Preparing for a new child is a time of adjustment, anticipation and heavy reading. Selecting a book to guide you through pregnancy is an arduous process as it will be your go-to for questions and updates on your baby’s development, and publishers know it. Books like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” have become household names as much as Gerber and Pampers.
But what happens when the baby arrives and you find yourself realizing that no amount of literature will make parenting easy? To my childless friends, I describe motherhood as a 24-hour, unpaid job with no benefits. Like any other job, however, it requires at least a little bit of down time. If you catch yourself with a quiet moment, I suggest delving into a book that sympathizes with the challenges of raising a baby.
Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay
This book by Stephanie Wilder-Taylor is the only non-guide book I elected to read before my daughter was born, and admittedly I labeled the author as obnoxious. I was still in my just-before-the-baby-pops-out twilight. Everything was ready for her arrival and I spent those last days as the world’s most contented beached whale, still believing I would soon birth the perfect human, complete with halo.
Post-delivery, this book is a revelation. Wilder-Taylor openly declares the many notions mothers think about but don’t say. She understands and elaborates on panicked calls to the pediatrician to ask “dumb” questions, the dullness of providing entertainment for an infant, and the pressure to lose baby weight even though the last place you would like to spend an hour without your baby is at the gym.
Wilder-Taylor also provides a handful of hilarious lists for a quick read between loads of laundry. “New-Mom Pick Up Lines” and “Questions Not to Ask Your Husband in the First Year After You’ve Had a Baby, Unless You’re Prepared to Hear the Answer” had me in stitches, (and not the kind used to seal up the post-partum earthquake in your lady parts).
Dirt is Good for You” True Stories of Surviving Parenthood
A compilation of essays by the editors of Babble.com, Dirt is the perfect book to read when you’re starting to question whether you’re a good parent. This empathetic anthology attempts to span the entire spectrum of parenting approaches and assuring the reader that each experience is unique.
The essays have titles like “Nude Awakening: Am I Scarring My Kids by Walking Around Naked?” and “Let Them Eat Nuggets: My Kids Are Picky Eaters, and I’m Okay with That.” I particularly appreciated “Screen Queen: I Let My Toddler Watch up to Six Hours of TV a Day.” This very article wouldn’t exist without the good people at Sesame Street.
Ketchup is a Vegetable: And Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves
Robin O’Bryant could be a stand-up comedian. Almost every page of this motherhood memoir had me laughing out loud and nodding in agreement all at once. O’Bryant’s three cherubic but devious daughters have provided her hours of entertaining material to share with fellow moms, and her manner of storytelling will make you smile even when you’re ready to make a mad dash for the border.
Possibly the only book on this list with consistently stellar reviews, O’Bryant’s account is literary comfort food. She shares her memories of her toddler climbing in bed only to hand over the contents of her diaper like a gift and breastfeeding a screaming newborn in a moving car while an older child projectile vomits with both exasperation and nostalgia, reaching the reader on that personal level where you’re glad some challenges are behind you only so they can be recalled with fondness.
This Little Piggy Went to the Liquor Store
The ideal read for someone who went from the nightclub to the neighborhood park, AK Turner’s mothering experience is the one to reach for when a good laugh is the best medicine. Dripping with sarcasm, she recounts her transition from scorning the wife and mother image to becoming that which she so openly criticized. As someone who had a “surprise” pregnancy, I related to her lighthearted account of reconciling who you thought you would be with who you’ve become.
Turner is the woman you would want to throw back a cocktail with in the afternoon while you both laugh and cry over the latest adventure in mediocrity. She owns her flaws such that you admire her candidness but don’t necessarily want to be just like her. Though the book’s contents are at times scattered and difficult to follow, that’s really the mind of the modern mother- pulled in ten different directions all at once.
Bringing a child into your home doesn’t lend itself to reading a book cover to cover like it’s the latest Harry Potter installment. Each of these books is perfectly divided into sections so you won’t feel so lost when you wake up the next morning with it open-faced on your chest. Most importantly, they portray parenting in an honest light as opposed to the phony “glow” you were promised upon insemination.
The one thing about raising a little one that rings true for everyone is that it goes by quickly. Thankfully, these authors have opened their lives for us to enjoy during the tough times when it’s moving much too slowly.