Credit: San José Library on Flickr, under Creative Commons
(WOMENSENEWS)--Although much of the focus of this book--and others on the same topic--is on what mother-daughter book clubs, where mothers, daughters and their mom-daughter friends read and discuss books together, can do for girls, I can't stress enough how much these clubs can do for mothers as well. Some mothers will find the endeavor easy, while others may find it less so, at least initially. But everyone will gain the support from each other that they need.
Raising kids today is hard, and raising girls comes with its own unique set of challenges for mothers. There were times I felt confident about how I was parenting my daughter Charlotte, and other times I looked to the moms in the club for assistance--either through a direct conversation, or simply by watching what they modeled with their own daughters.
Learning from other trusted and respected mothers is perhaps one of the least discussed but most important benefits to a mother-daughter book club, and here's why. In the 25 years I have worked with kids and parents, I have noticed a decline in the internal confidence mothers have about parenting. In my educational consulting practice, I am routinely involved with attentive parents who love their children deeply, but seem to seek my advice on everything--from the smallest decisions, such as what music classes to sign them up for, to the largest, such as how to help them stand up to bullies or how to get help for their teen's depression. That's fine, and that's my job. But what concerns me is how dependent upon "expert advice" too many mothers have become in recent years, as if they are birds that have suddenly lost their inner compass while migrating.
Constant Media Bombardment
I have huge concerns about the parenting culture we now have, especially for mothers. Mothers are under constant media bombardment. You cannot open a magazine or browse articles online or tune in to Facebook without reading some version of how mothers are doing it wrong. Or can't have it all. Or should have it all. Or are not following the "right" method for potty training or breastfeeding or violin instruction or fill in the blank. And none of them, it seems, can regain their figures quickly enough after giving birth, like celebrities do. The cycle is endless.
Back when mothers raised children in literal villages, without the Internet but with grandmothers and aunts and sisters and village elders to guide and support them, were they better able to develop confidence in themselves as parents who could eventually rely on their own methods? And is methods just another word for instincts and communal knowledge?
Contemporary society involves a huge peanut gallery of experts who make a living hawking self-help books (am I one of them?), bloggers blogging bloggerifically throughout the blogosphere on their parenting blogs (am I one of them?), marketers instilling insecurity in mothers in order to sell them expensive products and services which promise to solve the insecurities the companies themselves created (nope, I'm not one of them), and so forth. Many mothers are so busy debating which author or talk show psychologist gives the best parenting advice that they can't hear their own inner voices. There is just too much noise in the system. And there is too much money to be made by those fanning the flames of the Mommy Wars.
Mothers need to seek less validation for their parenting decisions, judge each other less and find more ways to form genuine connections with other women who sincerely want to be their allies, not their "mompetitors."
It's no wonder so many moms are adrift today, reaching out plaintively for help navigating a culture that is not always supportive of their parenting. There is always a place for parenting experts. If there weren't, I'd have a different career--and I really love the one I have. However, there is a balance to be struck between seeking expert advice and following your gut instincts as a mom. This book includes many interviews with experts--lots of my favorites!--and recommendations for parenting books. All of this information is valuable. The endgame, though, is for moms to rely on each other as well as popular experts and lesser-known people like me. So this book can be seen ironically as both a parent guide/self-help book and a book about developing greater personal and social resources so that parenting books won't be needed as much.
Mother-daughter book clubs are a way to sidestep some of these distractions and instead listen closely to a small group of chosen mothers who you trust. Mother-daughter book clubs are not only a way for girls to find their inner voices, but for mothers to do the same.
Excerpted from "Her Next Chapter: How Mother-Daughter Book Clubs Can Help Girls Navigate Malicious Media, Risky Relationships, Girl Gossip, and So Much More," by Lori Day and Charlotte Kugler. Copyright 2014. Excerpted with permission from Chicago Review Press.
Lori Day, M.Ed., is an educational psychologist, a consultant and a parenting coach with Lori Day Consulting. She has worked in the field of education for more than 25 years, serving in varied roles in public and private schools and at the college level. She is a contributing blogger at the Huffington Post and several other websites, writing about parenting, education, gender, popular culture and media. She lives in Newburyport, Mass. Charlotte Kugler, Day's daughter, is a student at Mount Holyoke College.
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