I am a huge lover of books. When I first learned that I was pregnant it was all I could do to not live at the library in the "pregnancy and baby" section. I wanted to know everything I could to help prepare me for motherhood.
Not that the time spent reading was wasted (it definitely wasn't!) but as any mother will tell you, there is no "guide" to being a mother. There simply can't be. It's different with every pregnancy, child and mother.
That being said, there are several books that I couldn't recommend more highly. (One of those I have already told you about is Nina Planck's Real Food for Mother and Baby). The next book I want to tell you about is Mei-Ling Hopgood's How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere in between).
This book is amazing.
As Little Owl continues to grow I am continually referring and thinking back to what I learned from it. Hopgood explores what it means to be a mother by looking at different cultures and the choices they make in raising their kids. The book examines very different parenting styles and choices in regards to education, potty-training, bed times, eating habits, sleeping arrangements, and many more.
The reason I like this book so much is because Hopgood doesn't examine these cultures and their choices in order to judge them. She highlights that there are many ways to parent, and many ways to be a good parent. This book helped me to be relax when I see others parenting choices that are different from mine, helped me to not jump to conclusions that since they parent differently they must be bad parents.
Hopgood herself is a mother and learned from her own experience writing her book:
Despite vast differences in beliefs, religion, and culture, moms, dads, and caregivers in most societies share a common desire: to raise children who can thrive in the reality in which they live. While no culture can claim to be the best at any one given aspect of parenting, each has its own gems of wisdom to add to the discussion. It's unhealthy to enclose ourselves in parental parochialism, ruled by the plaintive, guilty insistence that there is a single, best way to raise children.... While there are some universal standards of how a child should be treated, there are many ways to be a good parent in the world. This idea should empower and encourage us as our families grow. (262)
The ideas in this book are empowering. Besides just being fascinating in their own right, the different parenting choices outlined in this book helped me be able to sort through the myriad conflicting parenting suggestions American parents face (to co-sleep or not to co sleep? to vaccinate or not to vaccinate? baby-lead weaning or forceful? grains the first year or not? I could go on...). Among other cultures and choices, she explores how Argentines let their babies stay up late, how the French teach their kids to eat, how the Japanese let their children fight, how Mayans put their kids to work, how the Chinese potty train early, how male Pygmies breastfeed (yes, you read that right...).
I think every parent should have a copy of How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm in their library. This book if fascinating, informative, encouraging, and empowering. I recommend reading it and keeping a copy in your personal library to refer back to when parenting choices feel overwhelming. (It would make a great baby shower gift, too.)
Or, you can win it here... Thanks to Mei-Ling Hopgood and her editor for sponsoring this giveaway. I am very excited to offer THREE readers their own personal copy. Good luck!