About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

#26: I'm Okay ... You're a Brat!

I'm Okay ... You're a Brat! Setting the Priorities Straight and Freeing You from the Guilt and Mad Myths of Parenthood, by Susan Jeffers (Los Angeles: Renaissance Books, 1999).

"At last! A welcome declaration of independence for parents of all ages, a call to arms for would-be parents and those who want to remain child-free.

"In this refreshingly honest book, best-selling author Dr. Susan Jeffers breaks the conspiracy of silence, pulling no punches when she details just how difficult parenting can be. With humor and compassion she uncovers the guilt traps set for parents by many child-care experts. She questions the myths and half-truths that make parents feel inadequate and offers valuable survival tools for those whose kids are driving them crazy.

"I'm Okay ... You're a Brat! explains:
  • why parenthood is a joy for some and a nightmare for others
  • why 'what you put in doesn't necessarily come out'
  • why your relationship with your spouse suffers when children enter the picture
  • why parents' lives change so drastically when a child is born
  • how you can love you kids yet hate parenthood
  • how you can have great fulfillment in life with or without children
"Sure, raising a family can be joyful. But for all of us who have been awoken at 3 A.M. by a crying baby and screamed silently, 'I want my life back,' it is reassuring to know that we are not alone.

"Is parenthood always fulfilling? Is everything that goes wrong with a child really the parents' fault? Is breast always best? Is it always better for Mom to be at home instead of at work? You may be shocked at this book's answers. In challenging the basic values of our child-centered culture, Dr. Jeffers liberates parents and non-parents alike from guilt. She encourages all of us to think for ourselves when making vital decisions about our lives and our families.

"Drawing on her own experiences building a family and interviews with other parents, Dr. Jeffers lets us know that it's okay to be frustrated with childrearing -- that it isn't always the blissful experience we've been led to expect. She also shows us why contrary to popular opinion, choosing a life free of children is not selfish."

Table of Contents:

Introduction: It's About Time

Part I: Another Side of the Picture
  • Chapter 1: Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me?
  • Chapter 2: I Want My Life Back!
  • Chapter 3: Oil and Water: Sex and Diapers
  • Chapter 4: The Unspeakable Truth About Kids
Part II: Send the "Experts" Back to School
  • Chapter 5: What You Put In Doesn't Necessarily Come Out
  • Chapter 6: Down with the Guilt-Peddlers!
  • Chapter 7: The Top Ten Mad, Mad Myths
  • Chapter 8: The Dangers of Full-Time Parenting
  • Chapter 9: There's No Place Like Work
Part III: Should We ... Shouldn't We ... Why Did We?
  • Chapter 10: So Why Do We Do It?
  • Chapter 11: So Why Don't We Do It?
  • Chapter 12: If One Could Do It Over Again ...
Conclusion: And When All Is Said and Done

My Take:

A definite breath of fresh air and sanity in the crowded field of parenting literature. I only wish I'd read this book back when it first came out, when Twig was a wee one and I was deep in the grip of the mad myths and the guilt peddlers. I'm Okay is well-researched and end-noted, but very much accessible; the effect is more like Erma Bombeck with a grad degree than a serious scholarly tome. And that's just fine. I love, love, love that Jeffers acknowledges that yes, you can love your kids without loving every or most moments of The Parenting Process. It's rare indeed to find a book or article about the trials of parenting that doesn't end by wrapping everything up in a tidy little "But it's all worth it!" bow. If anything, I think the author overstates the difficulty and unpleasantness of parenting, but what do I know; maybe I have more of the LPB (Love Being a Parent) gene than I'd realized, or maybe I got off easy/ had the foresight to realize we'd all be happier at the House of Hazelthyme with a single-child family. Jeffers claims to have written the book in part for the fence-sitters -- those twenty- or thirtysomething adults who don't quite know whether they want kids -- to tell them it's OK to remain childfree, and if anything, that's the way the book's likely to push someone who's really undecided. Which, again is fine by me; heaven knows there's no shortage of books and individuals extolling the joys and ignoring or soft-pedaling the difficulties of parenthood.

Highly recommended for anyone with or about to have a baby -- not so you'll change your mind, but so you'll know that if it's not quite what you'd expected (OK, if you're miserable for a while postpartum), you'll know you're not alone.

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