May 25, 2006

(++++) MOM-ITUDE

MotherStyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths. By Janet P. Penley with Diane Eble. Da Capo. $16.95.

The Working Gal’s Guide to Babyville. By Paige Hobey with Allison Nied, M.D. Da Capo. $15.95.

     Advice-for-mothers books are a dime a dozen, and overpriced at that.  Useful advice books for mothers are much rarer, and a bargain at 16 or 17 bucks.  MotherStyles is more than a bargain: it’s a genuinely new and creative way to look at how you are likely to react and behave as a parent (it’s written for women but, in the main, will be just as useful for men).  The subtitle explains what this is all about: “Personality Types” are defined through the well-known Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which assigns each person a four-letter sequence identifying his or her method of handling the world.  Used – indeed, overused – in the working world, it has not before been applied to the world of raising children.  But it makes intuitive sense to use it this way.  After all, if the MBTI is accurate – there is some dispute about its precision, but it is generally accepted as a good guideline – then it reflects how you take in, process and use information throughout your life.  And parenthood is emphatically part of your life.  

     An MBTI analysis assigns a person to one of 16 types.  The way you get your energy is either Extraversion or Introversion.  The information on which you focus is either Sensing or Intuition.  You make judgments and decisions either by Thinking or Feeling.  And you like the outside world structured through either Judging or Perceiving.  These terms are technical, not intuitively understandable, but Janet Penley and Diane Eble give a good overview of what they mean, and help readers decide where they fit among the types.  The book will be most useful for parents who have had a formal MBTI test, though it can be helpful even if you haven’t had one.  The authors assign each personality type a name: ISTP is the “Give ‘Em Their Space” Mother, ESFJ is the “Happy Together” Mother, and so on.  Then they show how each form of perception is likely to influence family relations.  The discussions are plainspoken and well thought out; the suggestions are helpful (MBTI advocates will tell you that going “against type” is extremely difficult and rarely beneficial); and the assertion that there is no “best” mothering style – only differing ones – is extremely reassuring.

     Reassuring in a different way, The Working Gal’s Guide to Babyville is also plainspoken, even chatty, as it moves breezily from preparing for maternity leave to returning to work – or deciding not to.  From surviving newborn care to developing a baby’s intellectual curiosity, Page Hobey and pediatrician Allison Nied take working soon-to-be-mothers through practical suggestions, we’ve-all-been-there moments and lots of girl talk.  For instance, what about sex after baby? “Let’s be honest here.  The concept of breast feeding is really weird at first. …Suddenly [breasts] serve a purpose that is no longer decorative or sexual but utilitarian and practical.”  How do you handle worries such as, “My significant other will be so horrified by my ballooning belly we won’t have sex again until we’re too old to care”?  What are the pluses and minuses of returning to work – and if you want to return, what are the pluses and minuses of full-time, part-time, flextime and other work arrangements?  These are real-world concerns, dealt with reasonably and with multiple options laid out.  The examples of women who have taken various approaches to work and motherhood are not always helpful – everything seems a touch too buttoned-up, with not enough mentions of the inevitable chaos of raising a child – but the book as a whole is a useful compendium of ideas, suggestions, and old-fashioned reassuring pats on the back to reassure women whose work focus has undergone, of necessity, a genuine paradigm shift.

No comments:

Post a Comment