As a general rule, I am not so much a fan of the whole instructional parenting book genre. Child rearing is stressful enough without scores of tomes reminding me of all the ways I can screw things up. The parenting memoir, however, I can totally get behind, especially when it’s authored by a mom who, like me, is flawed and not afraid to admit it.
To that end, a couple of weeks ago, I popped by D: The Broadcast to chat about some of my favorite parenting memoirs by the likes of Anne Lamott, Catherine Newman, and Lenore Skenazy (i.e. the flawed and honest ones). Herewith the five inspiring yet sane reads that made my list:
- Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family
By Catherine Newman
A long-time columnist of a cult weekly column on Babycenter.com, Newman writes about her family with the kind of warmth and humor that makes her infinitely relatable. This sliver of a memoir retells the year leading up to the birth of her second child while also navigating the realities of raising an existentially curious and toddler. Newman’s words nailed exactly what I was feeling (wonder, terror, excitement) when I was pregnant with my second daughter and had a little one underfoot. The book is pure brilliance.
- Trees Make the Best Mobiles: Simple Ways to Raise Your Child in a Complex World
By Jessica Teich and Brandel France de Bravo
This one technically falls into my otherwise disdained “instructional” category, but Jessica Teich and Brandel France de Bravo’s book is so mellow and lovely that I’m willing to make an exception. The zen-inducing read encourages harried parents to take a deep breath, get into the moment, and maybe even flop on the grass and stare up at some trees for a few minutes. Sold.
- Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year
By Anne Lamott
I’m not sure I could love Anne Lamott more. Her soulful, raw, wickedly funny writing inevitably leaves me awed and changed. This account of how she and her son (and numerous friends and neighbors and some strangers) survived and thrived during his first year became my bible of sorts during my own daughter’s babyhood. I went back to it countless times for commiseration and reassurance.
- Free-Range Kids
By Lenore Skenazy
After allowing her 9-year-old son to ride the subway alone in NYC, reporter Lenore Skenazy was deemed “The Worst Mother in America.” Debates raged, the media jumped all over it, bloggers blogged. It was pandemonium. My take: The best anti-helicopter parenting manifesto ever written. Skenazy is my hero.
- Bringing Up Bebe
By Pamela Druckerman
Another target of a media firestorm (I like the controversial ones, friends), American journalist Pamela Druckerman’s first-hand account of having a baby in Paris, and her ensuing exploration of the vast differences in parenting styles between her home-country and her adopted one, had people atwitter. Conspicuously void of harried new moms with no lives of their own, giving into their child’s every whim, Druckerman discovered that motherhood itself is a whole different experience in France. My only regret with this book was that it wasn’t written when my own girls were babies, as I think it would have vastly changed my parenting approach in those early years. It is a must-read for any new mom (or dad). Trust me.