Long Days of Small Things: A Review
I have been wanting to write about this book for ages. I first heard the author talking about it on a podcast, and – unusually for me – I went straight to my Kindle to download it. It’s become the book I want to give to all new Christian mums, and, whatever stage of motherhood you are in, I’d recommend it.
The Spiritual Side of Motherhood
Becoming a mother is hard, physically, emotionally and spiritually. We hear a lot about the physical side of it, and we’re discussing the emotional side of it more too. But the spiritual side of it? That’s not something we really discuss, not even in Christian circles, in my experience.
Before you become a mother, you have the time and energy for the ‘traditional’ disciplines of faith – Bible study, times of extended prayer, fasting, solitude, worship and so on. You have the opportunity for this. But once you have a child, those opportunities become few and far between. As Catherine McNeil writes in Long Days of Small Things, “Pursuing a deep spiritual life is simply not possible in this season, at least not in the ways we were taught.”
Motherhood as a discipline
However, she goes on to explore how, through motherhood, we can really know the heart of God. Through tiny acts of service and submission, through ordinary, every day acts of housework or just living, we can grow. As she says, “What else is so enlightening, so character-sharpening, so weakness-illuminating and so virtue-defining as the nonstop practice of self-sacrifice and surrender that defines motherhood?”
McNeil looks at different aspects of motherhood, from ‘Creation’ to ‘Celebration’ and puts a spiritual perspective onto each aspect. She’s a mother who is right there in the experience of picking up toys, cooking with a child balanced on her hip and never going to the bathroom alone. She looks at women in the Bible, and their experiences of motherhood, but also looks at Jesus, and his understanding of motherhood. How, through our experiences, we can understand his character more and become more like him.
Then, at the end of each chapter, she gives us ways of incorporating this understanding into our lives. Through the simple, every day acts of cooking, washing up, bathtime and even breathing, she shows how these acts become acts of worship. Her advice isn’t limited to stay at home mums, or mothers who have become parents through childbirth, but to all mothers. She is incredibly non-judgemental in her writing – as she says, she’s the mum who ‘is not winning at motherhood’ in terms of the social media depiction of motherhood.
Spiritual Growth through motherhood
But honestly? This book – and a few other things – have really helped me to shape my motherhood. I really had the sense that I was missing out on growing spiritually because I have young children. Our Mummy Meditations was something I was clinging to – because it was the only way I felt I was growing. But now I feel differently. I’ve changed my perspective. Having young children is allowing me to grow.
The subtitle of this book is ‘Motherhood as a spiritual discipline.’ Yes, it is. These are ‘Long days of small things,’ but they are also long days with the potential for so much growth, so much discovery of who God really is and who we really are. On the days when it is so hard, and when we just can’t wait for bedtime, this book gives us another perspective. It reminds us to breathe, and to know that this whole process is cultivating our souls into ‘something strong and beautiful,’ just as our father intended.
You can buy Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline by Catherine McNiel from Amazon.
This post contains affiliate links. That means, if you click on the Amazon link and buy the book, I will get a small amount of commission – at no extra cost to you. I never recommend anything I don’t use and love, so this does not affect my judgement at all.