When I got pregnant, I found myself exposed to one of the most discussed topics in the world: parenthood. It felt like being whacked by an avalanche of information from all sides. Baby forums, pregnancy apps, NHS leaflets, antenatal classes, advice from family and friends, even strangers on the bus (I once sat through an older women’s TED talk on why parents should keep the baby’s gender a secret).
Nizar made matters worse by excitedly ordering a bunch of parenting books from Amazon. He unwrapped them with all the flourish of a new dad to be (he would never read beyond the first chapter) while I warily eyed them from a distance, as though opening one would propel me headfirst into a world I was not equipped for, which the books would only confirm.
The New Contented Little Baby Book by Gina Ford arrived in the mail one day, a gift from a mom friend*. She is a mum of two girls, and always gives me great book recommendations. I put my swollen feet up and started reading. I tried at least. Having spent all day assessing structural diagrams in exhausting detail, as engineers do, I was not thrilled by more of the same malarkey. Gina goes into the level of cot dimensions that I would go for a full-fledged engineering project spec. My brain just couldn’t handle it. I was not going to treat my baby like a project, I swore, rubbing my big tummy and burying Gina in my bookshelf, well out of sight.
I guess the point I am trying to make is this: I am not a parenting book kind of person. After a year of mothering and a few parenting books ticked off my TBR, I still think that. Parenting is not a university course that comes with a textbook list which will guarantee a 100% pass rate. Every parent is different. Every child is different. No one book can prep you for this journey. Going by your instincts will always be the best way forward, particularly in moments of deliberation. After all, you know your child better than any best-selling author in a culturally different corner of the world with strong opinions against co-sleeping (Bengali parents love it). That being said, these well researched books can provide you with evidence based, tried and tested methods that can serve as helpful tools to navigate all the conflicting advice you get as new parents. Help make sense of the chaos. And I ain’t saying no to that.
Not all parenting books are made equal. I prefer the ones that tell me their ways without being judgmental, and offer realistic, practical ideas. I also love to read stories from other moms and dads – there is this immense relief that comes from knowing your one year old isn’t the only baby refusing to sleep through the night (read: perpetually latched on to your breasts like a fridge magnet).
The books in this list are a mixed bag of manuals, stories and comic relief. Read them at your own leisure. Gift them to your pregnant friend. Add them to your TBR. You won’t be disappointed.
1. This Is Going To Hurt. By Adam Kay
This is not a baby related book – in fact, there is nothing in it that would teach you anything about parenthood. But it’s Numero Uno on my list because it is one hell of a hilarious read. And God knows new parents need a few laughs.
This Is Going To Hurt is a journal documented by a junior NHS doctor whose anecdotes from the obstetrics and gynae wards are both heartbeaking and hilarious. Kay delivers potent doses of humour that will see you snorting through your fourth cup of microwaved coffee. Warning: you might have to keep Bubs strapped onto your Baby Bjorn for a good while because this one is an unputdownable read. Unlike many comedy books, this one will stay with you.
Note: *This was the other book that my mom friend sent which MORE than made up for Gina.
2. French Children Don’t Throw Food. By Pamela Druckerman.
When American journalist Pamela Druckerman had a baby in Paris, she realised how different Anglo parenting was from the French style. She noticed that French children slept through the night as early as two to three months. They happily played by themselves while their parents indulged in adult conversations without being constantly interrupted. They did not fuss over food or throw tantrums in restaurants. Why? How? Pamela decided to find out and let us in on her findings. If you HATE the idea of parenting books but love an entertaining story, give this one a go.
3. The Magic of Motherhood. By Ashlee Gadd
A collection of stories penned by moms from all walks of life on the challenges and joys of motherhood. The short essays are easy to read – you can pick up where you left off as you get interrupted for the umpteenth time because, #mumlife.
One of my favourite chapters was Climbing Mountains which talks about infertility. Infertility is suspended grief for a funeral that hasn’t happened yet. From autism to adoption, this book covers motherhood in all its many nuances. Every mom, whether new or seasoned, will find something she can relate to. ‘Breastfeeding can really throw off alignment in your neck’. YUP! ‘Sometimes I feel like I am at capacity before we have even finished breakfast’. YUP.
4. First Time Parent. By Lucy Atkins.
A guide on new parenthood that is the only manual I ever read. Nothing too scary, number-y or patronising. Covers all the basics and focuses on what parents really need to know about that all important first year.
5. The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did) by Philippa Perry.
Psychotherapist Philippa calls this ‘a parenting book for those who don’t buy parenting books’. Her parenting techniques are unique in that they don’t focus on how to get babies to sleep through the night. Instead, they are embedded in the long-term approach of ‘feeling’ rather than dealing’ with our children. Taking the time to validate and contain their feelings for them. Not treating them as problems we have to fix. Reflecting on our own childhood and breaking negative cycles to forge better parent-child relationships.
This is a rare parenting book that a) talks about how our upbringing may affect our parenting and b) speaks in favour of co-sleeping. This made my brown mother’s heart heave with emotion. And I know it will speak to all my Asian mummies and daddies who do the same.
I feel like this book has already affected the way I interact with Aryan for the better. If there is one book from this list you would want to keep going back to every few years, it’s probably this one.