Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What No One Tells the Mom: Surviving the Early Years of Parenthood with Your Sanity, Your Sex Life and Your Sense of Humor Intact

There are many things I liked about Marg Stark's What No One Tells the Mom.

1. It gives you permission to be scared about what you're about to embark on.

2. She uses frank, funny language that's engaging to follow and quick to read.

3. She's not afraid to show her faults and the faults in her marriage, even if it means telling us how disappointed she was in her husband for a very long time (he's a saint by the way, if he's OK with her airing their dirty laundry like that), about how she almost drove away and never came back...

4. ...but then she doesn’t forget to explain how it all got better: her husband started helping out more, how they found more time to be together as a couple, how sweet and special her kids are a majority of the time.

5. The book takes away any preconceived notions, letting you know that things won’t be perfect, and you shouldn’t expect them to be, and that’s OK.

6. Stark and her army of friends and interviewees provide helpful tips for keeping your sanity during an insane time.

A few quotes I enjoyed:

“The standards to which we hold ourselves contribute to the enormous tension we feel, and underestimate a child’s fervent desire to be team player and to help manage family life and its complications. Most moms I know don’t think to delegate chores and they try not to bore kids on weekends with grocery shopping and errands. We’re managing motherhood with white gloves when even in the roughest, dirtiest of circumstances, kids are astonishingly smart, sometimes even prescient.”

She also pulled from another book (The Dance of Anger, by Harriet Lerner) these valuable lessons:

“Venting anger may not help. It tends to protect or solidify, rather than challenge, the existing rules or patterns of a relationship; the only person we can truly change or control is our own self; blaming and fighting are often ineffective methods for exacting change, and ways to avoid the more threatening job of changing yourself.”

One thing that I started to get to me though, by the time I read the 250 pages, was her downer attitude. Stark sought counseling and she suffered from a bit of depression. While this is all fine, and I appreciate her sharing that with her readers, I do think the depression probably made motherhood and marriage seem a little more torturous for her. While I can definitely see the fighting, the resentment, the frustration all coming to fruition in any new family of three (or more), I hope for most it’s much easier to find the happiness than it was for Stark.

So, in the end: loved the lessons, loved the advice, loved hearing from all the other moms. Laughed out loud. Dog-eared pages. I could’ve just used a little more positive words from the author herself.


4you said...

I think Gretchen, on The Happiness Project, blogs a bit about how venting doesn't often help, it just perpetuates negative energy. Ok, she blogged about how venting doesn't help, I added the negative energy bit... ;)

Maega said...

Your reaction reminds me of some of my reaction to Dooce's 2nd book (I think it was her 2nd) about having a kid. It was a little scary to read but I understood that it was her unique experience.

Great post!

willikat said...

Sounds like a great book. I love when people seek out knowledge as they enter a new phase of life... *I* feel better reading these things and I'm not pregnant!

But I have to say that while I think constant venting is unproductive, sometimes you just gotta bitch. Get it all out there. Off the chest. Ahh, much better.

I think one of the most rewarding things I have seen in parents around me, as I can't speak for myself, are the parents who treat their children like adults ... not as in taking their childhood away from them, but empowering them and letting them make choices, form opinions, and being genuinely interested in hearing about those opinions. They grow up to be articulate, intelligent, interesting people. :)

I cringe when I see parents dragging children around with them while they gab away on the phone. While I'm sure sometimes it's the only phone time they're getting, that kid is being told something without being spoken to.