Surprised by Motherhood: A Review


I’ve been that mother who has cleared off four shelves of bread at the grocery store while on hands and knees, crawling, straining, grunting to reach her son’s lost Matchbox car that he “didn’t think would fall down there.”

I’ve been that mother who has run out of wipes at the fancy-schmancy restaurant with no changing table, and left her four-month-old baby on a cold tile floor so she could crank out some more paper towel to wipe away the oh-no-you-didn’t blow-out diaper, only to find a flowing pool of pee streaming out from the stall upon her return.

I’ve been that mother who has left the peed-on sheets on the mattress in the middle of the night, laid a beach towel on the carpet and called it a bed.

I’ve been that mother who has pushed a double stroller in front of me while pulling a grocery cart behind me, navigating aisles and lists and nonstop toddler grabby hand requests.

I’ve been that mother who has crouched, dripping in a bath towel, to scoop up goldfish from a wet hardwood floor, serenaded by the sobs of a distraught little girl.

I’ve been that mother who has lost her own mom and can testify that the burning sting of the bottomless hole never quite goes away.

And I’ve been that mother who never thought she could love quite as fiercely and unconditionally as she loves her children — those gifts on temporary loan from above.

And Lisa-Jo Baker gets that. She gets all of that, and so much more.

If you are a mom who feels you won’t survive one more dirty diaper, one more frivolous sibling squabble, one more “Mom? Mom! Mo-oomm!!” then Lisa-Jo Baker’s new book, Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected About Being a Mom, was written just for you.

It’s for women who, like Lisa-Jo, spent much of their single years, as she describes, “strapped between an invisible sandwich board that declared in silent, capital letters to the men around … MY BRAIN IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN HAVING YOUR BABIES. A defiant sign to be wearing at a Christian college where marriage was practically a major.”

It’s for women who adore their children and would have it no other way, but would still agree in a heartbeat, “… who doesn’t want to escape for an afternoon into a realm where women go to the bathroom by themselves and don’t need to narrate what they’re doing while they’re in there?”

Lisa-Jo understands and is able to articulate so well the fact that:

Motherhood starts with such a bang — so many visitors, all that roar of adrenaline — that what comes next can be disorienting. Because after the high of childbirth comes a sleepless cycle of days that all run into one long, messy, nondescript blur. If there’s one thing that can defeat a mother, it’s the monotony. Get up, feed the baby, wash the laundry, change the diapers, do the dishes, make the car pool run, wrestle the math homework, figure out a new way to make chicken, change the sheets — times 365 days in a row. It’s hard to see the significance when you’re so weighed down by the mundane.”

Surprised By Motherhood is not a how-to parenting book. It is one woman’s story, told in profound, raw beauty. The journey of a woman who pushed against the notion of motherhood, then slowly, gradually, not only grew into motherhood with the familiarity of a favorite pair of jeans, but now sees those spit-up-stained jeans as standing on holy ground. Lisa-Jo writes:

In the dark and tired and the everydayness of those moments, I started to feel it — the weight of glory, the glorious ordinary that is a gift to us who are knee deep in a world where it can sometimes feel like we have lost all the parts of ourselves we used to know…. Slowly, being a mother became more than a series of moments connected only by dirty diapers, empty baby wipe bins, toy cars strewn all over the bathroom floor, and bum cream. There was a harmony rising from the eclectic collection of tasks every mother cycles through in a day — this sacred marriage of the mundane and the eternal. The small directly related to the massive; kids walking around like so much eternity with skin on.”

If you are a mom, this story will likely resonate deep within. Lisa-Jo writes with such relatable experience, she will leave you saying, “Me, too!” Her brave honesty and candid glimpse into the reality of her life thus far had me choked up with sentiment and laughing out loud almost in the same breath. Lisa-Jo’s incredible depth of insight will generate waves of grateful introspection and ultimately, glory to God above.

Take this book and let it seep like a bag of Five Roses tea into the hot water of your soul. Then pull a whiny, hungry, overtired toddler onto your knee, pull out a chair at your Play-Doh infused table, and pour a cup of this goodness for your sleep-deprived friend.

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Kate Motaung grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan before spending ten years in Cape Town, South Africa. She is married to a South African and together they have three children. Kate is the author of the e-book, Letters to Grief, hosts the Five Minute Friday blog link-up, and has contributed to several other online publications. She blogs at Heading Home and can be found on Twitter @k8motaung.

  • What has surprised me about motherhood is the number of times I’ve said “yes” to things I couldn’t imagine – wearing pajamas to church because I couldn’t bear the fight, one more time, of getting dressed. Or, eating breakfast 3 times a day, because at least they’re eating somsething…! Thanks for the review of this book – I’m eager to read it and your review has helped!

  • Debbie T

    I’ve been surprised most by my feelings of inadequacy. I’m quite a capable person, but I feel like the most IMPOSSIBLE mother on so many days. That surprises me often.

  • erin

    I cannot wait to read and share with all the other mommy warriors!

  • Jill P

    Before I was a mother I never understood how much responsibility a mom has to deal with. I am learning to look at my children through God’s eyes and how perfect they are to Him. My agenda for my children is now where near his perfect plan for them.

  • Shannon

    One the things that constantly catches me off guard are situations I never thought I would encounter like having to take my child to the doctor for sticking a piece of cushion foam up her nose, telling a child that the cat litter box is not a sandbox, or cleaning out the fish tank after my son dumped an entire bottle of rinse agent into it to ‘give the fish a bath’. The list goes on and is always being added on to.

  • One thing that has suprised me in motherhood is when I take the time to just stop and look at my sweet child and take her all in, I get butterflies in my stomach. I didn’t know this was possible outside of romantic love, but it really is just a wonderful part of being blessed with a child of God.

  • The work–the hard, emotional work of raising children surprised me. It takes dedication, consistency (I’m not naturally good at that) and just plain old work. But it pays off and now I have two adult daughters that I’m proud to call my best friends :).

  • Jen K.

    Sounds delightful! Thank you for the review!

    What has surprised me most is how hard it is to be intentional; how easy it is to fall into a mode of just surviving each day. Maybe even more so now that most if mine are teens than it was in the toddler years…

  • Becky C

    I am surprised by how my daughters’ friendship goes beyond what I had hoped. They are such sweet sister friends.

  • The biggest surprise of motherhood for me has been having a new lens through which to see how much God, as a parent, tenderly cares for us as his children.

  • Dineen

    I expected the falling in love; I expected it to be hard at times; but I never expected to dislike my child and that surprised me. The times of intense dislike despite loving her.

  • Sheri

    How fast the years have flown by is what surprises me the most about motherhood? I would love to win a copy!! Thanks for the chance!!

  • I’m not a mom yet but this book sounds so interesting!

  • I was greatly surprised by everything in motherhood when my son arrived a year ago, but the most surprise I have had is the joy I have in him. It is a different kind of joy that I have ever experienced – different from marriage, my walk with God – but that joy brings me back to God because I am amazed and in awe of Him who made my little energetic, funny and delightful boy.

  • C

    The amount of energy it takes to being a mother of little ones has surprised me the most.

  • Lauren S.

    As a new momma I would LOVE to win a copy of this book, it looks wonderful.

  • What has surprised me is the intense love! But also how my relationship with my son is constantly changing as he grows older…he is 10 now. :)

  • Jessica

    I’m always surprised how God is teaching me more and more of Himself to me through my kids. It’s a beautiful experience!

  • Tiffaney

    One thing that really surprised me about motherhood is how much of my son’s personality has nothing to do with me, what I teach him or what I tell him. I didn’t know he would come into the world with so much personality all ready to assert itself even from infancy.

    • Tiffaney, you are our winner. Congrats! I’ve sent you an email.

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Surprised by Motherhood: A Review

by Kate Motaung time to read: 4 min