Full disclosure: this book has come along at exactly the time I needed it (I have two daughters, and the older one is on the cusp of adolescence), and I can't help being grateful. If this clouds my objectivity as a reviewer, I'll admit it; I'd rather be a bad book review writer than a bad parent.
MOM, I HATE MY LIFE! by Sharon Hersh gives mothers of adolescent daughters the tools with which to shape their own particular parent-child relationship. While Hersh does not stray from the spiritual path, neither does she hammer it home to her readers. She realizes that most will already be Christians who recognize that we must render unto our children their worldly due and that sometimes that worldliness will conflict with our own deeply held convictions.
Never you mind, says Hersh, because first of all, God is in control whether we remember to acknowledge that or not. Second, a mother's heart is strong enough to contain mistakes and heartaches along with triumphs and progress, even if we never saw those coming: "Of course, we couldn't imagine when our daughters were cute baby girls that one day they would stonily stare us in the face and announce, 'I hate my life,'" Hersh writes in her introduction, titled "A Haven in the Storm."
She continues, "As mothers, we can become our daughters' greatest allies in the midst of the inevitable and sometimes scary emotional turmoil of growing up female. What I call hand-in-hand mothering begins with the conviction that as we stretch to meet our daughters' needs --- learning in the midst of not knowing, and giving even when we don't feel like we have anything to give --- we can experience personal transformation and guide our daughters toward emotional maturity." To that end, Hersh has divided her book into three sections: Understanding Your Worlds, Building a Bridge Between Your Worlds, and Conquering Roadblocks to Relationships. Each section has four chapters, and each chapter has several "Just For You" boxes that contain relationship strengthening exercises, suggestions for activities/reflections, and checklists.
Hersh doesn't simply tell, tell, tell --- she provides anecdotes from both her professional practice and her personal parenting so that readers can see real life and how her advice works in it. Her practical advice is highly valuable, too. For example, she counsels helping your daughter to make a "sacred space" in her room that she's really comfortable in. She recommends not prying, but if you do need to do a search of a girls' room for illegal substances, have her watch you as you do it rather than doing it on the sly.
Hersh and her daughter Kristin collaborated on a beautiful 1 Corinthians 13 For Mothers of Teenage Girls that closes her book, and she also provides an excellent list of resources for each area she discusses in the book. Whether your daughter is 10 or 20, I recommend buying MOM, I HATE MY LIFE! and keeping it close at hand as you take her hand and continue your journey, together.
Reviewed by Bethanne Kelly Patrick on April 20, 2004
"Mom, I Hate My Life!": Becoming Your Daughter's Ally Through the Emotional Ups and Downs of Adolescence