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This isn't really about mothers and babies at all, is it?

Standing on line at Kohl's the other night, I noticed a few books propped up on the display next to the register. Among them was a bright colored paperback - about half the height and double the width of most paperbacks - titled 1001 Tips for Moms. Or something like that. It's hard to remember the exact title because there are about 5,000 brightly colored paperbacks with the words "Moms" and "Tips" on the cover that they all blend together after a while. I did pick the book and glance through it while the line moved at a very slow pace towards the cashier. I was overcome by a strong sense of deja vu. Hadn't I read this already? Well, yes, in a way. In my fourteen plus years of being a parent, I've probably read a book just like the one in my hand a thousand times. And every one of them were the same book, just wrapped in a different cover and penned by a different author. How many times can you say the same thing and expect people to buy it, read it and enjoy it? How many different times can you read the tip "prepare the week's meals ahead of time" before you scream "I know! I know! Tell me something different!" And I got to wondering about the author of the book and what made her decide that the world needed another 300 page tome dishing out ideas that have already been passed around like gossip at mommy and me groups? Did you know that Cheerios make a great finger food for toddlers? Why, those little o's of nutrition not only give your child a sugar-free snack, but picking them up off the high chair tray will also improve her finger dexterity and handy-eye coordination! Yea, yea, we got it. We read it in 365 Fun Facts For Busy Moms and in 101 Ideas for Moms Who Haven't a Clue. I think those books even used the same illustration. So what makes a person want to spend their time writing a book on a subject in which the market for that subject is already saturated to the point of being washed out? The easy answer to that is because people write what they know and enjoy and, quite often, they will assume that because they are ass deep in diapers and bottles and mother support groups, that everyone else is, too. When you become so deeply entrenched with something specific, your world view becomes quite narrow. When you have a toddler, you hang out with other people who have toddlers and you talk about toddler toys and games and tv shows and the consistency of your kid's poop and the power of projectile vomiting. And, because you've surrounded yourself with others in your situation, you get nods and sighs of agreement and very few differing opinions. In your mind, everyone has a toddler. Everyone will be enthralled by your potty training stories and everyone wants to you to share your bedtime ritual tips. And then one night you go to a dinner party and you try to strike up a conversation with several people, none of whom have toddlers in the house. You are bewildered that people seem, well, bored to tears when you regale them with tales of spiked fevers and pediatricians. No one seems to care about how you figured out a way to keep the baby quiet on long road trips. You go home feeling out of touch with the rest of the world. You had completely forgotten that there are people outside of your little circle of Gymboree friends, people who know nothing about the fine art of burping a baby, but who know everything about, say, reggae music. You can do a few things in that situation: vow to diversify your life a little and start seeking out friends outside of the mother's group set, or you can swear to never go to another dinner party and just settle in for a comfortable life where you are only asked to discuss what you already know. You'll probably buy that new parenting book on the shelf at Kohl's, too, just in case there are one or two tidbits in there that you missed. You totally miss the fact that there is a third option, which is to keep going to your mother's group and all that entails, but set aside some time for outside interests as well, so you don't forget that a whole big, wide world exists outside of the realm of parenting. This way, next time you're invited to a dinner party, you don't make the mistake of assuming that not only does everyone want to talk about babies, but they want to talk about your baby and compliment your parenting skills. that way, when you get that idea to write a book called 1001 Ways To Keep Baby Happy, you will smack yourself upside the head for thinking that you're going to change the world with your sage advice and cute anecdotes. Some day you will walk into Border's and stroll through the thousands upon thousands of parenting titles and you'll be glad you decided to give up the ghost on that book idea because struggling every day to come up with something that hasn't already been said in all the other busy mom tip books - while all the time reading books of the same nature - was kind of getting to you. You'll smile and whistle as you head start browsing the other sections, wondering what kind of interesting topics that have nothing to do with baby vomit await you. ------- Well, this all made perfect sense when I thought about it at 3am. See: Sissy, Gerard, Laurence.

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Great metaphor! Speaking of literal moms and babies, I am now working in a place where I am the only parent, out of more than a dozen coworkers. It's very odd, but luckily they tolerate my occasional brags on my kids and I have enough other stuff in common with them that I don't feel like that mom at the cocktail party. Then again, I've never been one for the mom-competition and the whole "our friendship is based exclusively on having babies the same age" thing. One of my best friends has a son three months younger than mine and when we got together when they were babies, we talked about anything but babies!

Oh, and I am in total agreement with you on the saturated market thing.

My wife reads the parenting books. And then she tells me she's concerned because something the kids do or don't do is or isn't in one of the books. I then tell her to go find the word 'gambling' in the Bible.

Not really, as, well, I like the current position and attachment of my head.

But the point is the same. These books are put out because repetition, for some reason, doesn't work on parents as well as it does on kids. We have a good dozen books on parenting which all say basically the same thing. So why does my wife still want more?

Because all mother's feel instinctive guilt that they're horrible mothers and that in order to make up for their shortcomings, they need to read about how to be a 'good' mother.

Maybe I should have just posted this on my site.

I think there's going to be a lot of "wooshing" noise in the comments here today.

Well... I'm reading it as an excellent metaphor on some of the reason for the divide between certain social groups- red/blue perhaps. As in quit reading the "preaching to the choir" stuff and try expanding your horizons. Take a non-liberal to lunch day, or something- find out we're not all Stupid White Men.

Then again, as a single guy, I've suddenly realized I'd like to write a book called "Your Baby is a Big Fat Idiot"... but I might be missing the spirit, here...

I can't exactly say I understand the complete parallel you are making to blogging. Whether it is content (of their site), or outlook/motivation. That bloggers are all writing the same thing - and gee how boring is that?

Really, though - with this outlook, people should just stop writing books altogether, because certainly every theme and character has been written to death. I would say that there is some unknown factor - that drives both the readers and the creator. After all, original content is only completly "original" if you have a narrow scope. Somebody, somewhere has done it before.

Now where have I heard this before?

I am in total agreement - Whoosh...

BUT, I am also totally certain that everyone really does love to look at pics of my son, hear stories about him, and take baby hints from me ;-)

Mommies with babies=Dems
Books about parenting=Dem blogs

Right? I'm not so dense after all. Whew.

Or maybe I'm projecting.

Dave in NY (surrounded by gawdawful bleu-staters)

Well, you're close, Dave. Wrong color.

Yeah, it's almost an amusing comment thread, if it wasn't so depressing.

Burn out sucks. But it always happens.

Wait. I thought blue was bad, Bad!
I'm a red-stater at heart, yet am surrounded in NY by the biggest Jacques & Kofi fan club.
Anywho, it's good for anyone to branch out of their mommyness. Just don't give up those hot mommy clothes!

Missing, or at least short-sighted of the point of a deeper metaphor, the balanced and honest perspective from someone on the inside (of parenthood) is refreshing. It was good for me to hear, in a sane voice, the struggles of not connecting with adult lifestyles, as it complements the feeling of isolation I often feel from not connecting with the parenting circles. It's as if there are 2 exclusive cultures who are forced to mingle - with a hidden resentment going both ways between the haves and have nots. A subtle non-acceptance that is both unfortunate and unjustified. Thank you!