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Recent books on parenting suggest new parents are obsessed with themselves

June 2, 2011 | 10:10 am

A stack of new parenting books has been accumulating on my desk, and together they tell a story of the state of parenthood -- especially motherhood -- in 2011. Some are funny, some are serious, some are complain-y, but the one thing they have in common is a tendency toward serious navel gazing. This leads me to surmise that the one thing women with children share is wanting to talk about being a woman with children.

Radio personality and cultural commentator Teresa Strasser titled her humorous take on pregnancy and childbirth "Exploiting My Baby: Because It's Exploiting Me" and included this joke on the book's back cover: "Teresa Strasser made her baby a spleen and some eyebrows. Her baby got her a book deal." 

Best bit: A series of chapters beginning with "People I want to punch," including the people who feign to not care about whether they have a boy or a girl, and the people who tell you your life will end after the baby comes.

"Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think" argues that parents should mellow out, have more kids and pay less attention to them. It's a welcome departure from the spate of articles about how deeply unhappy parents have become, but I need to point out that the articles about how hard it is to be a parent are generally written by women, and this book was is by Bryan Caplan -- a man.

Best bit: "In any case, once you know how laborious modern parenting has become, making parents happier is like finding hay in a haystack."

In the motherhood-is-kind-of-a-bummer department, the 10th anniversary edition of Ann Crittenden's classic "The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least Valued" is incredibly compelling -- a new preface explains how much (and how little) has changed in the last decade.

Best bit:  The validation every working mother wants to hear: "Even the White House has proclaimed that parents need more flexibility to meet their responsibilities at home, as employers demand longer hours and greater efforts from those who still have jobs."

The anthology "Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood" presents a choir of mom voices -- 47 contributors in total. The essays come from different perspectives, but each addresses the challenge of finding a balance between career and parenting.

Best bit: "It's an unpopular view, but no, young ladies, you really can't do it all."

On the super serious writerly end of the spectrum, Lisa Catherine Harper's lyrically written memoir of her pregnancy, "A Double Life: Discovering Motherhood," relates one woman's experience in enormous amounts of introspective detail. 

Best bit: "The spring I was pregnant began bitterly with a terrible, roaring wind. For two weeks straight the wind howled apocalyptically across the city and raged along our small stretch of coast."

On the opposite end of the spectrum, "The Hot Mom's Handbook" by Jessica Denay provides lightweight tips to new mothers, such as "stay away from sharp corners" when decorating a baby's room, and "lip gloss is a great way to keep a natural look while adding fullness and shine to your lips."

Best bit: "No matter where she lives or what she does, every Hot Mom needs a great pair of jeans."


Work and motherhood: Can you really not do it all?

Ninth edition of 'Baby Bargains': Essential reading for new Mom and Dad

 -- Deborah Netburn