Last year, I recommended a few books I felt mainstream parents would enjoy and learn from. Since then, I’ve found several more books that I feel have much to offer the mainstream parent.
The Mask of Motherhood by Susan Maushart has, as its main theme, the feeling of maternal shock caused by the birth of a baby – “How come nobody told me it would be like this?!”. Through this, she also refers to the realities of various specific parenting practices (such as childbirth and breastfeeding) as opposed to their idyllic portrayal in public written and spoken discourse, and how feeling ambivalent about motherhood – at least sometimes – is probably the norm for most women.
Paranoid Parenting by sociologist Frank Furedi is a wonderful read, despite being a somewhat dissatisfying one. Wonderful, because it describes well the “Myth of the Vulnerable Child” trap we’ve all fallen into as parents, and provides a decent case for children’s resilience; dissatisfying, because it provides little in the way of solutions to our current predicament. I still think it can be a very good springboard for those who want to suggest such solutions.
Mother-Infant Bonding: A Scientific Fiction and Motherguilt By Diane Eyer. The first book reads more like a scientific tome, the second is a more non-scientific, reader-friendly book about the biases and errors of the original attachment researchers, and how their work and the resulting conception of the ‘ideal mother’ has been used in service of keeping women at home. In the latter, she also compares the state of childcare in the US (at least at the time of the book’s publication, 1996) with various other countries; I can attest that the chapter on Israeli childcare is fairly comprehensive and accurate.
Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection By Sarah Blaffer Hrdy is one shining example of an anthropologist who doesn’t fall into the trap of biological determinsm, and in fact, uses the discourse of evolutionary biology to demonstrate that ‘natural’ human (and primate in general) parenting behavior is more varied and environmentally and culture-specific than some anthropologists (Kathy Dettwyler, James McKenna and the self-deceptive Meredith Small come to mind) would like to think.
The Attachment Connection: Parenting a Secure & Confident Child Using the Science of Attachment Theory by clinical psychologist Ruth Newton is a new book which, much like Dr. Zeynep Biringen’s book, discusses how to establish a secure relationship with your child using the prinicples of attachment theory – the real thing, not the Sears et al distortion of it, that is (here’s an interview with Newton which asks about the connection between the two; while her answer is more diplomatic than Biringen’s, she still doesn’t exactly cheer AP). One of the nicer aspects of this book is that it’s divided into specific infant developmental ages and stages, and describes how best to engage your infant/child from birth to age 4.
I hesitated a bit before including Mother’s Milk: Breastfeeding Controversies in American Culture by Bernice Hausman in my ‘mainstream parenting’ reading list. To be honest, I alternated between applauding the author and cussing her out all through reading the book! The author is an unapologetic breastfeeding advocate (sometimes tipping over into lactofanaticism) and LLL supporter, but despite that, has many important and valid critiques about how breastfeeding advocacy is presented these days in the western world – including that of La Leche’s. While she accords them far more respect that I feel they deserve, she does, at least, take on Dettwyler, McKenna, and Small’s ‘evolutionary’ approach – though her take is mainly utilitarian (i.e., this argument is merely preaching to the biological determinist choir, as opposed to their arguments being completely beside the point and sometimes factually incorrect). It’s a rather expensive book, so you might want to preview it on Google Books first.