Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Maybe I'm just grumpy . . .

Am I the only person bothered by the title of this book (12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know : Getting Back to Basics and Raising Happy Kids). The reason it bugs me is that it implies that "real" moms know something that the rest of us "fake" moms don't know. And the kicker - the stuff real moms know is really simple so if you don't know the same stuff, not only are you a fake mom, you're stupid too. Also, I'm not sure it's our job to make our kids happy (especially because our kids would be happy if we gave them a dumpster full of candy and let them watch Cartoon Network every day but that really wouldn't be good parenting, now would it?) - but that's a whole other post.

As regular readers of this blog know, I am a total self-help book junkie. Maybe I'm pulling back from that addiction because this is totally a book I would have bought a few years ago. But now, with the benefit of nearly 8 1/2 years of childrearing experience, I can say with confidence that any book that claims to have simple answers to questions about raising kids is full of shit. Of course, that's just my opinion.

The truth is, after our second daughter was born, I gave away every child rearing book we bought (with only a couple exceptions). Not because I thought we knew all the answers but because the books only made me more confused, less likely to follow my own instincts (and my husband's) and made me feel guilty for not being the kind of mother the books said I should be.

For instance, the books about attachment parenting by Dr. Sears made me totally nuts. I think I was about as attached as a parent could be after A Girl was born. That kid was constantly attached to one breast or another. Seriously. I was a human pacifier. I am still amazed that I was able to go back to work without her still attached to me. The attachment parenting books said things like "an attached parent instinctively knows what her baby wants when she cries." Ok, maybe some people are infant mind readers but not me. I think I had it easier than the average parent because when she cried, it pretty much meant I needed to whip out a boob and all would be right with the world again. But there were times when I had no clue what the hell she wanted and frankly, I'm convinced she didn't either. (In fact, just last night she asked me "Do you ever just feel like crying for no reason?") I won't opine on whether attachment parenting is good or not because I couldn't bring myself to finish the book.

Then there are the books designed to get your child to sleep. Don't even get me started. Every book out there claims to have THE answer to solving the baby sleep problem. The book that so many people rave about - the Weissbluth book - was my least favorite. He happens to be the head pediatrician at the practice our children go to. I've met him briefly and he seems to be a nice man. However - he has a whole chapter of his book devoted to blasting mothers who don't let their children cry it out. He says, basically, those mothers have bad relationships with their husbands and are using the child to avoid their relationship issues. There's also language in the book that made me cringe about kids who don't sleep well growing up to be fat and stupid. I know first hand the evils of sleep deprivation. I know that it's important for kids to learn to fall asleep on their own. I also know that my desire to "rescue" my baby from crying too much was not necessarily in her best interest in the long-run. BUT - to malign all mothers who find it difficult to let their babies cry until they throw up (the babies, not the moms) is ridiculous. The whole tone of his book is that if you don't do what the great doctor says, you're a bad parent and your children are doomed to a life of sorrow. Maybe in my sleep-deprived state I was a tad sensitive but, honestly, I think that's the LAST thing new parents need to hear.

So, back to the reason I even started this post. To me, there's no one right way to do things when it comes to raising a family. There's only a right way to do things for your family. Unless you're outright abusing your kids, no one should judge you for making the choices that work for your situation. Some people swear by the cry it out method of getting your kids to sleep. We tried it and it was a complete failure (mainly because my oldest was as stubborn as they come). Eventually, we figured out a few things that worked for us and she's a fairly well-adjusted 8 year old who sleeps very well. With our second, I don't remember it being as big an issue. I was lucky enough to be able to nurse our kids for a full year each and I used to be pretty judgmental about mothers who didn't nurse. But I realize now that everyone faces their own challenges and what worked for me and my family might not work for them. Maybe I should write a book about it and call it "Raising a Family: Some stuff that worked for me and might work for you but if it doesn't that's ok." What do you think?

7 comments:

landismom said...

I thought you had decided against doing posts on controversial topics...

Seriously, though, I think you're right. While I didn't go so far as to throw out all our parenting books when #2 was born, I did just stop reading them. It's very tempting to think that you can find answers to your child-rearing questions in books--especially for a person like me who lives to read anyway. And I have gotten ideas about how to deal with specific situations from parenting books. But the only one I crack ever at this point is a great book on kids' health that my mom gave me when the Bee was born.

Jessica said...

I concur, Jess, the title of that book is off-putting at best (but more like downright insulting).

Kristi said...

Wow, I have considered writing that book myself. Why is it that the level of smugness about childrearing is inversely proportional to how much hand-on child rearing one has done? I guess that goes for all kinds of know-it-alls. Though I keep all my "baby guides" some as reminders of how moms can get really bad advice (babywise & girlfriends guide), and others as sources for "suggestions" (like Sears, Pantley, and LLL). Great post, I am right there with you.

Sheryl said...

I think you're right on the money.

AfricaBleu said...

I'd buy it...

JennyMcB said...

Maybe inside the book, you could have blank pages except for the first page which would say-- go spend some time with your kid and read them a book!

LOL, I read a few with my first and liked Brazelton the best. After listening to all the different moms in the neighborhood I quickly realized that we were all getting different advice and I just had to pick what was right for us.

MIM said...

First, as a fake mom, I find the title of that book insulting as well.

Second, you have a point about Weissbluth -- which is why I only read PARTS of the book. The ones that were useful to me.