What Sucks About Parenting Books

Smug Diatribes and Crunchy Endorsements

What Sucks About Parenting Books

Parenting isn't a fashion, though you wouldn't know it from the recent spate of books out there—from Amy 'Tiger Mom' Chua's hard-nosed manifesto to Pamela Druckerman's smug French diatribe to Mayim 'Blossom' Bialik's crunchy endorsement of attachment parenting.

These books present a 'one size fits all' approach to parenting, what with their implicit assertions that there is a right—and by extension, a wrong—way to raise a child, or that parenting is somehow black and white (instead of grey all over). While there is nothing wrong with striving to become a better mom, I fear that such books create an us and them culture.

Parenting is not, in my humble and limited experience, about dichotomies; it is about finding what works best for you and your particular household at any given moment. 

The images of a beatifically smiling Bialik, snugly sandwiched between her young sons, suggest an intimacy that parents who don't practice extended breastfeeding or child wearing or co-sleeping can't possibly possess.

For her part Chua beams in the foreground, while her straight-backed daughters grasp violins in the background. Druckerman's children may use cutlery properly without turning up their noses up at the fromage chevre. So be it.

By nature such parenting philosophies tend to make us feel inferior and incompetent, much like fashion magazines make us feel unattractive and insecure. New moms are a notoriously vulnerable group just craving to be told what, and what not, to do. 

Amy Chua's disciplinarian style may work wonders in her household. Good luck to her. 

Druckerman may well be able to take her kids to fancy restaurants and not die of embarrassment. And Bialik may have no qualms about 'wearing' her child 24/7. Again, more power to her. 
I'm in no position to judge them. Then again, neither are they in any position to lecture from a pedestal upon high.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to write my own parenting credo, entitled "Winging it." Somehow I doubt the book will sell many copies, though my kid will probably turn out just fine.




The Week I was a Single Mom

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's a...Single Parent!

The Week I was a Single Mom

It takes a village to raise a child. Or at the very least, one superhuman parent. Every now and then I don my cape and play that wonder woman. Like many moms out there, when my husband goes away on business, I unofficially become a ‘single parent.' And, also like most moms out there, it’s not an experience I relish.

Yet I do recognize that every now and then it’s healthy and necessary to be ousted from your bubble-wrapped existence. And walking in another mom’s footsteps -- if only for a few short days or weeks a year -- helps me to see beyond the periphery of my smug little life.

Until I became a parent I had scant appreciation for what was involved in the role. I didn’t read the fine print, you might say. No matter how involved (or uninvolved) your partner is, two pairs of hands are certainly better than one. So I thought.

While my husband was abroad on business, our then four month old caught something nasty from his playgroup. He coughed so hard he couldn’t keep milk down. A doctor on call said my son wasn’t showing signs of dehydration. Yet. This went on. In the middle of the night, worried that he might not make it through till morning, I packed up my baby boy and headed to the nearest E.R. where my son was given electrolytes. I arrived home around 3 a.m., utterly spent yet inordinately proud of my judgment call.

I had handled an emergency situation all by myself. For single parents, that’s the reality of every day. I now know I could do it again if I had to, not that I would want to. I consider myself fortunate to shoulder the hardships and the glories of parenthood with a partner. 
When my son does something awful or awesome, my husband’s right there to share the moment. Truly, I can’t imagine raising my son without him. Yet I know some women don't have a choice in the matter. 
In Tinseltown, being a single mom is all the rage right now. Charlize recently went it alone, as did Sandra Bullock, Halle Berry, Sheryl Crow, and Michelle Williams. And perennially unlucky in love Jen Aniston got tired of waiting around for Mr Right to show up to start her family. Even superwoman Madge recently admitted that raising kids alone (whether by choice or circumstance) is hard as hell.  
Of course single parents aren't exclusively moms. My uncle has raised his 7-year-old singlehandedly for years. The responsibility weighs heavy, no doubt. Instead of shucking it off, however, my uncle took the road less travelled, and stuck around. Following an ugly custody battle, he's not only the primary caregiver, he’s the epicentre of his son’s universe. He’s his be all, end all. They play air-guitar together; they order pizza. He taught him how to tie his shoelaces, how to share. 
Single parents are everything their children have got. Their role is pivotal in the child’s life since there is no other parent to dilute their influence, for better or for worse. My uncle isn’t perfect. But he does his damnedest, and for his son that’s more than enough.

To me single parents are superheroes. I keep looking for the strings and the hidden wires. But there’s no sleight of hand in their repertoire, only unbelievable reserves of love and hard work. (And who knows, maybe it's easier today than it was for my own mother, a teenager in the '70s...)

Experience has taught me that two pairs of hands aren’t necessarily better than one, and that it totally depends upon the hands in question. One pair of caring hands is surely better than two indifferent or abusive pairs. 

The minute my husband gets home, I plan to count out our many blessings on all the hands and fingers we’ve got.