I recently was lucky enough to win a giveaway on Suzy’s blog Scraps of Starlight. It arrived beautifully wrapped, and over the holidays I enjoyed reading it. Kelly of In the Sheepfold asked if I would share my thoughts about the book, so here they are. My overall reaction – besides being rather amazed by some of the glimpses of contemporary American society it seems to provide – is that it’s mostly a book for parents who are bringing up younger children than mine. It’s also not intended to be a book for what I would call Extreme Parenting. Michael and I have had our share of this with our eldest (and adopted) child, as I alluded to in this Father’s Day post. However, there was a lot in it that I found interesting, and validating.
Much of what she advises are things I have found work for me as well: “aim low, and go slow,” “have a plan” and “trust your gut” for example. Beyond looking at strategies for coping with the specifics of parenting, I found it really interesting to contemplate the whole idea of happiness in relation to motherhood. Parenting is hard work, and in our society I think that happiness is often considered to be the opposite of work, whereas in earlier times there was more of an acknowledgement that work can be intrinsically rewarding. In my case, the work of raising my children has always been tempered by my profound thankfulness that I was ever able to become a mother, as for so long I’d believed it wouldn’t happen to me.
I found it interesting to read that “happy Moms raise happier kids” – it makes sense, and is why we parents do need to look after ourselves. It amazed me to read that “almost 30 percent of moms remind themselves that they’re good mothers more than once a day”. This is something that, in nearly 16 years of being a parent, I have rarely done. I should remind myself, once in a while at least, that I’m a good enough mother and that I am exactly the right mother for my children. I also agree with her that, for those of us lucky enough to be co-parenting, looking after that relationship is fundamental to being successful parents.
As I say, there were things in here that were a little bit of a culture shock to me. One suggestion was that you never buy clothes that can’t go in the dryer or that need ironing. Well, we don’t have a dryer! So we (by which I mean Michael) do weekly ironing. And: “Almost 60 percent of moms pick up take-out once a week or more”. Am I wrong, or would buying take-away food every week not bankrupt most British families?
But these things are superficial – the principles of keeping things in perspective and not trying to live up to an impossible ideal are very sound. I also like her “Five ways to (nicely) blow off busybodies”! (Only five?)
Below is another self-help book that I recently finished reading, this time a Scottish book:
I got it at the church Spring Fair, and I read it every day at breakfast during 2011. It was very interesting to read something written in a time of national crisis, as our family was having its own struggles. The anecdotes are full of references that reminded me how incredibly luxurious our life is now. Women struggling to carry their shopping miles in the snow, crowded trams and buses during blackouts and pea-soupers, wounded veterans, lack of food, separation, great worry, night raids, being on fire-watching duty… Woven into the “thoughts” are exhortations to be strong and brave, and to help one another.
The above page begins:
“Monday – March 8th
Has it ever occurred to you to look twenty years ahead? Suppose you survive these dangerous times, and live to see the new world men are going to build, what then? … Here you are, alive in this hour of supreme endeavour. Only be brave, and you shall remember it with pride till your dying day.”
It’s a great example of “Dunkirk spirit” rhetoric, but it did help me to put my own problems into perspective. “Only be brave!”