03 July 2012

Mary Kassian: "Sometimes the most missional thing a mom can do is to say 'no' to outside opportunities and focus on being a mom"

The conclusion to Mary Kassian's wise review of Helen Lee's The Missional Mom (Moody, 2011), in a recent Themelios:
The Missional Mom emphasizes the “missional” part and neglects the “mom” part. To be fair, I don’t think this was Lee’s intent. But I had the uneasy feeling that a mom who picks up the book because she’s experiencing difficulty in parenting might get the message that she just isn’t doing enough: she needs to add “social activism” to the top of her staggering “to-do” list, even if that means bumping the needs of her children down a couple notches.

One story in particular made me feel uneasy and wonder exactly what Lee was encouraging moms to do. She shares the story of a female physician who left her nursing baby for three weeks, went on a work/missions trip to Africa, and had the opportunity to nurse an infant there. Lee concluded that God brought this lactating mom “to the right place at the right time” because a white woman nursing a black child “demonstrated a profound expression of racial harmony.” Lee assured readers that this story would certainly inspire the physician’s daughter someday, “even as it encourages those of us who also long to spread the fragrance of Christ in the world” (p. 148).

I’m not convinced.

I don’t see how leaving your nursing baby to travel half way around the world to nurse someone else’s baby is somehow more “missional” than staying home to nurse your own. Admittedly, there may be details of the story of which I’m unaware, but to uphold this as a model of a missional mom is questionable. It implies that a mom ought to put the needs of others (or her desire to self-actualize/ exercise her gifts) before the needs of her children. It also implies that looking after our own children isn’t nearly as “missional” as looking after other people’s children.

I’m all for women living out their motherhood in light of the Great Commission, being intentional about ministry, and engaging in the lives of others in appropriate ways in the various seasons of life. Lee’s book challenges moms to be missional. I just wish it had affirmed that when a woman has young children, they are an important part of her mission—and that sometimes, the most missional thing a mom can do is to say “no” to outside opportunities and focus on being a mom.

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