The Best Review Yet

The other day I was talking to another mom who had just finished reading my book.  As I was signing her book she joked, “Where was your book twenty years ago when I was having my kids?”

I laughed and responded, “Where was my book four years ago when I was having my son?”

The truth is that I wrote the book I wished was available after my son was born, but couldn’t find no matter how hard I searched. Lots of mothers read parenting books while they are pregnant. Not me. I already had a doctorate degree in child psychology. I didn’t read a single parenting book while I was pregnant. I figured parenting would be easy. It was simply about loving your kid. Ha!

Within a few weeks of Gus being born, I was in a desperate search for any kind of parenting book I could get my hands on.  There were books on all types of parenting issues. The shelves were overflowing with them.  I put all of my speed reading skills honed in graduate school to good use.I ran to bookstores to get them or overnighted them from Amazon and each time I finished a book I was disappointed. I picked up the next one, hoping it would be better and that it would be what I was looking for. But it never was.

What was I looking for? I was looking for some type of emotional validation for the experiences I was having. Nobody had told me I would feel like I was feeling or think the thoughts I was thinking. I was not at all prepared for what was happening to my mind, my emotions, my body, my relationship with my husband, and my relationship with my son. I could never find what I was looking for.

Actually, “it” just wasn’t there.

Don’t get me wrong, I learned some really valuable tools and information from all of the books I read. I learned all about the practical things of motherhood like breastfeeding and bathing.  I learned lots of helpful tricks of the trade. However, most of the books I started out reading were filled with textbook accounts of childrearing that made it seem like child care practices were mathematical formulas.

A + B = C. I liked it. My brain could easily grasp that. It seemed so manageable. Practical. Defined.

However, each time I applied the equation, I never got the promised results. I would go back through the book, re-read, highlight the important parts that I may have missed the first time, and re-apply as if I was taking a test for the second time.

Still missed the mark.

Somewhere along the way and I’m not sure when it happened, I accepted that parenting was not a science. On any topic, there was a split as divisive as the Republican versus Democratic divide. I would read through one piece and find myself thinking, okay, okay, this makes sense. I should do it this way! Then, I’d read another source that told me everything I just read was wrong. If parenting was a science than all of the sources would agree. This is not even remotely close to what happens in regard to parenting. I didn’t find any freedom until I let go of thinking about parenting like a science.

I switched from the prescriptive, how-to books to books that were memoirs or personal narratives regarding the first years of being a mother. I hoped they would give me what I needed. I wanted to know how other mothers felt about their inability to manage motherhood in the way they had dreamed or imagined. I wanted to know what they did or how they felt when their journey into motherhood did not end in happily ever after. These types of books proved to be even more disheartening. Most of them were written by rich, white women or by celebrities. I couldn’t relate to either. Really, the only people who can relate to celebrities are celebrities.

So, when Gus was three I started writing The Mommy Psychologist. Actually, the book was originally titled Diary of  a Mad White Mama, but by the time the book was ready to be published, I’d been blogging as the mommy psychologist for months so it made sense to change the name. I did my best to tell the truth unapologetically for what motherhood is really like  for ordinary, everyday moms like myself. It was all I wanted when I was a new mom and from what I’ve been hearing from others, I did what I set out to do!

Being a new mom introduces you to a world of emotional highs and lows that I’m pretty sure only exists in people with bi-polar disorder. It is brutally painful and exhausting. It will push you to the edges of your sanity and just when you think you can’t go any further, you will be pushed even closer to the edge. And then your baby will smile at you and your heart will open more than you knew was possible. The horrible emotions that you felt a second ago quickly vanish. I hope my book helped make sense of these emotional extremes and showed how the two seemingly contradictory emotions about motherhood can co-exist.

How did you come to terms with your baptism into motherhood?




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6 Responses to The Best Review Yet

  1. Your book definitely fills a niche for telling it like it is–not sugar-coating parenting at all. I hope lots of parents looking for real support and validation that parenting is hard draw strength from it!

    BTW, I’m giving you a blog award–The Liebster Award. Come on over and read about it:

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Katy. I went and checked out the award. Thanks for adding to my to-do list!

  2. desmoinesdem says:

    I’m glad you have found a path that is working for you and your son.

    I read a lot of books during the first year of my older son’s life. The baby-training writers never made any sense to me. I was left to cry in cribs as a baby (per doctor’s advice at the time) and had terrible sleep problems throughout childhood–fighting bedtime, waking up frequently in the night even as a school-aged child.

    The attachment parenting approach clicked with me, because it’s not a checklist of things you have to do, but a way of relating to your child that acknowledges the importance of responding to a baby’s needs. Having grown up in a large family where my siblings and I are very different, I also liked the fact that attachment parenting doesn’t pretend there is one “magic” approach to things (introducing solids, bedtime, temper tantrums, discipline with an older child) that will work perfectly for every family or even for every sibling in the same family.

    One of my favorite parenting blogs is by Dr. Laura Markham. She has a knack for recommending several different ways of dealing with common problems, all of which are gentle and non-violent. She doesn’t pretend that being a psychologist gives her insight into one perfect solution for every family.

    I was disappointed to see you lend your voice to those who label attachment parenting “extreme.” My children are beyond the extended nursing and co-sleeping years, yet I still see the benefits of choices my husband and I made when our boys were very young.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Desmoinesdem. I’ll have to check out Laura’s blog. She sounds like a psychologist after my own heart. I’ve said it many times that the only thing I ever advocate is doing what works. To be clear, I don’t label attachment parenting extreme in and of itself. There are many components of attachment parenting that I implement within my own family. I refer to it as being extreme when the specific case warrants it and unfortunately, there are far too many cases that do.

      • desmoinesdem says:

        I don’t know what you consider “extreme.” There are certainly people who carry attachment parenting to extremes (for instance never leaving a child with anyone for any length of time). But Dr. Phil seems to consider nursing a four-year-old “extreme” in itself, even though that has been the norm for much of human history and is still common in many parts of the world. I do not accept that it is “extreme” to nurse a toddler with teeth when the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for two years or more.

        I consider it extreme (and harmful) to impose a strict feeding schedule on a young infant, or use violent physical discipline on toddlers. Where I live, and I suspect where you live too, these parenting techniques are far more common than the “extreme” attachment model held up to ridicule in TIME magazine and on Dr. Phil’s program.

        I think you will like Dr. Laura Markham’s blog. Here’s one of my favorite posts. I have recommended it to many frustrated parents:

  3. Leah says:

    I read all of the books too and tried everything, and felt so guilty that all the crying was damaging the future emotional wellbeing of my child as an adult as many attachment parenting people write about.
    To be honest, I am still recovering, as is my relationship with my husband. My daughter is now 3, and I have a major physical reaction when she cries even now.

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