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Have 'Momfidence' with this funny guide to letting go

“Momfidence!” by Paula Spencer. Three Rivers Press. 2006. 288 pp. $12.95.

By Tracy Aitken

For Salisbury Post

All moms know that the big questions in life have nothing to do with world peace or the Big Bang theory.

If you hear women discussing such issues, you know they fall into one of two categories: The ‘Tweeners (moms whose kids are grown but not yet having children of their own) or The Childless (alternately but equally fiercely envied and pitied by the Childful).

No, the big questions are really the ones that have to do with candy bribes (for the potty), how much is too much “screen time,” (adding computer, Nintendo and television hours watched), and walking that thin Wal-Mart line, where a simple tantrum turns into a generational debate. Where do you fall, in the “Why doesn’t she control that child?” category, or the “If she hits that kid, I’m calling social services” category?

Paula Spencer’s delightful book, “Momfidence!” studies these and other important questions. Mothers of adult children and grandmothers will chuckle at Spencer’s original (and wrong) belief that she was “just bringing home flannel-wrapped blank slates from the hospital.” Some things you just have to blame on nature vs. nurture, because there is no other way that child could be yours.

Some of Spencer’s answers to current schools of thought are head-slapping, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that pearls of wisdom. Mothers who don’t allow play weapons in the house are queried if they say, “Don’t hurt the nice wormies when you dig them up to go fishing.” This reviewer, mother of boys and anti-plastic guns for years, never thought about how encouraging fishing (aka worm-killing) was simply a different outlet for that natural testosterone-filled need for violence, more commonly known to the boys as “fun” or “adventure.”

In fact, Spencer’s advice for most burning child development issues? “…The soft embrace of an easy chair with a glass of merlot.”

Spencer also lets moms off the hook with her claim that “nature intended us to keep those last persistent jiggly bits after childbirth, as a kind of thank-you gift for the good work in perpetuating the species.”

According to the author, if a mom can’t keep up with the Mompetition of getting her kids to all the sports, hobby and dance lessons she can squeeze into her schedule, that’s OK. The backyard is a perfectly healthy, not to mention far less stressful, place for them to play.

In particular, I recommend this book to single and/or working moms, who have invisible but true barriers keeping them from the Mompetition. Spencer works from her home and has a supportive husband, but she feels that benign neglect, such as leaving the kids alone and letting them play/fight their own games/battles, is the best way to raise healthy, balanced, independent children.

While I had already gotten to a “Momfidence” point of view before reading this book, I found it comforting as well as delightfully funny. “Momfidence!” falls into the category of light and easy reading, but be warned, moms, that you will benefit from the book as well, as Spencer’s insights will pierce right through your society-honed armor and hit you straight in the area of common sense.

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