Jennifer Gilmore‘s The Mothershas become a praised and hot new novel. It’s about one couple’s struggle with infertility and then the rigors of adoption. Jennifer wrote her book after going through a similar hardships herself. Luckily, her personal story has a happy ending. Here’s more directly from Jennifer about her life and her book:
“Since we met in our late twenties, my husband and I have wanted to make a family. I’d been sick, though, and was told by my doctors I’d never be able to have children.Despite this ominous declaration, I went on to become pregnant, which ended in a miscarriage. After several rounds of unsuccessful IVF procedures, we decided to pursue domestic adoption.
We were utterly unprepared for the adoption process, despite extensive research. And the deeper we got into the world of paperwork and agencies and lawyers and the choices we had to make, the more issues of race and class, and also what motherhood means, ignited the novelist in me. I wanted to investigate not only the difficult and shocking process, but also the deep and complex wanting to be a parent and the stress not being able to make that happen puts on a relationship. I hope my new novel, The Mothers, does this.
After a long and winding and often terrifying adoption path, my husband and I have been fortunate enough to have a newborn at home with us, for good. We are adjusting—with pleasure—to the daily rhythms and changes of a growing infant. There were times we thought this would never happen, and so becoming a family of three feels delicious, something to savor.
And yet, like my friends and family who came to motherhood easily, I have some of the similar concerns. There are the financial pressures—our savings and then some went into trying to have a child—and there are the pressures of space that come when living in a New York City apartment, with or without a child. While often there is little predicting when a child enters any of our lives, adoption can be quick and unexpected, as ours was. And so we are living the same frenetic life we were before his arrival .
As a writer, I work at home. Right now, the baby is asleep in his swinging chair, but he could—and will—wake up at any moment, wanting to be held, fed, changed. I do all these things with pleasure, but as a writer works for herself, there is no maternity leave. Now, I meet my deadlines in quick spurts. And I would be disingenuous if I did not admit to being worried about the future. Beginning a novel takes huge swaths of empty time and silence and solitude. And as a novelist, I have to believe I will be working on a new book very soon.
I am not the first writer to become a mother. Women managing work and parenting has been tackled and discussed and hashed over privately and in the media for decades. For writers though, especially women, it is especially difficult to carve out time for work when there is a child right here, whom I have yearned for, waiting for me to pick him up, bring him to me, hold on to him forever.”
You’re seeing The Great Gatsby this weekend, right? It’s Mother’s Day, so you should be taken on a golden horse-drawn carriage if you wish. You should eat all of the Milk Duds you please and stay out way past your kids’ bedtime. This is what I might do considering how much I love F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic book that comes out with my boyfriend Leonardo DiCaprio tomorrow.
If you can’t make it–or even if you can–check out these Gatsy-inspired cupcakes. Book Expo America’s Book Bliss and The Huff Post Books teamed up to make these book-inspired desserts. I’m going to suggest The Great Gatsby at my next book club–but only if we agree to serve these chocolate yummies.
I haven’t met anyone who isn’t fascinated with names. Whether you’re currently pregnant, have a 7-year-old or are 93 and living in a nursing home, I dare you not to get sucked into the delightfully detailed book called The Baby Name Wizardby expert Laura Wattenberg. It’s the carry-it-everywhere companion to her wildly addictive website also called The Baby Name Wizard.
You can look up your picks, your hates, and find out which ones are cool in different parts of the country. (Why are there so many Ezras in Brooklyn? Why do my friends from Indiana pick names like Kyren?) You can fall in love with your favorite monikers and make fun of the others. The opportunities for fun and procrastination are endless in this new, revised edition of this must-have baby-name tome. I asked Laura how this book is different from her previous installments, and she said, “I’ve aimed for a thorough revision and expansion with new features like regional name-style maps and prominent examples and associations for each name. I’ve added style categories, too, including video game names. Yes, parents are naming kids after video game characters!”
I devoured the whole book but particularly enjoyed Laura’s spirited introduction. Who knew there were rules to naming babies? She explains that Americans overwhelmingly look for unique names, and then we all choose the same ones anyway. This explains the proliferation of Peytons and Aubrees. Laura emphatically reminds readers that “parents are the ones who worry about a name standing out; kids are happy to fit in.”
She says to drop the idea of having three or four middle names–that’s not cool for the kid. She also says to go ahead and ask others for their opinions on your top choices. “Don’t let them bully you, but don’t completely ignore them either. As a group, they represent the society that’s going to be hearing, and judging, your child’s name for a lifetime.” Whoa! Her last bit of brilliant wisdom involved siblings and friends who have the same favorite names. (This always seems to happen, she explains.) Whoever has the kid first, gets the name–end of story.
Then there are the maps! OMG. Where I live in New Jersey, steady guy names like Jack, Thomas, Matthew and Adam are popular along with saintly classes such as Nicholas, Lucas, Joseph and Anthony. Meanwhile, in my homestate of Indiana, they prefer smooth gents such as Owen, Miles, Blake and Cole along with preppy cowboys like Dalton, Trenton, Brantley and Easton. See where I’m going with this? Once you start with Laura’s brilliant, curated collection, you just can’t stop.
The Baby Name Wizard includes well-researched and entertaining details on every single page. Laura truly goes above and beyond the call of baby name duty to give her readers the scoop. This book is like eating a delicious sack of potato chips except it won’t make you fat. Thanks to Laura, I know exactly what to buy for two upcoming baby showers.
What do parents do differently in Finland, Sweden, Germany, Japan and other countries? Christine Gross-Loh, a mom and Harvard-educated expert, has lived all over the world, and made it her goal to find the answers. I can’t wait to read her new book, Parenting Without Borders, that comes out today.
Here’s a preview: Guatemalan children don’t go through the terrible twos and Italian children love to eat healthy food. Finnish kids have the highest test scores and get the most recess. Intrigued, I asked Christine to tell me more. She even picks her favorite country and gives reasons why. (You’ll be surprised!)
KK: In three sentences, how would you describe your book? CGL:Parenting Without Borders is about surprising lessons I learned from other parents in other cultures about raising kids with less stress, more joy, and more conviction. While some of the thinking I encountered was sometimes just about the opposite of ours (for instance, in some countries, such as Norway, people say that you keep your child safe by letting him take some risks so that he can learn how to hone his inner judgment about his capabilities, while in our country we tend to keep our children protected from risks until we deem them ready), I came to see how we American parents could benefit from taking a fresh look at our own assumptions. Seeing that there are so many ways to define good parenting and so many ways for children to thrive has made me a more relaxed parent.
KK: What are the three most helpful parenting tips you’ve learned from other cultures? CGL: 1. To be careful not to get in my children’s way too much. Kids in other cultures experience more autonomy and independence, and are given the message that it’s okay to make mistakes, to stumble and fall–this is part of growing up. Research shows this approach has lots of benefits.
2. At the same time, we could take a more concerted role in certain areas, such as teaching eating as a life skill, teaching children patience and respect for others (it’s not stifling them; it’s giving them some great tools), giving them responsibilities around the home, and not pulling back as much as we are told we should when they become adolescents. Young adolescents who know that their parents have expectations for them tend to do better in school.
3. Don’t feel you have to do it alone. It’s the norm in most cultures for parents to be supported by others (extended family or a community of friends). It’s good for our kids to bump up against all sorts of people and perspectives and it’s good for us too, not to feel like we are solely responsible for how our kids turn out.
KK: What is your favorite country you and your family have lived in and why? CGL: I write about Japan a lot in my book because we lived there for so long that our kids think of it as a second home. There is lots to love about the country: Young kids have freedom to roam there, children are given more time to play (academics don’t start till grade 1 and kids have plenty of recess, art, gym, and music class), and it feels like a whole community is on the same page about expectations for kids, which helps take the burden off of you as an individual parent. You know other adults around you will help reinforce and back you up. But I have to say our favorite place to be is right here in the U.S. What I love about parenting here is our positive spirit; how much we want to do well by our kids, and how open-minded we are. We are very willing to consider all sorts of perspectives.
Want to know what it’s like to be raised by a Tiger Mom? Want to know why parents–I’m guilty–need to keep our Type A, super-controlling tendencies in check? Kim Wong Keltner, author of Tiger Babies Strike Backgives us rock-solid reasons why should take time to really see our children, ease up on their schedules and love them unconditionally. Check out what Kim has to say:
“Tiger Babies Strike Back is about being raised by a Tiger Mom with high expectations whom I could never satisfy despite the highest grades, perfect test scores, and my best efforts to please her. Now I have a daughter of my own and I’m determined to raise her with more hugs, laughs, and encouragement than I ever received. This book is about being the grown-up daughter of tough immigrants, but raising an American child to be her own individual self without crushing her soul with my own wants, hopes, and egotism.
A parent can convince herself that she is pushing her kid for her own good, but I feel like my cousins and I were pitted against each other in competition so our parents could brag to each other. And we, the kids, who were just trying desperately to please them, didn’t feel loved for who we were, but we existed as trophies. You’ve heard of trophy wives? We were trophy children!
Tiger Parents are not just of Chinese descent. I’m talking about anyone whose parenting style is of the my-way-or-the-highway variety. Tiger Moms are control freaks gone wild, and they are passing off their methods as superior. And to that, I say, “Are you kidding?” What part of, “stop micro-managing me” do they not understand? I want to laugh, but really, a parent making you feel like you are not good enough no matter how hard you try is not very funny.
I am a very attentive mother to my daughter, Lucy. She is nine-and-a-half. My husband and I are attempting the slow, cumulative work of exemplifying compassion, kindness, and gratitude. It’s an incremental, drawn-out, marching-ever-forward process to teach our kid to be true to her word, and to figure out what it means to have personal integrity.
We need cleared space in our heads so that we can listen for the clues from a kid’s interior world. My daughter’s concerns are expressed like tiny yelps from Whoville, and I feel that if I’m not already listening for it, the small voice will be lost in the background noise of homework, dancing lessons, swim class, and everything else.
I believe we can help our children best by forcing ourselves to slow down. Sometimes it’s the most difficult thing to do. Really, how much more can I possibly talk about Garfield, listen to knock-knock jokes, and draw pictures of kittens? But someone has got to do it, and that someone is me. I am in the trenches with recycled bubble wrap and Elmer’s glue. It’s where I need to be. I’ve got to stay flexible, shift gears, and constantly rethink my own mental state if I’m going to preserve my kid’s bright-eyed love of life, her natural exuberance, and her ability to enjoy learning instead of just jumping through the hoops of rote memorization for school.
From the moment Lucy was born, I looked into her eyes and whispered, “I see you.” When I was a kid, that’s all I ever wanted to hear, to know in my heart. I wanted to know that someone saw who I was inside. But instead, my family focused only on practical matters. After I participated in all my activities, and obeyed all the rules, when would anyone ever see who I was, or ask what I’d like, or what I wanted? Would I ever have time just to stare into space and try to figure out exactly what that might be?
Let’s help our kids figure out who they want to be by not eclipsing their fragility with our own overwhelming desire for “success.” They will achieve their own personal bests if we can manage to just get out of their way.”