Synopses & Reviews
Motherhood is the ultimate transformation, a powerful and thrilling metamorphosis. Yet the vast majority of parenting books focus on the how-tos of baby and child care, not on the care or development of mothers. Ann Pleshette Murphy--the former editor of Parents magazine, current parenting contributor to Good Morning America, and herself the mother of two--looks at the emotional lives of mothers, at how we change and grow from the moment we get pregnant to the day we watch our kids graduate from high school.
The 7 Stages of Motherhood urges women to reflect on the seismic shifts they undergo at each stage of their children's lives and to focus on their own evolution. Only by doing so, says Murphy, can we give children the best of ourselves. Many new moms assume that once things "get back to normal," they'll jump right back on their pre-baby path. But there's no going back, according to Murphy, and that's actually good news. Each stage of motherhood has its own challenges and opportunities. Motherhood forces us to hone muscles we never knew we had; to question our choices and goals; to reshape our relationships with family, friends, our spouses; and, most important, to rethink who we are and where we're going. There's as much circling, sliding, falling back as there is surg-ing ahead--and Murphy provides exactly the encouragement women need to overcome obstacles and celebrate their strengths. Writing with wit, warmth, and unfailing empathy about the challenges mothers face at each stage, Murphy offers insightful advice and gentle reassurance, showing moms how to make the most of their lives as they raise their children.
Drawing on hundreds of interviews with leaders in thefield, a wealth of personal experience, a decade at the helm of Parents magazine, and, of course, countless conversations with other mothers, Murphy offers women invaluable advice about how to cope and how to thrive along with their children. She identifies periods of particu
This refreshingly candid parenting book puts mothers—not children—center stage. Ann Pleshette Murphy provides a reassuring, wise, and often wildly funny mix of anecdotes and advice as she describes the seismic shifts in womens lives and identities from pregnancy through a childs graduation. She draws on countless conversations with mothers and with child development experts she has met as the parenting contributor to Good Morning America
and as the former editor-in-chief of Parents
magazine. The mother of two, Murphy freely shares her own trials and errors in stories that will have readers laughing in relief and recognition. Written with wit, warmth, and unfailing empathy, The 7 Stages of Motherhood
is an exuberant and indispensable guide to making the most of motherhood.
Words of Wisdom for Every Stage of Motherhood
_ Forget the “mothering comes naturally” myth:
And dont be afraid to ask for help
_ Avoid keeping up with the Joneses:
Give your kids what they need, not everything they want.
_ Know when youre in the wrong movie:
Dont try to cast your kids in a remake of your childhood.
_ Give yourself credit for finding Lego Mans hair:
Little acts of caring matter more to your kids than getting through your to-do list
_ Be a mother, not Mother Teresa:
When you neglect your own needs, you shortchange your kids
About the Author
Ann Pleshette Murphy has been Good Morning Americas on-air parenting expert since 1998. A highly sought-after speaker, she was for ten years the editor-in-chief of Parents magazine. She writes a parenting column for USA Weekend and serves on the board of Zero to Three, the leading national organization dedicated to the well-being of infants and toddlers. She resides in New York City with her husband and two children.
Reading Group Guide
1. How does Murphys approach differ from other investigations into the day-to-day, year-to-year reality of motherhood? Does the subtitle—“Loving Your Life Without Losing Your Mind”—accurately reflect the contents and voice of the book?
2. “Evidently, theres a lot of pressure on todays moms to treat pregnancy as a minor inconvenience and to barrel ahead with the confidence of Seabiscuit,” Murphy writes [p. 6]. Where do you think such pressures originate? In what ways do they echo other demands (or perceived demands) made on women today?
3. Did previous generations of women have a clearer, more realistic perspective on motherhood? What effects have the increasing options and opportunities available to women had on their views and their feelings about becoming mothers? Has the progress women have made brought losses as well? What traditional aspects of motherhood, for example, are no longer practiced or valued? Is the “perfect-mom fantasy” [p. 114] a recent phenomenon, or has it always been a factor in womens lives?
4. Many of the women Murphy interviews postponed motherhood in order to pursue their careers. What particular challenges does this path present? Does it offer advantages that might be lacking in the lives of women who start their families at a younger age?
5. In addition to reminding readers that “childbirth is not a competitive sport” [p. 26] and that you may not “fall head over heels in love with your baby in the delivery room” [p. 32], what other myths about motherhood does The 7 Stages of Motherhood dispel?
6. In discussing the toddler years, Murphy writes, “All of the books on toddlers will tell you that the trick is to anticipate when the overload button is about to start flashing and to use time-out before your child has a fit—not as punishment. But the reality is, you probably wont be prescient enough to steer clear of emotional land mines” [p. 97]. Do most books on child-rearing establish unrealistic goals for mothers? To what extent are the thousands of articles and books about parenting published every year responsible for increasing, rather than decreasing, the anxieties and apprehensions mothers feel?
7. When her daughter was in preschool, Murphy got a note from her teacher that read “Please make sure Madeleine wears underpants under her skirt tomorrow” [p. 124]. Sending her child to school “bare-assed” is just one of several embarrassing moments Murphy shares in her book. What is the most embarrassing thing you have ever done as a parent? What thoughts ran through your head? Did it teach you something about being a mother that helped you through other mortifying incidents?
8. Murphy writes, “The overwhelming majority of moms I spoke to found that the birth of their baby transformed even the most egalitarian marriage into a kind of Leave It to Beaver time warp” [p. 53]. Was this your experience? If so, what do you think causes this reaction? To what extent can it be attributed to the social or cultural assumptions that influence men who ordinarily think of themselves as feminists? Do most new mothers inadvertently contribute to this by setting themselves up as “experts,” as Murphy admits to doing? What other factors contribute to the way new parents see themselves and their spouses when they start a family? Consider, for example, the influence of media images (from Donna Reed to Desperate Housewives), memories (good and bad) of your own parents, and the patterns you have developed as a married couple on the way you and your spouse envision yourselves as parents. Are the expectations placed on fathers today as complicated and confusing as those mothers face?
9. One of the difficulties of the school years for many mothers is the tendency to live vicariously through their kids [p. 151]. In what ways do communities, schools, and other parents foster this tendency? Why do some mothers find it more difficult than others to draw the line between supportive interest and over-involvement in their childrens lives? What are some of the solutions Murphy and the others offer to avoid this trap?
10. Many social commentators have written about the insidious effects of our materialistic culture on children. What are the dangers of overindulging our children, both in the short term and the long term? Is there ever a downside to setting limits and saying no to kids?
11. Because parenting styles are shaped by each parents own childhood and family culture, Murphy suggests that couples make a list of the three most important rules for their own families [p. 178]. What are your top priorities? What do you think your spouse would consider most important? Do your rules embody or defy the patterns set in your childhood families?
12. Drawing on the stories in the book and on your own experiences, discuss how the gender of a child can influence the way mothers treat them and react to their behavior. What have recent writings about adolescent development, including scientific research into the adolescent brain, contributed to our understanding of kids behavior during the preteen and teenage years? How do the insights and examples in The 7 Stages of Motherhood enhance the portrait of adolescence emerging today?
13. Murphy talks often about the push-pull dance of independence/dependence we engage in throughout our childrens lives. Was there a time in your experience of motherhood when letting go was particularly hard? If so, why?
14. If youre the mother of teens (Stage 7), discuss how your own experiences confirm Murphys assertion that “during this phase of motherhood we relive all the other stages, experience everything from the panic of our childrens infancy to the frustrations of toddlerhood to the loneliness of the preteen years” [p. 215]. How do both the emotional and practical aspects of parenting a teen make it necessary to reshape “not only your relationship with your child but your identity as a mother” [p. 217]? Do you agree with the chapter title: “It Gets Easier…and Then They Leave”?
15. Murphy calls motherhood “the defining event in a womans life” [p. ix]. Do you agree? How does the decision to become a mother differ from other choices women make in their personal and professional lives? Did The 7 Stages of Motherhood lead you to rethink and reevaluate the choices you and people you know have made?
“Ann Pleshette Murphy is my hero.” —T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.
The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your groups discussion of The 7 Stages of Motherhood. Written by Ann Pleshette Murphy, the former editor-in-chief of Parents magazine, current parenting contributor to Good Morning America, and the mother of two teenagers, this book is a clearheaded, bracingly honest, and heartening look at the changes and transformations every mother experiences.