When I was in school and had a big exam coming up, I would read and study for hours. When I wanted to learn how to garden, I rounded up way too many books in an effort to figure out what to do. When I was pregnant with my elder daughter, the librarian knew I was expecting before most of my friends did.
But after my daughter was born, I learned pretty quickly that I could not study for motherhood the way I could study in college. That said, I have found myself turning, once again, to books for guidance, reassurance, and even just plain old companionship.
I have always been a bibliophile, be it fiction or non-fiction. I take such comfort in books and enjoy few things more than curling up with a good one. And during this past year, with such reduced opportunity for real mom village support when I’ve been feeling so incredibly isolated in this momming journey, books have taken on an even more important role in my life.
Here are some books that help me maintain perspective, jive with my parenting, and remind me I am not alone (and am, in fact, OK).
I have read and reread this book during different stages of my children’s growth and development, and each time I get something new out of it. This book, written with Jewish teachings weaved in, is a book for all parents, regardless of religion, who believe children need to learn disappointment and failure in order to live successful, rich lives, and that it is OK and, in fact, necessary for children to be bored. Wendy writes in the way of a sage woman inviting me for a cup of tea, and her words wrap around me like a warm embrace.
I think the whole title really sums up what this book is about — “No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind.” This book feels a little bit like a psychology 101 refresher course and also reminds you that, yes, you do (unfortunately) have to be the adult in the room and have to be the source of calm for your child to help you get the calm from your child. It teaches or reminds you what discipline is really supposed to be — teaching your child, not having them submissively obey out of fear. The book is written in a very down-to-earth way, and the authors even acknowledge their own failing moments in parenting.
The subtitle for this book really encapsulates what you’ll get out of it — “Finding Spirituality in the Frustration, Boredom, Tears, Poop, Desperation, Wonder, and Radical Amazement of Parenting.” I don’t know about you, but in some ways, I feel that my spirituality took a nosedive when I became a parent. Through the minutiae of the diaper changes, dishes, driving, and the rushing from place to place, it has been easy to lose focus in the mundane. Rabbi Danya encourages me to discover, reclaim, and refuel my spirituality. She reminds me that prayer does not have to be in the temple but can be as simple as smelling my child’s hair (and that can be just as valid and meaningful). The past year has included so much drudgery and hardship, and this book is reminding me to lose myself in the everyday moments.
“The Gifts of Imperfection” and “I Thought It was Just Me (But It Isn’t)” by Brene Brown
I was first introduced to Brene Brown in 2012, and she has not left my side since. I like to say I knew of her before Oprah did! I could just sit and listen to this woman speak all day. These two books of hers are my favorites, and they both encourage people to be their authentic selves, to be strong enough to be vulnerable, and to learn the difference between guilt and shame (and how to handle those emotions). Motherhood, for me, has these challenges on a daily basis, and I feel the self-doubt even more strongly during the pandemic when my tribe is not as readily available.
For those who don’t have the time or inclination to read, I beg you to check out her podcast or her Ted Talk. She will encourage you and give you the skills to practice self-acceptance while still acknowledging when you screw up. She also guides you on how to live a more whole life, while relating that to parenting, partnering, working, and friending.