Do Parenting Books Help?

I didn’t read a single parenting book while I was pregnant. I read plenty of books about the stages of pregnancy and delivery, but I never spent a second thinking about what would happen once the baby was born. As far as I was concerned, that would be the easy part. I didn’t know what to expect from labor and delivery, but once my baby boy was in my hands, I was sure I’d be fine. After all, I was a parenting expert.

I had a Ph.D in clinical psychology and specialized in working with children. I knew everything there was to know about kids from the processes taking place in the brain within the first few moments of conception to all of the various stages passed through in development. And I didn’t just have the formal education. I had the practical experience to go with it. I grew up surrounded by women were who professional child caregivers. My mother was the second oldest of nine children and being able to care for and connect with children was a badge of honor proudly passed on to me. I grew up around kids. My mom had a daycare and I started babysitting in fourth grade. During college, I worked as a nanny. I knew my way around kids. I was comfortable with kids. I was good with them. A natural trained by the greats so parenting didn’t scare me in the least.

And then Gus was born.

And I was terrified.

Gus came out of the womb angry and screaming. He didn’t just cry. He screamed endlessly and inconsolably. If the crying weren’t bad enough, he also didn’t sleep. I hadn’t studied this in any class I had taken.

I manically began reading every parenting book I could get my hands on. I devoured them like a starving child. I stacked them next to the chair I breastfed in and each time Gus was on a boob, my other hand was holding up a book. Most of the books I started out reading were filled with textbook accounts of childrearing that made it seem like child care practices were mathematical formulas. A + B = C. I liked it. My brain could grasp on to it. It seemed so manageable. Practical. Defined. However, each time I applied the equation prescribed, I never got the promised results. I would go back through the book, re-read, highlight the important parts that I may have missed the first time, and re-apply as if I was taking a test for the second time. Still missed the mark.

I switched from the prescriptive, how-to books to books that were memoirs or personal narratives regarding the first years of being a mother. These types of books proved to be even more disheartening. Most of them were written by rich, white women, or by celebrities. I couldn’t relate to either.

I never did find a parenting book that actually helped me. Don’t get me wrong, I learned some really valuable tools and information from all of the books I read. I learned all about the practical things of motherhood like breastfeeding and bathing. I learned lots of helpful tricks of the trade. However, I’m pretty sure I could have learned these on my own.

So, I have a question for you ladies and gents. And I am really interested in the answer. Have you read any parenting books that you feel actually helped you and made a difference in your parenting ability? If so, what was the book?

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