April 16, 2009

Mama's Got a Fake I.D. (Book Review)

Mama's Got a Fake I.D. (Book Review)
Author: Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira
Waterbrook Press, 204 pages

This is not a book about egalitarianism vs complementarianism, career women vs. stay-at-home moms. It is also not a treatise against feminism. But before I even opened the pages of the book, I was struck by the blurb on the back cover. Check it out:

"No one begins life as a mom. Before you have children, you are an amazing combination of friend, daughter, confidant, visionary, encourager, and thinker. You start out in life using your gifts and abilities in a surprising variety of settings. Then you have children and the role of mom-as wonderful as it is-seems to consume you. It's easy to lose your identity when others see you as a mom and little else. What happened to the artist, the teambuilder, the organizer, the entrepreneur, the leader--the person you lost touch with?"

Frankly, if this is all anyone read of the book, they would understand clearly the author's intention is grant moms the permission to use their gifts and talents to the glory of God, to remind them that they can be a mom and a writer, singer, cook, puzzle solver, or trumpet player. These moms have teaching gifts, communication gifts, leadership abilities, can enjoy fixing small appliances, and planting a garden. To remember that these things contribute to your identity, including who you are as a mom, is neither to elevate them over motherhood or to intice women to leave the home to pursue a career. They simply are....and all that from the back cover!

I eventually want to get to some of the actual meat of this book, but knowing what so many women in the church are reading and believing, I find it necessary to deal with the ideas associated with the confusion many women will no doubt have about this book. Let me be clear, this is not pop-psychology baptized in scripture, but it offers a real biblical alternative to the spiritualized ascetism that has been mandated for women in the evangelical community. Being a mom, a mom who loves being a mom, a mom devoted to her family and her Lord, need not be a woman who buries her gifts, hides her interests, and squanders her talents.

"When we wrestle with our identities, we want to know who specifically we are. Who we were made to be. Why we're gifted the way we are--and how that fits into our role as mom as well as our lives as women who follow Jesus."

When conversations ensue about women's roles, I believe a great deal of equivocating is done. When we talk about the identity of a woman there is no necessary denegration of her role as mom. Yet the two are often confused. As well, I believe the encyclopedic fallacy is committed when we speak of the lives of women. The Bible simply does not provide exhaustive details of how women's lives ought to manifest day to day. Caryn points out in this quote, clearly not pitting our identities against our roles, how God created us in his image, yet unique in desires, gifts, and talents to function in our own unique life circumstance. Sure, many women are mothers, but not all women are married to the same man in the same house with the same income. Our lives are as unique as our identities. As I believe this book aptly addresses, our role as mom can often overshadow how we are moms.

There are no generic Christians and that moms are getting stuck with generic identification inhibits the disciple-making and fellowship of the church. While our faith represents for us the only worldview that believes in a personal God in touch with the intimate details of our lives, our church life often communicates otherwise. Caryn implores us to adopt a refreshing alternative:

"We love who your kids are, and we love who you are. We can't wait to see what God has in store for you. We know that your gifts, your personality, your passions, and your whole self can enhance this community."

Mama's Got a Fake I.D. will give you the courage to be who you are, not because you have any particular rights or demands that ought to be heard, but because God created you to serve your family and the body of Christ in very unique ways. Generic products have come a long way over the years, but the labels simply hide the essence of the product within. This book is as much for the church as it is for women who might be struggling with their own identity, or wondering if it is ok for them to retain the gifts and interests God has poured into them. WFC


Beth said...


Great review. I appreciate your point about not denegrating the role of motherhood because we talk strongly about a woman's other gifts and talents. Why, oh why must these things be presented in opposition?

Also, I am particularly interested in hearing more about your thoughts on the 'spiritualized ascetism' of evangelical women.


Bonnie said...

What Beth said :-). Thanks for this review!

Anonymous said...

Great review. I sent it to my wife, who is definitely thinking about and wrestling with these issues. Thanks.