Monday, September 24, 2007

Review: What Mothers Do, Especially When It Looks Like Nothing, Naomi Stadlen

What Mothers Do, Especially When It Looks Like Nothing
By Naomi Stadlen

Paperback $14.95, 323 pages
ISBN: 978-1-58542-591-4

When I first sat down to write this up, I didn’t know where to begin. So much of the book affected me in such a personal way. I saw myself reflected in many pages, in the words of other real mothers.

In an age of mommy lit and the much publicized (though unfortunately named) 'Mommy Wars', where competition between ourselves, our doctors and our culture runs rampant, this book stands out. Finally, a book that tells motherhood as it is; a book that has truly cracked the surface of motherhood and digs down deep to the root: a culture that ultimately has very little respect for ‘what mothers do’.

Stadlen stresses throughout the book the need of creating a spoken language for motherhood that is more positive. She also states that ‘We live in an articulate society’ yet we cannot conjure a language befitting motherhood and what is spoken, takes on more of the negative than the positive.
Motherhood itself is a wordless language. It is nearly impossible to put words to such a thing that requires numerous subtle actions. But, if we could find those more positive words for such actions, instead of labeling the mother 'nervous' when she is just looking after her baby, just simply mothering. Early on in the book, she makes the observation that "...we don't seem to have a problem when it comes to finding fault. We have plenty of words to describe what mothers do when they relate badly to their children..." (p. 21) and goes on to list these words-they take up almost half a page.

The subject of language is just one in this many faceted book. Drawing on the words of real mothers, she lays bare what sleep deprivation is really like, feelings mothers have towards their children-both sides of the coin: she is not afraid to take on the darker side of motherhood, why it seems as if you will never be able to go to the bathroom unaccompanied again, and much more.

She takes on the old (though tiresome) question: What Did You Do All Day?, and tells us through short interviews with real mothers, revealing the good, the bad and the ugly.

We seem to live in a society where mothers are ‘damned if they do and damned if they don’t’ regarding decisions they make for their own child; where Doctors and Experts overrule our Mother’s Instinct, making us doubt our natural instinct towards our children, making us believe we need a second opinion (perhaps in some cases we do, but not all); where there is so much competition in all areas of our lives, but especially with our Doctors, Experts and ourselves. We have lost our ability, as a society, as mothers, to really trust ourselves.

There is a great statement in this book: “The baby may tire her, but we, if we aren’t careful, may exhaust her.” (p.105)
"We" being society and peers. I don’t believe I’ve heard anything so true.

Just because a mother looks as if she is doing nothing, does not mean she isn't.

This is a book every mother has been waiting for and needs to read. It is a book everyone needs to read. Just about every mother can relate to this book; see themselves in some aspect, in some other mother’s words.

I had a pen in hand at all times while reading this book. There was so much in this book that deserved to be emphasized by the black mark of my pen. Needless to say, it is already well-worn and dog-eared after just one reading. A sure sign of a great book.

This book is encouraging, excellently written and researched, and most importantly, doesn’t tout a right or wrong way of doing things.

Read this book, then pass it along to your friends! They'll thank you for it! This is a book I recommend.

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Be sure to check in throughout the week for additional reviews as they are posted!

As a side note, the new MomWritersLitMag just came out today-Their second print issue! I have a poem featured in this particular issue.

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  1. Fantastic review and I totally agree with you on "We seem to live in a society where mothers are ‘damned if they do and damned if they don’t". That sums things up so well.

    It was hard for me to write my review and try to decide what to include and what not to. It's nice to see that the book made someone else think the same things that it did me.

  2. Hi Kris,

    Great review. Enjoyed reading it. Wanted to check out what the other Mother-Talk Mom's had to say after I posted my review. Looks like you enjoyed it as well.

    Oh, you might want to check out my best friend's blog, She is also a poet (obviously).

  3. Seems like everyone loved this book! I have a friend I have to send my copy to immediately.

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