As a full-time, stay-at-home mom, Jenn Doucette has learned a thing or two about grace, patience and doubly dirty diapers. She makes her publishing debut on a subject she knows well: the trials and triumphs of parenthood. THE VELVETEEN MOMMY is a lighthearted, humorous look at what it means to be a mom from pregnancy to those turbulent teenage years, written not just by someone who has been there, but by someone who is still there.
The title of the book is a takeoff of the children's classic THE VELVETEEN RABBIT and highlights a simple but powerful message: God often uses the process of having and raising children not only to make us more real but also to make us more like himself. It's a fresh reminder for moms who are feeling a little worn out or tired on their parenting journey.
Few topics are off-limits to Doucette, who explores everything from childbirth to the perils of trying to potty train a toddler. She writes, "Then there's potty training. Need I say more? Being in the potty-training stage is like traveling to the Twilight Zone. The child progresses then digresses. He's trained; he's not trained. And through the entire process, you've changed your tactics so many times that you can't remember if you're supposed to give them candy or money or a spanking when they actually go in the toilet."
The author clearly isn't afraid of being "real," sharing funny adventures at the gynecologist's office as well as her more heartfelt struggle with panic attacks. One chapter tenderly shares the story of staying up until morning with a sick child while another recounts the family's somewhat regrettable decision to raise chickens. Each chapter ties into a spiritual lesson or theme that reminds women to ultimately seek God's help and wisdom. The transitions to these spiritual moments are relatively smooth and convey messages of hope and heartfelt encouragement without being preachy. This is a book that you could give to nearly anyone and find a receptive audience (assuming the person is a parent!).
Throughout the book, readers will find little lists, ideas and suggestions. For example, the list of "The Top Ten Things I Learned About Having A Baby" include entries such as "The prudence of the phrase, 'Never wake a sleeping baby.'" And "That JC Penny sends out an average of three photo coupons per week."
Doucette's writing is colorful and accessible, filled with countless little observations and ironies that come with being an American mom. She's more than willing to be self-deprecating for the sake of a laugh, and it's her humor that keeps this book rolling throughout. You just never know which way she is going to twist a phrase, expression or idea. The biggest weakness of the book is that it ends too soon --- at a mere 134 pages of reading material, it leaves readers asking for more. Yet even in such a short book, Doucette's love both for being a parent and for her children shine through.
Reviewed by Margaret Feinberg on June 30, 2005