One of my primary designations as a person is "reader." Fiction, nonfiction, high literary, lady comics—my personal library is broad. And nerdy—as a former English teacher, I have a deep love for Shakespeare, pride myself on having read and continuing to seek out "the classics," and compete with myself every year to see if I can read more books than the last. What I read is a huge part of my identity.
But that was my former life.
By the time this is posted, I will with all hopes be at home cuddling with a tiny reader just a few weeks old. I don’t know where pleasure reading for myself will fit into this new life. But I know in the weeks and months of preparing for my tiny bookworm’s arrival, I found myself often detouring from my typical reads to the domain of BABY BOOKS.
Why did these feel shameful? Because pregnancy and child rearing have become such an industry, and in some ways it felt like I was just buying into this capitalization on parental anxiety: ‘Read THIS to be a GOOD parent.’ These tomes are also somewhat nefarious, because they all say different things: don’t drink coffee while pregnant; drinking coffee is okay; all cribs are safety certified; Crib XYZ has a D- rating and will be terrible for your baby; only sleep on your left side or you will harm the baby,;sleeping on either side is fine. They also often state the obvious: eat vegetables, exercise, drink lots of water. Why pass over the new Jonathan Safran Foer, Amy Schumer, and Colson Whitehead in favor of What to Expect When You’re Expecting—5th Edition and its brethren?
But the pull was too great; What to Expect has sat perched on my nightstand, read at monthly check-ins, for months (with What to Expect the First Year soon to take its place). I did try to seek out more science-backed books—like Expecting Better: How to Fight the Pregnancy Establishment with Facts and Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five—which provided useful (although still often up-for-debate) information. But I still wouldn’t read these books outside of the house, wanting to keep my baby mania under wraps.
I’m sure I will encounter the same tug from parental advice books—and the same mixed bag of information (crying-it-out will help her self-sooth, will destroy our relationship forever; setting firm rules will aid in her self-control, will squash her creativity; etc.)
But I imagine those questions will come, books or not to drive them. And on the plus side, my book frontier now also excitingly includes the wonderful world of baby and children’s books!
For the entire month of November, Free Library staff will be embracing our so-called “guilty pleasures” without embarrassment! Join in and show us your pride for whatever you’re reading, watching, or listening to by snapping a photo with the hashtag #FLPNoShameNovember. We’ll feature your photos on our social media accounts and curate a list of the now-shameless titles!