One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both
by Jennifer Fulwiler
“What if all desires to create–both with children and with work–are, in fact, all pointed in the same direction? What if both are different but complementary ways of getting in touch with the ultimate Source of creativity? 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?”
Jennifer Fulwiler’s exploration of the above question forms the backbone of her second memoir, One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both. Now a well-known blogger and speaker, Fulwiler’s first book Something Other Than God chronicled her conversion from agnosticism to Catholicism; this book tells the story of how she came to write that previous book while also being pregnant with and then giving birth to her third, fourth, fifth, no, make that sixth child. The result isn’t a simple story of following your dreams, but rather a moving reflection on the importance of family and the many ways we can help God bring beauty into the world.
Fulwiler is an accessible and articulate writer, and she captures the stresses of modern parenthood with humor and insight. As she describes the process of trying to do work she feels called to do, while also being a caring and present mother to her children, she grapples with two extremes: on the one hand, the (largely secular) voices who would say that having a big family is a waste of a woman’s mind and incompatible with a career–and on the other, those who believe that having a family, for a Christian wife, should be an acceptable substitute for the pursuit of other personal passions.
Through the telling of her own story, Fulwiler redirects the question of “should mothers work?” away from debates about career paths and earnings potential. Instead she challenges parents to consider whether and how a personal passion (or “blue flame,” as she calls it) can give back to their family and community. She relates her experience of finding that it is, indeed, possible to keep doing things you love in the midst of raising a large Catholic family; it just might look different than you expected. She proposes that each family is called to unity and fruitfulness; however, those two things will be expressed uniquely in each and every unique family. Every happy family is happy in its own way.
Some readers will find her experiences more applicable than others. This book will resonate with mothers most of all–but the question of how our work integrates into family life is pertinent to fathers, too, and this could be a good read for a married couple striving to realize their particular vision for Catholic family life. As I said above, Fulwiler isn’t out to tell people how to balance motherhood with a career (or whether they should be balancing motherhood and career in the baby years), but rather describing her own realization that her own vocation as a wife and mother was broader than she’d realized. Perhaps unfortunately for the rest of us, this is a personal journey rather than a how-to; those seeking a work of self-help on balance will need to look elsewhere. Still, as parents we each need to learn how to integrate our talents into our family life, and those who want to reflect on how the duties of parenthood collide and combine with other desires will find much to reflect upon in this entertaining, thoughtful, honest book.
About the Reviewer:
Sara Sefranek is an English teacher turned homeschooling mother of four. She lives in Colorado with her family.