Childrearing

The Author Of ‘What To Expect’ Wants Her Own Daughter To Ignore Parenting Advice

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what to expectWhen Heidi Murkoff published What To Expect When You’re Expecting in the 80s, there was almost no parenting advice for naive and innocent young parents to fret over. Murkoff wrote her first book because she found herself unexpectedly pregnant and couldn’t find a “no nonsense guide” to help answer her questions. But now that her own daughter Emma is a mother, her best piece of advice is to skip all the self-help books and mommy forums.

In a piece for the Daily Mail, Murkoff writes of her own journey to best-selling author status, but also about how different the parenting world is now. “When I became a young mother, the only activity to do with a baby was to put it in a pram and go for a walk. Now there’s every class imaginable — each promising to enrich your baby’s experiences and even expand their intellect.” While she had a lack of other mothers to talk with and self-described experts shilling advice, modern moms can get insight and competition at almost every turn.

And Murkoff doesn’t believe that this new world of parenting advice, a world in which her book plays a large role, is really helping new moms all that much. That’s why her best tip for her own daughter is just to calm down and ignore all those “helpful hints” out there.

Murkoff talks a lot about the new pace of parenting and the pressure to be involved in every extra-curricular, in every activity. From the second our children come out of the womb, we’re convinced that we should be teaching them, enriching them, nourishing them. But sometimes, the best thing we can do is simply to slow down. Murkoff explains, “In those early months of motherhood, I read baby stories, held her and smelt her. That’s how our bond grew. Emma’s milestones — her first smile, first tooth, first steps and first sweet word — came in her own time.”

As a member of this overwhelming world of mommy advice and debate, I have to agree with Murkoff quite a bit. While I think that lots of awesome education and support comes out of mommy blogs and internet forums, I think they also have a tendency to put a lot of pressure on parents. We’ve been having a quite a discussion here at Mommyish on the ways that individual parenting choices can be vilified and condemned, sometimes to such extremes that it almost makes the entire conversation meaningless. And it’s sad to say that even in out corner of the internet, it’s easy to see how the judgement and concern-trolling from other parents would be intimidating at best, stress-inducing bullying at worst.

Even though parenting debate and insight is kind of what we trade in around here, and what made Murkoff her millions, it’s hard to ignore the benefits that come from unplugging when our little ones are born. Get the information you need and then just take a little time to do what feels best and natural for you and your child.

Attachment or hollistic, co-sleeping or bottle-feeding, and the classic working or stay-at-home… Murkoff says, “Whatever the group, everyone is locked in conflict and judging each other. It’s disruptive and counterproductive. Faced with such overwhelming choice, I would never have coped.” I have to agree with Murkoff there. I’m kind of happy that I wasn’t involved in the parenting world when I had my first daughter.

Once again, the lady from What To Expect gives some pretty stellar advice.

(Photo: What To Expect)

9 Comments

  1. alice

    March 11, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    My mother learned how to parent from her mother. And her mother, from her mother before. Maybe there was a book or two to read. And some collective mommy advice passed through the grapevine. But for the most part: it seemed like our moms didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about “doing it right.” They just did it.

    Today, if you read one book, you have to read another three to get the balanced view. If you’re on one blog, you should balance it with another. Ask your breastfeeding friend a question, and be sure to weight it against your formula friend’s answer. Don’t stop researching until you’re sure you’re absolutely positively unequivocally “doing it right.” And above all: treat every decision, from baby bjorns to breastmilk to bedtime stories, treat it all with equal gravitas, as if your baby’s life depended on it.

    The internet is great. Knowledge sharing is bad ass. But when you can’t purchase a bottle nipple without three hours of research, two FB posts, and a web forum, maybe it’s time to chill out 🙂

    • Blueathena623

      March 11, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      This is seriously one of the best comments I’ve ever read, period.

    • AP

      March 12, 2013 at 3:27 pm

      I agree! I worked with kids and parents, and the one thing that I saw the most was a ton of book-smart parents with no street smarts. So I’d see a parent do something that was epically, remarkably dangerous and stop them (my facility, my rules) and I’d get back this long-winded, well-thought-out philosophical defense for nurturing/intellectual stimulation/spirit of exploration, etc. Baby can’t be inquisitive if Baby’s comatose, though.

  2. Rachelle

    March 11, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    The beauty about parenting help books is that they don’t have comment sections at the bottom of each page.

    That being said, the Internet, parenting blogs, books… they all were great help to me since my mother had had such a different experience than my sister and I, and couldn’t always give us the answers we were looking for. If it wasn’t for parenting tips found in books and on websites, I’d probably be a paranoid mother who had a 3 month old who still wasn’t sleeping nights or napping or on a schedule. I probably would’ve freaked out at having mastitis last night and not known how to get rid of it. I would’ve had no idea what metabolic aciduria was or why my baby’s poop was green the other day.

    At the end of the day, all those points of information are only meant to help you make sense of your intuitions and you have to pick and choose what feels right to you.

    Murkoff’s suggestion to her daughter is “cute” but her daughter will more than likely refer to her Mom’s book and the Interwebz anyways.

  3. CK

    March 11, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    I think what a lot of women are lacking these days is the ability to listen to their intuition. Too many people are caught up in what other people are thinking of them, or doing the “right thing” that they ignore what the true right thing is for their family, their child, or themselves.

    When I had my daughter, I had a hard time breast feeding – I couldn’t produce enough milk, and I had to supplement. At first, I was extremely upset, but I slowly came to the realization that as long as my daughter is fed, happy, and thriving, then we have it better than most women and children in the world. I nursed her until 5 months, when I weaned her to formula. A small part of me felt that it was a relief. I loved the bond we had, but it was getting tiresome. Bottom line: I did what was best for us.

    I do admit that I own the “What to Expect” books, but no other parenting books, and I don’t subscribe to parenting magazines. I rarely visit parenting blogs. I just can’t stand how women get towards each other. (In the issue of full disclosure, I have very few women friends, as well.) I do throw out the occasional question on Facebook, mostly technical ones, though, such as which car seat people liked better, but overall, she is my husband’s and my child, and we’ll raise her the best way we know.

    I sometimes wonder if all this parenting inundation is responsible for some of the poor parenting going on out there. Too many parents allowing their children to run wild, and be disruptive to others with no consequence. With all the mental involvement, I wonder if they are just worn out.

  4. dawn_r

    March 11, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    Anyone else noticing the irony of a mommy blog advocating not reading mommy blogs? “I have to agree with Murkoff quite a bit.” Kind of funny.

    • LindsayCross

      March 11, 2013 at 4:44 pm

      I know! I do realize. The same as the author of a parenting advice book advocating her daughter not worry too much about parenting advice. But I think when it comes down to it, parents really need to trust themselves and their instincts.

      If a mommy blog or a parenting book puts to much pressure on you that it gets in the way of being able to trust your own instincts, it’s probably best to ignore them.

  5. Paul White

    March 11, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    It depends. As a new parent, I like reading about opinions on child rearing; I find it fun, and sometimes informative. But I’m also entirely capable of saying “nope, reaching overload, done” and not looking for more data. I’m also able to, having read data, disregard it without feeling guilty if I think it’s not applicable….and that’s a mindset a lot of people just don’t seem to have. Maybe it’s the year or two I spent in therapy learning to deal with self-doubt and constant double guessing myself? I don’t know.

  6. Diana

    March 11, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    The problem is that parenting has become an industry.

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