Sunday, May 6, 2007

Maven Says: Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box

Whenever I have an issue, my first thought is to go read all about it--the bookstore, library or the Internet. With one exception, my dirty little secret I typically avoid parenting books. Pretty early on in the parenting gig I figured out that a lot of the books I read made me feel bad about what ever I was doing even when my gut was telling me that it was right. Battling through PDQ the sleepless and trying all those other ideas, I finally decided that the combination of my gut and Gman's many years of experience we'd be okay. That theory has worked pretty well but in my avoidance of reading of the parenting genre I have totally missed Mommy reading. If there were nothing else of value in Ann Dunnewold's book Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box: Cut Yourself Some Slack (and Still Raise Great Kids) in the Age of Extreme Parenting) the reading list I accumulated as I read would be so worth it. The reading list is just the tip of the iceberg though, the real life, common sense tone of this book alternately made me see the silliness of some of my SuperMommy thinking and made me feel better about the majority of my parenting choices, a very fine line when you think about it. Kind of like telling me to go to hades and me wanting to go there!

Right after I agreed to review the book I had the taking time for yourself discussion with a couple of friends and wrote about it here. When the book arrived I immediately carried it up to my room to begin reading. I saw myself in the first pages of the first chapter doing things like staying up all night making the perfect cookies for a preschool party to assuage my Mommy Guilt for working. There have been many occasions where I have not been able to be present at an event and to make myself feel better I have WAY overdone it on the cookies/goodie bag or whatever other thing I've taken on. I always knew it my gut that it was silly but reading it in print made me cringe just a bit and maintain the ability to laugh at myself. The concept of the "perfectly good mom" was introduced and I was hooked. Perfection is impossible, being "clearly good" or "as good as is necessary" are doable and who doesn't want to feel successful as a parent? Life overcame my reading time and I wasn't able to pick the book up for over a week but in that time I must have had half a dozen discussions with other women (and a guy or two) about the concept of not trying to be perfect but perfectly good. It provoked many insightful conversations, particularly with the older, wiser, been-there-done-that women that I am lucky to have in my life. As I finished the book I found that I had worked ahead, the last chapter was about building a strong support network and spreading the word and actively speaking out and standing up for yourself in the insane competition for Mommy of the Century.

Dunnewold explores the messages we are inundated with that encourage us to be perfect. She lays out the traps of overperfecting, over protecting, and overproducing. As I read about these I could certainly see a little of myself and nearly every other Mom I know. Some of us more than others and each with our unique quirky take on the madness. The mantras like, "there are no perfect mothers" and "parenting is not a contest" seem like common sense but for me, and I am sure many others they are easy to forget everyday in the trenches. I appreciated that Dunnewold left room for each of our own idiosyncrasies, we can each have one or two things that we obsess over and if we can just chill out about everything else, that is fine. Its that tone that makes this book a real winner for me, no judgement just showing the reader that what they think is right probably is and its good to follow your mind and heart. In that vein she encourages you to look at your values, know them and follow them.

I would recommend Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box to anyone who feels the pressure of the Mommy Olympics. There is no us vs. them in this book, I could see the SAHM struggles more clearly and I felt that it represented the issues of the working mom as well. Instead of pitting us against each other Dunnewold calls for us to work together for our health and to raise healthy kids in today's world. I'll offer up just a bit of my own insanity in my posts about staying up until midnight to get into Summer Camp or spending months picking out the "right" preschool and the huge allergic reaction that I wasn't there for. This book reaffirmed for me that I need to chill out, know what I believe in and follow my gut. If you want to hear other takes on the book, head on over to Parent Bloggers Network for 24 more reviews of the book.

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