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May 28

Parenting Books

I read a lot. I’ve always been a reader, in fact, when I realized that the principal at my son’s preschool was my old life studies teacher from the eighth grade, he remembered me from twenty years ago strictly because I was the one with my nose in a book all the time. So it’s no real surprise that once I had kids, I was delighted to realize that there was a wealth of books that I had never thought to read before. Pregnancy books were my first indulgence, and I devoured them at a scary rate. I moved on to infancy, breastfeeding, attachment parenting, free range parenting, skinned knee parenting, books about why parenting was so hard, why the media tells us it’s so awful, why women should stay home, why women should work. I’ve read books on step parenting, sibling rivalry, on divorcing parents, on single parents. Potty training, sleep training, discipline techniques – I’ve probably read it.

Part of it is just that I like to read. Part of it is that it’s how I process things, I read all that I can, think about it, and generally then follow up with writing about it. Now that I’m thinking about it, parenting is really an incredibly literary thing for me.

Over the weekend, I read three very different books, with very different viewpoints. What I like most about them is they were all really thought provoking – so if you’re into that sort of thing, here’s some book recommendations…

What to Expect When No One’s Expecting – America’s Coming Demographic Disaster by Jonathan Last. If you’ve been concerned about population boom, don’t be. My newest concern is the population implosion. The book had a LOT of numbers and statistics and the main thing I took from it is that the whole world is big, bad trouble because nobody’s really having kids anymore. Fairly depressing, but also eye-opening. One caveat, the author is pretty open about being anti-abortion, and comes from a pretty conservative background.

Why Have Kids? A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti. I just found this depressing. Partly because the poor author seemed fairly unhappy about everything, and partly because she was also pretty adamant that everything about the way I’ve chosen to live my life is not only wrong for me, but also wrong for my children and society at large.

Both of the two books above referenced societal shifts – how we make individual decisions and don’t necessarily think of how society at large is making similar decisions, and how that will impact everyone’s future. I didn’t decide to have three kids because I wanted to replace Marc and I, plus have an extra, and I’m probably not going to have another to boost the population, but when fewer and fewer people are having fewer and fewer kids, it has huge implications that I never thought about. Making the decision to stay at home and raise children – it was the right decision for me, for my husband, and for my kids. But is it the right decision for the feminist movement, for the generations coming after me? Both books gave me a perspective that I hadn’t thought of before – always a huge bonus in a book.

The Gender Trap – Parents and the Pitfalls of Raising Boys and Girls by Emily W. Kane. I just started this, but so far, it’s pretty interesting. I’ve always thought my kids were sort of naturally falling into very typical gender roles, because I consciously tried to make sure that Jessie had trucks and balls and Sam had baby dolls – but I did gravitate towards girly clothes with flowers and lace for Jessie and Julie and wouldn’t have dressed Sam in a pink sleeper. I’m not sure that you can tease out nature versus nurture, especially as it relates to gender identity, but it’s interesting to think about.

After this – I’m switching over to some straight up escapist fiction – Sharon Shinn – her Thirteen Houses series is phenomenal, if you’re looking for some fiction recommendations.

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