I know One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler, and published by Zondervan, has been getting a lot of attention and is on the best seller lists, but in case there is someone among my two blog readers who hasn’t heard about it, nor read it, here’s my shining endorsement. Yes, as James Breakwell, the man otherwise known as @XplodingUnicorn, noted, the entire first chapter is dedicated to Jennifer negotiating with her mother-in-law not to bring a live possum into her house, and I’d like to add that it just keeps getting better from there. I found One Beautiful Dream hilarious, refreshing, and inspirational.
I have always found Jennifer’s writing to be very funny and this book is no different. Years ago I used to read Jennifer’s blog in bed when I couldn’t sleep. I used to laugh so hard that I would keep waking my husband up and he disallowed me from reading her work in bed. I won’t go into all the details of my marital woes here, but let’s just say when I ordered the ebook one night before bed, I had a hard time putting it down and I may or may not have angered my husband by my repeated bursts of laughter necessitating an apology gift of a strategically placed bag of Andes mints under his pillow.
Family strife aside, I found this memoir refreshing. In a world full of mommy wars, this book gives you nothing but joyful, tear-inducing mommy solidarity. One Beautiful Dream chronicles the time in Jennifer’s life when she had six kids in eight years and wrote her first book. If that fact alone makes you want to feel like a failure at having not gotten that book deal (or whatever your particular crazy dream is) even though you have fewer kids and they’re spaced farther apart, you have no need to worry. It’s impossible to feel like you’re failing at motherhood when you read about Jen’s chronicles of having a play-date at her house with a new friend, only to have the children discover her husband’s college-era beer bong; or about the uptight babysitter who stormed off the job being so scandalized by Jennifer’s house (the state of it, the size of it, how it was run, or all of the above). As is typical for her, Jennifer is real. She is not one to sugar coat anything and if looking at all your friends insta-worthy pictures of their lives has you feeling down, this book will lift you up.
In One Beautiful Dream Jennifer makes it clear that she loves her children and loves being a mom, yet, like probably every mother alive, she struggled with the tension between wanting to be involved with and connected to her children, but also wanting to pursue dreams outside of family life. The standard way our culture deals with this tension for those who want to be stay-at-home moms, is for the mom to hit pause on her life, spend a few years at home with her children while they are young, and then for her to “get her life back” once the kids go to school. In Jennifer’s work, she shows, in her usual explosive-laughter-inducing-not-to-be-read-next-to-your-sleeping-spouse kind of way how she came to embrace another view of parenting and life, which is doing both family and dream-pursuing together and integrating them with one another.
I found the book so inspiring, however, because Jennifer goes beyond the usual “how to have it all” message. One Beautiful Dream tells how she came to realize that her dreams of having a large, close family and writing a book weren’t in competition with one another. Jennifer asks, “What if following your God-given passion is not just okay to do during the baby years, but actually something that has the potential to enhance your whole family’s life?” Having felt the tension myself between my love of writing and the demands of family life, I had scarcely written a thing since August when I had quit my last paid writing gig. Reading about Jennifer boldly and counter-culturally not choosing either a large family or pursuing her passions so inspired me, that upon finishing her book (in a mere three days) I immediately sat down to create a writing schedule for myself — one that worked with my family and their needs but still allowed me to do what I love. In fact, her approach on how she was able to integrate the different aspects of her life into one satisfying, connected, and unified whole makes her message truly unique.
Though I think parents will obviously get a lot out of this book, I think even non-parents will appreciate the humor and the message. Let’s face it, everyone has dreams, and sometimes life just seems to get in the way of those. No matter what (or who) life brings your way, I think you will enjoy several laughs while drawing refreshment and inspiration from Jennifer Fulwiler’s One Beautiful Dream.