13 June 2008

Stay At Home Survival Guide

When Mother Talk offered up an opportunity to review Melissa Stanton's Stay-at-Home Survival Guide (Field-Tested Strategies for Staying Smart, Sane, and Connected When You're Raising Kids at Home), I jumped because secretly? I kind of want to be a stay-at-home mother. Next fall, my daughter will be heading off to kindergarten, and even though it's "full-day" kindergarten, there aren't enough hours for me to be able to get into the city and back to continue working as I do. So, either I need to take that sabbatical I've been dreaming of, find a part time job near home, or sign up her for the school-based childcare at the beginning and end of the day.

Stanton was, once upon a time, a magazine editor in NYC and is now a stay-at-home mother. The persona that comes through in the book is a defensive one - it feels as though she's writing the book to validate something, to prove that she's still got those Type A chops, even though she's no longer a high powered magazine executive.

Interestingly, the book doesn't really seem like a guide to staying home with kids, but a general guide to raising kids. More often than not, all you have to do is take "stay-at-home" out of one of Stanton's sentences and the sentence rings true for all parents. Like here: "By the time a stay-at-home mom, like me or you, has spent the day caring for kids and keeping a house together gets into bed, she's pooped." Take "stay-at-home" out of that sentence, and add in "earning a living" and you've described me to a T, along with every mother I know.

Woven throughout the book are anecdotes Stanton garnered from a survey of about 60 mothers. It's a very warm touch, and the book ends with three pages of "Final Words of Wisdom from the Experts". But again, most of those words of wisdom are equally applicable to stay-at-home parents and all other parents.

There's plenty of material that I found just plain irritating, starting with her frequent use of the word "gal". At one point, she sticks in a side bar of "great (little) escapes" that is so unimaginative as to be comically depressing: "watch Oprah", "email friends or family", "shop for yourself, by yourself". Really - do you need someone to write out a list like that and put it in a book? I don't think so.

Stanton does have some useful information, especially regarding issues about money (like what happens to your future Social Security earnings if you stop paying into the system for a while). My overall takeaway about her parenting style and parenting advice is that she's saying take pride in what you do and it's okay to not always love being a mom. That's good advice - but not advice that's uniquely needed by stay-at-home parents, it applies to all of us.

In short, if I do take some time off from working full-time, I don't think I'll need this book. It just doesn't have enough to offer beyond common-sense tips that seem self-evident. Then again, I'm not much for self-help books, so maybe I'm simply not the right demographic for the book regardless of my employment status.

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If you think it might be a useful book for you, I'm giving away my copy. Leave a comment with your email address, by the end of the day on Monday 6/16, and I'll make a random pick on Tuesday.


Queen Goob said...

Thanks for your insight and championing of the non-stay-at-home-mom. I, too, would love to be a SAHM but as that is not an option for most single parents, it's nice to hear that the same issues apply to both SAHM and working moms.

I appreciate you being the voice of ALL mommies!

niobe said...

That cover illustration is a bit mystifying. Is it a childcare tip? Or is it implying that if you decide to be a SAHM you'll find yourself, uh, hung out to dry?

Anonymous said...

bwahahaha. it is too late for me. though, I guess I was not quite sane beforehand.

I'm curious. What sort of pre-K hours does she do now that allow you to commute? Are you saying that after-care would be extending her day from what she is accustomed to? (My daughter begs me to put her in after-care. So much more fun than coming home!)

Kyddryn said...

Hmm...I'm already nuts, and I don't see a difference in staying at home or going to work - it's all exhausting and thankless, and I figure we'd all be better off if we could do what best suited us without anyone nattering at us about how we've made the wrong choice because it's not THEIR choice.

Whew...sorry to unload that onya. Have a good week, see you in ten days!

Shade and Sweetwater,

Woman in a Window said...

My kids are in after care three days a week and they wish they were home. I'm laid off in the winter and they're home with me every day and long for after school care again. Go figure.

mamaloo said...

I could totally use some help!

mamaloo said...

And in case my email didn't get attached to that: leanne @ the clever mom . com

See how much help I need! Simple instructions are beyond my abilities after a long day of taking care of two crazy children.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I'm doing my first Mother Talk review July 2, so it was fun to read your review--even though I've already "survived" 19 years as a SAHM. In fact I would prefer the word "thrive."

Anonymous said...

I'm a FULL-TIME stay at home mom now! It sure is a whole lot of difference man!

The closeness my kids and I have now is simply amazing!

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I was a SAHM for about 18 months, starting when my son was 6 mos. old. The other SAH friends I had (one was a dad) would say that the trick to being happy at home is: Don't stay at home! We knew every free thing you could do outside the house w/ young kids.

Now that I'm working more (15-20 hrs), I don't feel that urgency to get out of the house. Otherwise everything's the same, as you say.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

ps I suppose that means that our biggest concern as SAHs was not finding validation, but finding friends. Books like the one you describe always seem to be about validation -- women who want to prove that what they do is important.

Furrow said...

I wish I could be a SAHM for a couple of days a week. I look at all the parenting magazines or the kid activities in my local paper and I feel so freakin LEFT OUT. Everything designed for babies or parents takes place at 10 a.m on weekday. No story hour for me and my child. No "babes and butterflies" nature outings for us. Even the sewing lessons I'd like to take are during work hours. Sucks.