangelical subculture. I also feel ike the author did a great job describing what the culture expects of you and how it makes you feel if you "mess it up" (your kid turns out "bad").

This is a book where I felt like I sat down with a kindred spirit for over lunch. She does it in a funny way, like telling a story of her leaving her son an extra 15 minutes in his crib for some extra zzzzz's and when she gets him he is covered in poop! Maybe its because my daughter is only 11 months old, but I too find it hard to find anything positive about getting up before 7am.

Barnhill does a great job of pulling in a lot of different resources that I really like, like Mary Stewart van Leeuwan for instance. Barnhill makes parenting a joint effort, not solely on the shoulders of the mother. Sometimes you can be the best parent in the world according to everyone else, but they might make some rotten decisions. I feel that she did a good job of acknowledging the fact that children are individuals too, not just some people we can control and manipulate into what we want them to be.

The talks about the "cult of the family" which I thought did a great job describing where women, a stronger emphasis on working women, get the guilt from. I guess thier families should starve if they don't go to work, or maybe they should go on welfare. I really got a lot of out her chapter on WANTING to work as well. After doing this stay at home gig, I don't think I am cut out for it and I feel GUILTY because I might want to do something else with my life. This definitely helped me process that.

I would recommend this book with "The Christian Family in Changing Times."
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I can't tell you how helpful this book was for me as I was processing the major life change of switching from working full-time in a job I was pretty good at to staying home (almost) full-time with three kids three and under. (I really cranked 'em out.) I have shared this book with many women and even written and led an eight-week small group Bible study based on many of the themes that book deals with. It is my impression that many of the topics this book addresses are ones that desperately need to be honestly discussed with young mothers in churches in safe and supportive environments. The books my mother's generation found edifying and helpful don't always speak to issues today's young women are facing. This book gives plenty of food for thought and reminds you that you are not alone in your struggles. It also helps you confront some of the unhealthy attitudes and flat out lies of our culture that can rob women of joy.
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10 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth A. Arakelian on December 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
this book is very very good. I have long thought that there was a link between Andrea Yates and the unbelievable pressure to be perfect that exists in certain pockets of christianity. I have also privately thought to myself the very words that the author uses about "the cult of the family" and "the parenting cult". people who would never consider themselves legalists are in fact very legalistic about family matters. that said I did have a couple of problems with this book. one is that far too much space is taken up with working mother guilt..probably because it is an issue that has impacted the author greatly. I would have appreciated a broader focus on more issues besides this one. breastfeeding is an ENOROUS issue. the whole "attachment parenting" subculture is also every bit as cultic as the "Ezzo" business. yes there are a few sentences about people being reamed for their baby sleep habits but anyone talking about mother guilt would be very remiss to fail to mention William and Martha Sears who is one of the biggest propagators of it. perhaps because he is a fellow contributor to CPT along with the author she steered clear of him. or maybe it was just an oversight...second the whole spanking has been my observation that those in christian circles who are divisive about spanking are those who do not...not those who do. perhaps like the Ezzo/Sears issue maybe this is because so many christians think in extremes rather than in balance it becomes polarized. I will say it: there are some children who just need s a spanking. all the nonviolent discipline rhetoric in the world will not change that. the author is very respectful to spankers she knows but it still feels like doublespeak.Read more ›
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