Wednesday 24 December 2008

Books and things

I started on the book “Perfect madness: motherhood in the age of anxiety” by Judith Warner recently and have been reading it in spurts and bursts. It’s an interesting read, talking as it does about anxiety-marked parenting expectations in the United States, and what could be the influencers behind American parenting culture. I could identify with a lot of the stuff spoken about in the book. Most American moms I know do have very high expectations, both from themselves and from their kids. Coming as I did from India and practicing what looked to the average American mom as an extremely laid-back (even careless) style of parenting, I found some eyebrows politely raised when it was discovered that my 2-year old son couldn’t feed himself, still shared a bed with us (and moreover, seemed to have no intention of moving out), and was not as well-behaved and disciplined as his other (white) friends. Thankfully our circle of friends doesn’t at the moment include any of the hyper-competitive, perfection-obsessed moms that Judith Warner talks about. But I do find from my limited understanding of the American culture that parenting is treated as an art and a science here; something that needs to be studied and absorbed. Parenting by instinct (isn’t that the only kind of parenting there is??) is not something that is understood or practised.
As an aside, services like family coaches/consultants are part of a $2.1 trillion industry that teaches you how to parent. They sometimes call it the "mommy market". How insecure do we have to be that we need a someone to teach and help us to do something as natural as raising a child? I simply can't buy the argument that the increased stresses caused by crazy work/family schedules and society's unrealistic expectations of what it is to be a good parent, are making such services necessary.
Another interesting book (though one that I thought could have been condensed into a few pages) was “The Mommy brain – how motherhood makes us smarter” by Katherine Ellison. She talks about how it has been scientifically proved that motherhood, contrary to popular opinion, actually enhances a woman’s perception, emotional intelligence, efficiency and resilience. Now I have a ready-made answer to all those people who ask me why I am ‘wasting” a B-school education to sit at home and look after my kids – I can tell them I had babies to just to enhance my “mommy brain”!!!

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