Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Book Review: The Mother Dance

The Mother Dance: How Children Change Your Life
by Harriet Lerner, Ph.D.

No woman has ever become a mother without being transformed by the experience. While there are many books out there about various aspects of parenting, The Mother Dance is about motherhood itself. I have read this book three times, originally during my first pregnancy, and most recently after the birth of my third child. I expect that as my children grow, I’ll pick the book up again to reference chapters that pertain to my current stage of motherhood.

Writing as both a mother and a psychologist, Harriet Lerner uses entertaining and insightful examples from her own life to illustrate her points. Although she is able to objectively analyze her past actions from a psychological perspective, her scholarly training and experience as a therapist did not stop her from acting irrationally at times with her own family. Parenting—and life—is a learning experience, a journey, and no one is exempt from making bad decisions, experiencing confusion, and just plain going through tough times.

With chapter titles like “Bringing the Baby Home and Other Hazards of Parenting,” “Will Your Child Become a Serial Killer?” and “Enough Guilt for Now, Thank You,” Lerner delves into the feelings of inadequacy, self-criticism and anxiety that accompany all parents. She takes the reader from pregnancy through her trials with two teenage boys, and finally to the empty nest. Along the way, she addresses many thought-provoking issues such as society’s view of a “good” mother, sibling relationships, how your past affects your parenting, and the struggles of working parents.

At times Lerner seems to be critical of moms who make the choice to stay at home full time. However, I really feel that her main criticism is toward the lack of choice women sometimes experience. She points out how, for many couples, inflexibility in the workplace hinders what could be a more equal division of parenting and breadwinner roles.

In my opinion, this book offers something for every mom. Even if you don’t relate to every part of the book, chances are you’ll recognize feelings, issues and struggles from your own experience.

Have you read The Mother Dance? If so, please post your comments!

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