Book Review: Natural Family Living, The Mothering Magazine Guide to Parenting

I know I haven’t been blogging as much as I used to.  As we get closer and closer to the Democratic National Convention, my office is getting busier and busier, and I have less free time.  Hopefully the business won’t be lasting too much longer, though.

Today I’d like to tell you all about the book Natural Family Living by Peggy O’Mara, the publisher, editor and owner of Mothering Magazine, and Jane McConnell, former editor in chief and publisher of Women’s Sports and Fitness magazine and associate editor of Mothering Magazine.  I love Mothering Magazine, so I was pretty eager to get this book.  I started reading it when Elijah was about 12 weeks old.  He’s 7 months old now, and I skipped chapters that didn’t apply to me.

Obviously, this book is a monster.  Its the size of a college text book, and is organized like one too.  Also, like a college text book, it is a wealth of strait forward, clearly explained information on Attachment Parenting.  It covers everything from preconception to adolescence, with a forward by Dr. William Sears, the practically worshiped guru of all things Attachment Parenting (in fact, he’s the one who coined the term, Attachment Parenting, in a way he invented it – at least he invented it for industrialized nations, since its the only parenting choice available for indigenous peoples).

First, my complaints with the book.  This book was obviously written for married people who planned their pregnancies.  Yes, I recognize that this is the ideal that we all (allegedly) strive for, but it doesn’t happen to be the common reality.  I don’t think anyone in my entire family planned any of their pregnancies (at least not that they would admit to) and half of them were not married at the time of conception.  I don’t know many people who have.  In fact, when I first announced I was pregnant at work, someone from another office asked me “How long were you trying?” and I replied without thinking “Pssh, who tries to have a baby?” (ooops, apparently she and her husband tried for many years before they got pregnant, awkward).  Maybe its just my world view, but it seems like you’re pretty lucky if you get to plan your pregnancy.  Even married people have oops.  But we are not married.  We are single moms.  Many of us were never married.  This book doesn’t even acknowledge us.

The only thing this book said that seemed to apply to me as a single, never wed mother, was insulting.  On page 6 it says “One study indicates that women involved in stormy relationships run a 237 percent greater risk of bearing a psychologically or physically damaged child.  A pregnant woman needs emotional support, and the baby’s father is often the most important source of that support.”  Gee, thanks.  I guess I was pretty stupid to pay more attention to those dozens of studies that indicate having an abusive, addict father would screw you up, instead of listening to your one study saying fathers were the most important source of emotional support.  Yes, I know they weren’t actually saying that I should have stayed with the drunk bum who knocked me up.  What upsets me is that they don’t say anything about women in my situation.  As if women who inadvertently get involved in “stormy” relationships (because no one does it on purpose) should be ignored, forgotten about, brushed aside to make way for those women who happen to be able to plan their pregnancies with their perfect husbands.  As if its women’s responsibility to fix “stormy” relationships so that she can have a healthy baby.

They could have fixed that problem, that awful impression they gave me, with a very simple mention somewhere in the book that it is better for mother and child to be alone than to be in a destructive relationship.  In fact, the book would do well to recognize those mothers who have never been married, because while the book has whole chapters on divorce and the death of a family member, it has not one mention (unless its in one of those two chapters, because I didn’t read them) of women who either had to leave their partners because they were somehow unfit, women who’s partners abandoned them because they didn’t want the responsibility of a child or women who choose to get pregnant on their own because a descent man hasn’t presented himself to them yet.  The book could do well with an update chapter for women like us, instead of willfully ignoring us and furthering society’s perception that we are somehow unworthy, hopeless and shameful.

Other than that (really, its easy to get past all that scathing stuff I said up there, I promise), the book was great.  I like that it covered issues beyond infancy and toddlerhood, and I particularly appreciated the chapters on discipline, sexuality, public schooling and alternative schooling.  I have a lot of fear about what I’m going to do when Elijah gets bigger and I have to start being a “real mom”.  Of course I’m a real mom now, but with a baby its different.  Babies don’t need to be disciplined or taught, and they’re not really going to remember you.  The interaction is just different now, I don’t know how to explain it.  Anyhow, its not important.

I also enjoyed the chapters on Natural (Drug-Free) Childbirth, even though I had already done it and didn’t really need to read about it, circumcision, even though I already chose not to circumcise my son (and actually, I didn’t really enjoy reading the chapter on circumcision, it really grossed me out, and there were parts I had to skip because I was too squeemish to read them, but it made me feel even better about my choice to leave my son intact) the chapters on healthy eating and alternative medicine, and I really loved Chapter 14, What Makes a Healthy Family.

This book, I have a feeling, is going to be a constant reference for me.  Like I said, I didn’t read every chapter.  I didn’t read the chapters on Homeschooling (since that’s just not an option for me), Handling Divorce (since I’d have to be married first) and Handling Death (I’ll get to it when it happens, if it happens).  I also only skimmed through the chapter on adolescence, since I’m pretty far away from that.  This was a pretty hefty book and by the time I got that far I was just wanting to finish it because I wanted to write a review of it.

In short, despite the despicable neglect of single parent households in this book, I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in natural parenting methods, or anyone who just isn’t sure about the stricter, Ferberization methods that are so popular today.  There are many alternatives to the “cry it out” methods.


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Badass feminist environmentalist.
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3 Responses to Book Review: Natural Family Living, The Mothering Magazine Guide to Parenting

  1. Thanks for the informative review. I do also enjoy reading on Attachment Parenting, though, ironically, I have no children (not from a lack of desire for one). I just enjoy reading about it and this one seems the most natural approach to a well balanced child.

    I have seen parents enforce the “let them cry themselves to sleep” way and had to exercise all powers of restraint not to get up myself and go pick up that child.

  2. Katy says:

    Thanks for the review. Its great to have a referance that you can feel comfertable going to to for different things. I look back at when my daughter was young and wish I would have read something like that. I was too young to think about it though.

    On that note. Are there any books out there that you have come across that deal with being a single mom? I never planed on being pregnant and never married my daughter’s father. She has limited contact with him now, and from what I know of his life we are a lot better off with out him. She’s at that age though where she has asked the question, “How is he my dad?” When we moved recently she found an old picture of us together and it just blew her mind to think that we used to get along at all, let a lone well enough to have a kid.

    Anway I know that I’m not the only one in this situation, but there aren’t any families like ours in her life. So yeah, any suggestions on things to read or if you know what you would say to a kid in that situation I would like to know. Because as it is I know I’m doing a crap job at explaining her family to her.

  3. jessimonster says:

    First off, you’re not doing a crap job. I don’t know how you’re explaining it to her, but as long as your story doesn’t involve aliens, fairies or magic, I think you’re doing okay. Just be honest with her as much as you can and as much as she can understand, and as she gets older and her questions get more specific you can get more detailed as you feel is appropriate.
    There aren’t a lot of books on being a single mother out there, unfortunately. There certainly needs to be more of them. Maybe I’ll write one some day. For now, I HIGHLY recommend The Single Womans Guide to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy. Even though you’re obviously not pregnant anymore, it has a ton of info in it that will still be very relevant to you, not to mention, its just plain empowering to single mothers. She’s even got a section in there about how to deal with questions about daddy, when they come up. Also check out the author’s website, which I have a link to in my side bar there as well, Awesome stuff.
    I also read a book called The Complete Single Mother’s Resource (or something like that. It had a picture of a mom and a bunch of kids at a birthday party on it and the mom is holding balloons). It was okay. It read more like a text book and less like advice from a fellow, wiser single mom, and a lot of it was really common sense stuff, I thought, but it would be worth checking out.

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