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A Parenting Book that Makes Me Happy to be a Mom – Finally!

Cover of Raising the Perfect ChildAbout  a week ago, I received a copy of comedian Elizabeth Beckwith’s spoof  on parenting book Raising the Perfect Child Through Guilt and Manipulation from HarperCollins. I normally don’t read parenting books because I’ve been burnt by them in the past, but I burst out laughing just at the title and cover alone.  It reminded me so much of my Anne Taintor, one of my favorite modern artists.  Both Taintor and Beckwith’s irreverent look at life is more representative of reality and emotionally supportive than what I find in most pregnancy and parenting books. Sometimes laughter can bring perspective and that can be a parent’s most useful tool.

I am so over the seemingly endless supply of oh-so-serious books on growing, birthing, and raising children.  I’ve found that I leave those books feeling guilty and inadequate, especially those I read about childbirth and breast feeding.  I decided to no longer read them.  A prime example of this was when Allison was extremely colicky.  After days and days of trying whatever I could think of help her, I was at the point where I wanted to jump out the window.  I put her in her crib and picked up a book on breast feeding and caring for infants published by a pro-breast feeding organization.  In it I found the tiniest of sections about the subject.  I wish I had chucked the book against the wall as soon as I read the first line in that section.  It went something like this: “I’ve never raised a baby with colic, but… ”  In the end it basically said, “Don’t put your baby in the crib and walk away.  What if the very next thing you try is the thing brings your baby the comfort needed?” Talk about guilt and manipulation!  How could it possibly be beneficial for my children to bring them up when I feel that way?

Cover of The Girlfriend's Guide to PregnancyWhile I’m sure that it is never the intent of the author, I truly believe that some of those pregnancy and parenting books do more harm than good.  There are those in which the agenda becomes more important than the individual.  This is not the case with Raising the Perfect Child Through Guilt and Manipulation.  I just knew that it would be right up my alley when I read the prologue about her childhood and how her parents raised her. As a mother of daughters 5 and 7, I can take it all to heart.  The scene where Elizabeth’s father talks her out of a trip to Mexico without forbidding her to go gives me hope of making it through my daughter’s teen years.  I wish I had the moxie to put my thoughts about parenting on paper like Elizabeth Beckwith has.  Reading through it I am reminded of a pregnancy book, The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy by Vicki Iovine. I wish I had read that book instead of the over-earnest crunchy-granola books that I did read at the time.  I would have come out emotionally stronger and better prepared for my life as a mother.

I haven’t finished reading this book yet, but after laughing my way through the first three chapters (and bits and pieces of the rest), I feel so much better about myself and my parenting. While guilt and manipulation may work to make your children behave better (ha!), Elizabeth realizes that it doesn’t do much at all for parents.  There is no need to feel miserable in the most important role of one’s life.  When it comes to parenting, I’m definitely on Team Beckwith.

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23 Comments

  • At 2009.09.30 14:31, Janelle said:

    The cover design does catch your eye. Kind of 50’s style.

    • At 2009.09.30 15:05, Kathy said:

      My mom always told me that parenting books only work if you have the kid read them to so they know what they’re supposed to do. I LOVE the title of this one!!!

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      • At 2009.09.30 15:13, Carol said:

        I absolutely love the title. Sounds like a great one. I know what you mean about most parenting books, though.

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        • At 2009.09.30 15:17, Kristen said:

          OMG! I think she stole my memoir to come up with this book. LOL! I tend to dismiss all parenting books flippantly with the comment that “I’m not up for mother of the year this year either,” but this one actually sounds like one i’d be willing to read. 😉

          • At 2009.09.30 15:42, Jackie (Farm Lane Books) said:

            This sounds like a great book! I’ve read a lot of parenting books and do love the ones which can make you smile.

            I have to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of Vicki Iovine as I wanted to know facts and I think that book was a bit too dumbed down for me, but I did like the humor it contained. I hope you’ll write another review from this book once you’ve completed it, as I’d love to know some of the tips it suggests.

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            • At 2009.09.30 16:03, Emily said:

              This book looks hilarious! I totally agree with what you said about most parenting books. We actually talked a lot about this kind of stuff in the last class I took at Hollins (Mothers in Children’s and YA Lit). We tend to have enormously high expectations for mothers in this society — they are supposed to be absolutely flawless and feel nothing but love and adoration for their children. There are actually a lot of interesting books out there on the subject, but, naturally, I can’t think of any off the top of my head 🙂 I’ll get back to you on it, though!

              • At 2009.09.30 16:11, Laura's Reviews said:

                This book looks hilarious! I could use a good laugh about parenting as sometimes it seems that the only advice I get is that my husband was saintly as a child and why aren’t my children.? 🙂

                • At 2009.09.30 17:08, Florinda said:

                  I’ve tended to avoid most parenting books, but this one sounds worthwhile – or at least, enjoyable! It might be a good choice for a moms’ book club, too – lots to talk about.

                  • At 2009.09.30 17:14, bellezza said:

                    I completely agree about the guilt trip that overly serious books provide and the restoration we receive from laughter. I’ve often thought if people could just laugh more, they’d need counseling less. It helps to alleviate so much tension! As a working mother, with no choice about it for seven years as my first husband passed away, I don’t need to be guilted about what I didn’t do right. I just want to dwell on what went well, and hope for the best regarding everything else.

                    I’m getting to the place where I don’t want to accept books for review anymore…there are too many of my own choice that are just lying there, sadly unopened.

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                    • At 2009.09.30 17:41, rhapsodyinbooks said:

                      Yay, I’m so glad you finally found a parenting book you like! I agree with you, some of those other books do nothing but make women feel guilty! And then the next year, another set comes out saying you’re horrible if you don’t do the exact opposite! And I have so much sympathy with you for a colicky baby. My stepsister was colicky as a baby and I think everyone in the whole house was ready to jump out the window! Talk about feeling helpless!

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                      • At 2009.09.30 17:57, Sandy said:

                        I have shared your frustration with the parenting books written by the expert du jour, who generally doesn’t have a freaking clue. No wonder half of us sink into a pit of depression, guilt, fear, etc. when we first have kids. And God forbid you don’t breastfeed! The horror! I was raised on a healthy dose of guilt and manipulation, and it didn’t hurt me! Too bad this wasn’t written 10 to 12 years ago!

                        • At 2009.09.30 21:18, Jennifer said:

                          Janelle, if you like the cover, you really need to check out Anne Taintor. She’s marvelous.

                          Kathy, I love what your mother has to say. She’s a wise woman!

                          Kristin, the truth is that your children pick up on those guilt and manipulation buttons at an early age. We’ve got to use the tools nature provides us. If we don’t, they will. LOL!

                          Jackie, for me I got bogged down in the dirty pregnancy details and, as a result of reading too much of “your body knows what it’s doing,” I was very depressed for a very long time over having to have an emergency c-section. That has just as much to do with my personality as it does with the books, but I think there is so much judgement contained in those books. That’s what I found refreshing about The Girlfriend’s Guide. I’ll definitely be reviewing this book when I’m finished and I’m hoping to post a Q&A with the author as well.

                          Emily, you hit the nail on the head with what you said about expectations. The interesting thing is that it is generally woman forcing this type of judgement on other women. It’s craziness. I really would like to find out about those books you mentioned.

                          Laura, one of the first principles she talks about in her book is creating an us vs. them team atmosphere. Your mother-in-law (I’m assuming here), is definitely a them. LOL! I seriously think that selective amnesia takes place once your kids leave the house. No one my parents’ age seems to remember much beyond “the first few months are tough.” They can barely remember why it was tough. Will we fall victim as well? If so, when? LOL!

                          Florinda, this would make a great book for a Mom’s book club. It will definitely spark discussions about how your parents raised you and funny things your kids have done.

                          Bellezza, it must be hard to raise children on your own, but you have a good perspective on parenting. If we spend all of our time focusing on what we might have done wrong, when would we ever enjoy the family experience?

                          Jill, you are exactly right. I feel as though you have factions fighting out the parenting wars and the women are the innocent victims. Oh, I love my Ally, but I wanted to either run away forever or die for a long time after she was born. Then you feel guilty for wanting to throw away such a treasure. It can be tough. I have no idea what women did before they were able to get medical help for that.

                          Sandy, I completely agree with you. My parents didn’t have access to all of these experts (lucky dogs!) when I was growing up. Somehow I grew up to be an upstanding citizen. They did the best that they could and that is all that I can expect of myself.

                          • At 2009.09.30 21:30, Tracie Yule said:

                            Thanks for the suggestion! When I was pregnant, I was amazed at how much breast-feeding was promoted by books and the health community. Granted, they are right…but you child is not going to die if you don’t do it. And, also, they never tell you what it’s “really” like. I’m glad that I breastfeed, I just wish I could’ve received more honesty on what it was really like.

                            As for parenting, I’m a bit uncouth at times and I don’t care if the experts think it’s right or wrong.

                            FYI, when my daughter was a baby, I left her in the crib bawling several times. I walked out the door and sat on the front steps to regain my composure and then walked back in the house and picked her up. She’s perfectly fine today and we both make it through it.

                            Love the cover!

                            • At 2009.10.01 02:15, Kim said:

                              My children are grown now, but I raised them on the Dr. Spock book and they did just fine. So many theories change back and forth. I used the “toilet training in less than a day” book and it worked, too.
                              I had two children by natural childbirth and it was no big deal — had 2 others with the Epidural and it is the only way to go!

                              The best book for parenting is “The Color Code” by Taylor Hartman. And the best book for marriages is “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman.

                              There you have my nickels worth of free advice 🙂

                              • At 2009.10.01 02:59, Veens said:

                                I have been thinking for a while to buy a book on pregnancy 🙂 but I keep on thinking will it be any good at all! 🙂

                                Now Iknow i would like to buy 2 books
                                1)The Girlfriend’s guide to Pregnancy
                                2)Raising the Perfect Child Through Guilt and Manipulation

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                                • At 2009.10.01 12:12, A Bookshelf Monstrosity said:

                                  Isn’t Beckwith’s book hilarious? My mom and I were tooling around the ALA convention floor and came across this book last summer. We both had a really good laugh over this one 🙂

                                  • At 2009.10.01 14:30, Melissa - Shhh I'm Reading said:

                                    I have the Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy book somewhere…I really need to dig it out considering I’m already halfway done being preggo!

                                    • At 2009.10.02 00:45, Amy said:

                                      I think you have to have a sense of humor when raising children. I also think there isn’t enough credit given to mother’s intuition. The title of this book is great!

                                      • At 2009.10.02 07:49, Jamie said:

                                        You should read Anne Lamott’s “Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year.” Irreverent. Funny. Relatable. And her son had colic too–but it’s not a “how-to-deal” guide; it’s just her own story that is funny and painfully honest.

                                        • At 2009.10.02 23:56, Laura said:

                                          I have told my kids they obviously did not read the parenting books, because that is NOT how the books said they would respond. Kids just do not always fit into patterns and act predictably as the parenting books would have us believe.

                                          • At 2009.10.03 17:56, Jeane said:

                                            Ha ha. Sounds like a book I would really appreciate. Similar to one I just read, Confessions of a Slacker Mom. Laugh-out-loud funny.

                                            • At 2009.10.18 07:53, Zee said:

                                              That book sounds fantastic! I don’t have kids myself but a friend who does cannot recommend The Three Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting by Christie Mellor highly enough for its hilarious take on parenting and parenting books. I’ve read it and I found it hilarious too.

                                              • At 2011.03.13 23:20, Mainstay Ministries said:

                                                I love those that are really inspiring and can make your day worthwhile and have some fun.

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