Home \ Leading Thoughts \ Wonder Women: Navigating the Challenges of Motherhood, Career and Identity A book review by Christine Lee Buchholz In one of my earliest conversations with Kate Harris, the executive director of The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation, and Culture, I recall Kate suggesting that the language around women finding ‘balance’ seemed anemic. My heart leapt! I was immediately drawn to her and wanted to get to know her and hear more of what she had to say. Having been profoundly shaped by my friendship with Kate, I am delighted that her first book Wonder Women: Navigating the Challenges of Motherhood, Career and Identity has been published. Drawing upon the wisdom of Steve Garber that vocation is “one’s entire life lived in response to God’s voice,” Kate writes from her perspective as a daughter, wife, mother to three (now four) young children, sister, writer, thought leader and friend to provide a very helpful framework for women to make coherent sense of “their lives, longings and experiences.” Kate asserts that vocation “comprises all of our various occupations over a lifetime. It also accounts for our personality, our relationships, our choices, our formation – the whole of our unique personhood.” While vocation may require making practical trade-offs, she writes, vocation never asks one to compartmentalize one’s life into artificial categories of ‘work’ and ‘life’ or ‘home’ and ‘market’. Vocation offers the possibility that our life and our faith can be richly stewarded. Published by the Barna Group, a research and resource company focused on the intersection of faith and culture, as part of their FRAMES series, Wonder Women is peppered with infographics and statistics about women. For example: 7 in 10 women say that they have too much stress in their lives, and 56% of moms feel overcommitted. Surely we can find hope in the reminder that we are image bearers of God, whom Kate describes as our “infinitely dimensioned creator.” She suggests that as we are called to love the things He loves, “instead of having to prove our worth through endless striving, we can rest confidently, knowing our work and worth are inherently dignified from creation.” As the mother of two young children, passionate about my work to end human trafficking, I feel frequently pulled between the demands of both callings. At times, I almost resented the many physical needs of my children that seemingly constrained my ability to help improve aftercare standards for survivors of sex trafficking in India and bring an end to child slavery in Haiti. However, the paradigm that Kate offers in this book suggests that constraints can help clarify priorities and have “a curious way of yielding abundance.” After all, God himself “willingly took on constraints” and “became incarnate for our sakes.” Reflecting on Kate’s vision for vocation and accepting some of the real constraints in my life, I found myself embracing the role of mother and becoming more intentional about inculcating within our children the importance of being caring and of serving others. After I counted 30 days that I had been away from our young family, traveling to India and Haiti, I took stock of the late night Skype sessions with colleagues in India that left me sleepless and grumpy towards our cheerful children when they awoke each morning. Then I resigned from my work in India and decided to narrowly focus my time and energy in Haiti. Without a broader understanding of vocation or an appreciation for constraints, informed by the insightfulness of Kate Harris, I’m not sure I would have taken these healthy steps for our family’s life. I have wondered, is this framework for vocation accessible to all women, including the women I know in Haiti who are struggling for their daily survival? The statistics and the stories in the book largely reflect the lives of Christians in America who are educated. Nevertheless, I do believe that the invitation to respond to God’s voice is open to all women. Our life circumstances and the constraints we face may differ widely, but I do believe the invitation to respond to God’s voice is open to all women. The Barna Group found that 35% of all women surveyed, and 31% of moms, often feel lonely. Kate writes, “From creation, we know we reflect the image of a triune God who, by his very nature is community.” I pray that this book will also help us to recognize how stressed and lonely others may be feeling, appreciate the importance of community and encourage us to reach out to others as fellow image bearers of God. I am grateful for the refreshing perspective Kate provides in this short book and hope to hear more from her in the years ahead.