Friday, October 31, 2014

Book Review: Motherhood Smotherhood by JJ Keith

Motherhood Smotherhood
By JJ Keith
Genre: Nonfiction, Parenting

What's the first thing a woman does when she thinks she might be pregnant? She Googles. And it goes downhill from there. While the internet is full of calming and cheerily supportive articles, it's also littered with hyper-judgmental message boards and heaps of contradictory and scolding information. Motherhood Smotherhood takes parents through the trenches of new parenting, warning readers of the pleasures and perils of mommy blogs, new parent groups, self-described "lactivists," sleep fascists, incessant trend pieces on working versus non-working mothers, and the place where free time and self-esteem goes to die: Pinterest (back away from the hand-made flower headbands for baby!)

JJ Keith interweaves discussions of what "it takes a village" really means (hint: a lot of unwanted advice from elderly strangers who may have grown up in actual villages) and a take-down of the rising "make your own baby food" movement (just mush a banana with a fork!) with laugh-out-loud observations about the many mistakes she made as a frantic new mother with too much access to high speed internet and a lot of questions. Keith cuts to the truth--whether it's about "perfect" births, parenting gurus, the growing tide of vaccine rejecters, the joy of blanketing Facebook with baby pics, or germophobia--to move conversations about parenting away from experts espousing blanket truths to amateurs relishing in what a big, messy pile of delight and trauma having a baby is.

My Review

I needed to read Motherhood Smotherhood. I especially needed it 13 years ago when I was a 22-year-old mom trying to figure out how to do everything right in raising my first newborn. Author JJ Keith is the mom I would have hung out with at mommy groups had I went to any.

Motherhood Smotherhood was a relief to read. It makes me feel like I am not alone in this frightening world (real life & online) where parents compete with each other, and face judgment from both parents and non-parents.

She touches on hot topics like vaccinations and I wanted nothing more than to bear hug her after reading the chapter about breastfeeding. This book is about not defining love based on quirky handmade signs hung in your child’s nursery or what brand wrap you are traveling around with your kid in. Keith brings parenting back to basics and slashes the unnecessary.

Facebook posts, Pinterest obsessions, and mommy boards – it’s all here.  I cannot recommend this book enough to those parents who need a laugh and a reality check. Parents who are tired of getting the shameful looks from others when they take their crying baby out in public. 

This book also has a tender side. A chance to look at certain situations from a fresh perspective, which I appreciated. Motherhood Smotherhood is about communication and community in a helpful, non-jerk kind of way. 5/5 stars all day long.
Author Bio

JJ Keith has written about being a crappy attachment parent for Salon, explored the disturbing undertones of Thomas the Tank Engine for, come out as pro-vaccine for The Huffington Post, interviewed Samantha Irby for Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, differentiated being judgmental and having an opinion for Role/Reboot, admitted to a bare knuckled brawl with a dude for The Nervous Breakdown, examined the phenomenon of "don't touch the bump" t-shirts for Babble, and explained what new moms have in common with teenage boys for The Hairpin.

Her writing has been syndicated in the Sydney Morning Herald, iVillage Australia, Mamamia, and Alternet, and she's taken her work to the stage with The Moth, Happy Hour Story Experiment, Write Club, and Expressing Motherhood and spoken about parenting issues with APM's Marketplace, HuffPost Live, and on a panel at the 2013 LA Times Festival of Books. Her micro-memoir won a $2,500 prize from Reader's Digest and was anthologized in The Best Life Stories: 150 Real-life Tales of Resilience, Joy, and Hope-All 150 Words or Less!

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