Publisher lists for 2017 teem with books that address the stressed-out lives of contemporary families. Advice and insight come from psychologists, psychiatrists, and other experts; mothers, and the occasional father, offering personal accounts of how they’ve coped with the challenges of parenthood; and authors who ground their parenting strategies in spirituality and the healing arts.
Many of these books stem from what Joan Strasbaugh, senior editor at the Experiment, calls the mingling of “the mindfulness trend and the ever-enduring busy-mom trend,” as well as a general move toward a more forgiving style of child rearing.
The upshot: parents need to learn how to relax—because it’s not only good for them, it’s beneficial for the whole family.
TarcherPerigree has several parenting books written by traditional experts on what Marian Lizzi, editorial director, calls its “advice-driven” list. Being There (Apr.), for example, by psychoanalyst and clinical social worker Erica Komisar, applies the decades-old attachment parenting approach to working mothers.
She proposes that, because the bond between mother and infant is so crucial to child development, women should consider staying home during the first months or years of a child’s life. But she also recognizes that not everyone is able to do so and offers guidance on establishing that all-important emotional connection regardless of whether a mother is able to temporarily downshift her career. She also explains how to select and train quality childcare if necessary. The author’s point, Lizzi says, is that one way women can relieve the pressures of motherhood is to “take control of their choices.”
Gentle Discipline by Sarah Ockwell-Smith (Aug.), also publsihed by TarcherPerigree, will hit U.S. shelves four months after its U.K. release. It focuses on positive parenting, a method that avoids the punishment-and-reward cycle in a way reminiscent of the humanistic parenting style (see Q&A).
Ockwell-Smith, a British doula, aims to help parents find a sense of peace that, in turn, will allow them to encourage happiness in their kids. The author has a slew of modestly selling parenting titles under her belt, 12,000 Twitter followers, and a blog with, according to her publisher, 1.5 million unique visitors each year.
“More and more, Internet communities are aligning themselves with certain methods of training,” Lizzi says. “That’s how the positive parenting trend developed, with people finding each other online and supporting each other as they tried it out.”
What might be termed “positive mothering” forms the focus of Breathe, Mama, Breathe (the Experiment, Jan.) by Shonda Moralis, a psychotherapist who instructs mothers on finding time for five-minute meditation breaks. The book taps into the spirituality-in-parenting trend, and it is also part of the Experiment’s broader emphasis on getting families to function better and more calmly together—not just on moms trying to cope. Forthcoming lists, Strasbaugh says, feature books on family mealtimes and baby-led weaning.
At Norton, neuroscience and a mindful approach to parenting merge in psychiatrist Regina Pally’s The Reflective Parent (Feb.). Using brain research to first establish that humans have a natural tendency toward empathy, the title moves beyond the theoretical with practical strategies and anecdotes meant to guide mothers and fathers toward deep, soothing bonds with their children.
Psychology professor Daniel P. Keating draws on his own research for Born Anxious (St. Martin’s, Apr.). In it, he answers the question of how anxiety develops in the first place—fretful parents who see signs of anxiety manifesting in their children are the intended core readership—and traces its origins to fetal development and environmental adversity in the first year of life.
Practical ways in which to address this anxiety are an essential part of the book, says Tim Bartlett, executive editor at St. Martin’s, because a busy family “barely has time to deal with everyday problems, let alone a child who has meltdowns going to school” and can’t sleep through the night.
In a similar vein, Helping Your Child Overcome Anxiety by anxiety disorder specialist Bridget Flynn Walker (New Harbinger, Nov.) lays out strategies for helping children and teens overcome worry and panic.
Parent to Parent
Some parenting titles offer commiseration rather than expert opinion. The Happiest Mommy You Know (Touchstone, Jan.) by Genevieve Shaw Brown, a travel and lifestyle editor, has its roots in a 2014 piece she did for ABC.com about self-care for mothers. That piece was picked up by Yahoo, SheKnows, and other online outlets, and spawned a Good Morning America segment.
Part memoir, part how-to, the title speaks to working mothers who are not only attempting to coordinate home and family, but seeking a sympathetic voice to encourage them. “Dr. Spock was great, but moms want to hear from other moms in the trenches doing it,” says Meredith Viarello, associate publisher at Touchstone. And they need to see evidence that “when they take care of themselves, things fall into place and the kids are happier, too.”
Editor Melissa Danaczko at Doubleday says she acquired The Fifth Trimester (Apr.), a rare parenting book for the imprint, because of its focus on women embracing their new identities as mothers. In it, former Glamour editor Lauren Smith Brody taps the experiences of a wide range of women—a chicken farmer and an ad executive among them—to provide what Danaczko calls a “prescriptive” approach to re-entering the workforce. With step-by-step instructions and to-do lists, Brody aims to alleviate the stress and pressure inherent in the transition.
Danaczko says that she has faith in the title’s backlist potential: “You’re always going to have women getting pregnant and coming back.” Further, she says, Brody’s media connections are a plus in marketing her as a speaker to companies interested in a Lean In–type approach for their mom-execs.
For fathers, dad-gear entrepreneur Chris Pegula follows up 2014’s From Dude to Dad, which sold 23,000 print copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, with Diaper Dude (May). Positioned as a lighthearted guide to surviving the first two years of fatherhood, the book is meant to encourage men as they slog through the anxieties and joys that come with being a parent.
Mindfulness has gone mainstream, and several forthcoming parenting titles tap into meditation and other spiritual practices and traditions in an effort to soothe frazzled nerves.
Meditation teacher Ali Katz self-published Hot Mess to Mindful Mom in 2015. Skyhorse picked up the title for publication in April; Katz’s second book, Get the Most Out of Motherhood, follows in July. She advocates self-care in an effort to promote peace, balance, and well-being among the perennially frantic.
Leah Zarra, assistant editor at Skyhorse, says such books provide “helpful, relatable stories about Mom focusing on herself rather than putting everyone else first.”
In Mothering with Courage (Familius, May), Bonnie Compton, a parent coach and adolescent therapist, offers interactive journaling exercises meant to guide mothers to calm and connectedness with their offspring. The Empowered Mom by Lisa Druxman (Fair Winds, Aug.) is laid out in a similar workbook style, aimed in this case at helping women balance their lives in order to feel uplifted and refreshed for the job of mothering.
Shamanistic Wisdom for Pregnancy and Parenthood by Anna Cariad-Barrett (Bear & Co., Jan.) provides advice on topics including transforming negative beliefs about parenthood into positive thoughts and abolishing postpartum depression. The author’s credentials include shamanistic minister and marriage and family therapist.
For parents more in tune with secular ethics, The Philosophical Parent by Jean Kazez (Oxford Univ., Jul.) assuages concerns about vaccination, gender identity, and the manner in which they should go about teaching children to lead a good life.
Women overwhelmed by the prospect of all the changes that come with parenthood may be guided to a sense of tranquility in Feng Shui Mommy by Bailey Gaddis (New World Library, May). Borrowing from the Chinese system for harmonizing one’s physical environment and applying it to the emotional space of motherhood, this book shows mothers how to holistically balance themselves first, before tackling the rigors of parenting.
Editorial director Georgia Hughes at New World Library says Gaddis’s book, like other titles this season, stands in contrast to the ones that “focus on everything that can go wrong, piling more stress and responsibility” onto mothers and mothers-to-be. For the moment, parenting books have spoken: the pressure is off.
Lela Nargi has written about parenting for Parents, Time Out New York Kids, Working Mother, and UrbanFamily, where she was founding editor.
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