Read SAHM I am Online

Authors: Meredith Efken

Tags: #General, #Fiction, #Domestic fiction, #Family Life, #Christian, #Religious, #Female friendship, #Mothers, #Suburban Life, #Urban Life, #Christian Fiction, #Housewives, #Electronic discussion groups, #Electronic mail messages

SAHM I am

SAHM I Am

To my best friend and husband, Jason, for your
unconditional love and unwavering belief in me,

To my daughters, Jessamyn and Catrin,
for giving me the blessings of mommyhood,

And to my brother, Timothy,
for laughing at my stories of domestic bliss
and encouraging me to write them in a book.

Meredith Efken
SAHM I Am
Acknowledgments

My own mommy stories alone could never have filled an entire book. I am especially grateful to the following moms whose humorous anecdotes and life experiences inspired or helped me create many of the events in my book: Joan Hall, Daisy Witherell Déry, Nicole Small, Allison Wilson, Kathy Fuller, Vickie McDonough, Barbara Curtis, Tina Pinson, Megan DiMaria, Tricia Nguyen and Amy Kampfer.

A young mom like me finds it difficult to travel around the country to find out what autumn is like in Washington, or how to “talk Texan,” so I rely on my many Internet friends to help me research their local settings. Anything I got right is due to their help, and anything I got wrong is my own fault. A big thank-you to these friends who shared with me what life is like in their corners of the U.S.: Linda Baldwin, Wanda Brunstetter, Sunni Jeffers, Lynette Sowell, Mary DeMuth, Eileen Key, Staci Stallings, Marion Bullock, Karen Witemeyer, Donna Gilbert, DiAnn Mills and Kathleen Y’Barbo.

I could not have brought life to the fictional SAHM I Am e-mail loop without having experienced the joys and trials of belonging to several e-mail communities. The loop for members of American Christian Fiction Writers is an excellent example of the support, encouragement and friendship available through the Internet, and I thank God for the privilege of being part of their fellowship.

Writing a book can be a lonely experience, but thanks to a support network of authors, agents, editors and friends, I’ve found my heart gladdened and my writing skills sharpened. A special thank-you to Ron Sammons of A Finer Choice, LLC, for making my author photo look so nice. He’s been a friend to my family for many years, and it was a privilege to have him involved with my book in this way. I so appreciate those who have read my manuscript, in whole or part, or who have helped me with other
aspects of writing this book: Camy Tang, Kristin Billerbeck, Mary Griffith and Brandilyn Collins. In addition, the following people have my deepest respect and appreciation for the contributions they’ve made in my life and my career:

Deb Raney—fellow author who has given me encouragement, advice and a great education about the behind-the-scenes life of an author. When I first started writing, I begged God to give me a mentor, and in Deb, He supplied more than that. He gave me a special friend.

Andrea Boeshaar—part coach, part cheerleader and 100% wonderful agent who believes in me even when I doubt myself, and whose hard work and commitment to my books helped me turn my dream of becoming an author into reality.

Randy Ingermanson—another dear friend and fellow author who read my manuscript in draft form and gave me a great critique. In addition to sharing my book with his daughters (who decided to give Rosalyn’s “Father’s Homecoming” ideas a test-drive, resulting in much hilarity in the Ingermanson household), he always looks for a chance to encourage me, promote my book, make me laugh and help me become a better writer. His generosity and friendship is such a blessing.

Stephenie McBride—my best friend and former college roommate. It’s not often that a writer is blessed with a friend who is also an avid reader and an expert in the book’s subject matter, but I am so blessed. Steph read my book in manuscript form and also helped me with several areas of research. I’m grateful for her feedback and for sharing her experiences with me and for being a sister of my heart for so many years.

Krista Stroever—my editor at Steeple Hill, who was willing to take a chance on my crazy book, nontraditional format, unique subject matter and all. I’ve learned a lot working with her, and I’m a better writer because of it.

SAHM I Am
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. With which one of the characters do you most strongly identify? Why? How does that make you feel?

2. The “Green Eggs and Ham” girls (Dulcie, Jocelyn, Phyllis, Brenna and Zelia) have close friendships, despite knowing each other only through the Internet. How do you think they developed that relationship? What are some cultural barriers we face today in forming close friendships? How can we overcome these barriers, and how important is it to do so?

3. Which character is the “voice” of the many expectations placed on women and men? What are some expectations you feel pressured to meet, and how do you feel about this? Where do these expectations come from and why do they exist? How reasonable are they? What do you think can be the result from trying to perform to these standards?

4. During the weekly discussion concerning what books the SAHM I Am loop members are reading, there is a lot of talk about nonfiction versus fiction and the relative merits of each. Compare the attitudes of Rosalyn and Connie on this subject with Phyllis’s view of it. What does it mean for a book to “nourish the soul,” and what books have you read that have accomplished that in your life? What role, if any, does entertainment play in this nourishing process?

5. During a discussion on what their lives were like before they had children, Phyllis makes this comment: “I love my children. I love my husband. But there are days when I feel like I am living their lives instead of my own. And I have a feeling that some morning, after they’re grown or gone, I’m going to wake up and realize my life ended a long time ago, that Phyllis Lorimer died without anyone—including me—noticing.” In what ways can you identify with this statement? How can we balance our own individuality and personhood with the demands of caring for our families or fulfilling other
responsibilities? Why is it so difficult to find time to maintain this balance? What happens if we neglect this balance and either live totally for ourselves or totally for other people?

6. What is the source of most of Dulcie and Tom’s marital conflicts? If you were Becky (Tom’s sister) or one of Dulcie’s friends, what advice would you give them about their relationship with each other?

7. Dulcie’s self-image is a constant source of stress for her. What aspects of your own self-image are a struggle for you? From where do our unrealistic expectations of ourselves come? What can we do about it? What does Dulcie mean when she says, “There’s more to being content with myself than fitting into a certain clothing size”?

8. Think about the characters in this story who have been, or will be, touched by adoption in some form or another. Do you know people who are part of this “adoption triangle”—adoptee, adoptive parent or birth mother? What are some of their feelings about adoption? How are their experiences, or the ones of the characters in this book, different than the typical portrayal of adoption in the media or in books? What do you think about the following conversation between Brenna’s husband, Darren, and their daughter, Madeline, regarding her new understanding of adoption?

“Well, I was thinking on the bus about it. And it’s sort of like God, you know?”

“God? In what way, squirt?”

“Well, you know, like how God made us part of His family—when we’re born again. That’s what they say at church. So, are we adopted, Daddy? Are we?”

9. Brenna and Darren struggle with accepting Darren’s infertility. Both male and female infertility can be devastating for a couple who desire a child. Why is
this? How do you think our culture (both secular and Christian) views people who are infertile? What should our response be toward someone in this position? How can we create a more accepting and supportive environment for people dealing with this problem?

10. Phyllis and Jonathan are deeply wounded by the church they were serving. In what ways do our churches most commonly wound people? Why does this happen when Christians are supposed to be known by their love? How can we be part of the solution in preventing such wounds from being inflicted? What is the most healthy way to respond when a Christian hurts you? How can we show love and concern for a person who has been hurt by the church?

A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR

Our current notion of “stay-at-home mom” grew out of the Victorian era of the Industrial Revolution, when it became fashionable for middle-class and wealthy women to stay home while their husbands went off to work. Prior to this, most families, except the upper class, operated cottage industries from their homes, requiring both parents to work together to maintain the business as well as raise children. During the post-WWII years, women were encouraged to stay home in order to create job openings for the men returning from war. The Stay-At-Home Mother became the ideal for motherhood—the calm, gracious, well-groomed perfect housekeeper, always ready with milk and cookies, whose children were the epitome of good manners and obedience.

Is this reality for any of you? Yeah…me neither. Yet, it seems many of us are still trying to attain that myth of domestic perfection, and when we fail, we feel guilty. Let’s face it—for a lot of us, being a SAHM is not the Utopia we are often taught to expect. Our tasks are myriad, tedious and repetitive, and the pay is often loneliness, frustration and a sense of failure. The rest of the non-SAHM world tends to view us as pathetic creatures who are wasting our talents and abilities on wiping noses, changing diapers and cleaning house. Honestly, some days, it feels like they’re right!

Even though we know in our hearts that what we are doing has incredible value and that staying home with our kids is really and truly a special privilege and blessing, it’s often hard to remember this in the middle of a child’s temper tantrum or while cleaning up the globs of jelly on the kitchen floor. That’s why I wrote this book. Somehow it’s easier to handle the challenges of this life when we have someone give us a hug and say, “I totally understand.” Consider my story that empathetic hug.

It’s hard to be empathetic without being realistic, though. So, in this book, you’ll notice that the characters tend to be pretty frank with each other and deal with issues that are as messy as a two-year-old eating spaghetti. I tried not to give easy answers or the typical Christian platitudes most of you are tired of hearing. In fact, my goal wasn’t to give answers at all—they’re not mine to give. But if you read this story and come away feeling encouraged, understood or having a better comprehension of what being a SAHM is really like, then I’ve done my job. And if you have a bit of fun in the process, all the better.

I want to give you some additional information regarding a few of the issues in the story. You or your friends may be dealing with these things, and it’s nice to know where to find helpful resources. This is by no means a complete list, but it should get you started:

Embryo Adoption:
Endorsed by Focus on the Family as an excellent way to provide frozen embryos a chance to be born and grow up, embryo adoption is an ethical alternative to many of the more controversial infertility treatments. The Snowflakes program at Nightlight Christian Adoptions has more information about this unique, beautiful way to build a family, www.snowflakes.org.

Motherhood:
Christian Mommies, www.christian-mommies.com. Extensive site with lots of articles, a discussion board and other resources.

Infertility:
Hannah’s Prayer Ministries—Christian Support For Fertility Challenges, www.hannah.org. This online ministry includes support for both male and female infertility as well as miscarriage, the death of a child, etc.

International Adoption:
RainbowKids, www.rainbowkids.com/index.chtml. This extensive Web site is a great starting place to begin researching international adoption and related issues.

Stay-At-Home Mothers:
Hearts At Home, www.hearts-at-home.org. This Web site offers a magazine, conference info., bulletin boards and extensive links.

Women:
Her Well-Being, e-mail discussion group, www.groups.yahoo.com/group/her-wellbeing. “A practical how-to list for Christian women, offering a listening ear, practical advice and a safe place to talk about ‘women’s stuff’ and share our stories and concerns.” Also, Christian Women Today, www.christianwomentoday.com, an extensive Web site with articles, discussion forums, advice columns and just about any other resources to help and encourage women in all stages of life.

E-mail loops like the one in the story can be found for most of these topics and just about any others through Yahoo Groups (www.groups.yahoo.com) and similar sites. You can do a search for your subject and peruse the list of available groups, then subscribe to the ones you are interested in. Some groups are more nurturing and considerate of people’s feelings than others, so you might have to try several before finding one that is a good fit for you.

Visit my Web site, www.meredithefken.com, for more information about me, my upcoming books, additional articles and resources on some of these subjects and support for writers. I would love to hear from you and give you the opportunity to receive my newsletter, so please send me an e-mail at [email protected] or snail-mail me c/o Steeple Hill, 233 Broadway, Ste. 1001, New York, NY 10279.

Thank you again for choosing my book to read. May God richly bless you.

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