This review is part of a MotherTalk blog tour, and I received this book from the publisher to review.
When you are a new mother, you tend to believe you have found the One True Way of parenting. If you have an easy baby, you say that it is because of your parenting. If you have a difficult baby, you either look for other parenting styles or decide “(s)he would be even more difficult if we didn’t do it this way”. In an ideal universe, your next child is the complete opposite of your first, and you learn about hubris first hand. And not for the last time, either! In time, through friendships with other mothers and with children that follow your first baby, you learn about different baby types, how they respond to different parenting styles; children who are outliers on every curve; the exceptions to every rule; and that what you do as parents of babies is rarely important when they are 8.
What Mothers Do: Especially When it Looks Like Nothing, by Naomi Stadlen can be the stand-in for those years of experiences. This is a mothering book that turns mothering books on their heads – this is a chorus of women telling you about mothering.
I have developed a strong dislike for parenting books. I read the Sears’ Baby Book while I was pregnant, and that was about all I could handle. The rest I picked up from a wonderful collection of women. I was incredibly lucky to live in Austin and be a part of La Leche League groups and a church that were incredibly supportive. My women’s group basically taught me all I needed to know about parenting – from the idea that each baby is different to the idea that every parent is different. I’ve learned more since we moved away, but it all goes back to the same thing – different things work for different families. What Mothers Do is gratefully not another “how to” book on parenting. It will give you ideas, yes – but it’s more of a discussion about parenting, that’s put into easily-read chapters (which can be read in bite-size-pieces, yet aren’t patronizing to new mothers). You can easily picture a group of women in a circle saying the quotes within Stadlen’s book – it’s like a portable support group.
All families, no matter how different, are dealing with very similar issues. What Mothers Do: Especially When it Looks Like Nothing is divided into chapters on universal mothering issues; from who understands? to having “all the responsibility” to (my favorite mothering trait) “being instantly interruptible” to what do babies seem to want, and more – with an epilogue on circles of mothers. There are quotes from different mothers throughout each chapter – from mothers of babies of many different ages. There are different perspectives, different choices, and yet so many voices that are all chorusing together about the joys and struggles of motherhood. These quotes echo the voices I hear in my head from my early days of mothering with those supportive mothering groups surrounding me. Yes, I still miss them 6 years later!
There are too many mothers now who don’t have a supportive circle of mothers around them. There are parents who are so worried about parenting “right” that they freak out every other moment – and fly from book to book. There are mothers who are asked “What did you do all day?” every single day. There are parents who have never met a child or parent who is an exception to their rules, and have never thought that there could be another legitimate mode of parenting. These people should all read What Mothers Do. So if you have a baby shower you need to attend, give the new mom something pretty (I like bath soaps for her and a fancy-schmancy blanket for the baby) and a copy of What Mothers Do.