Readings on ambivalent parenting

Carrie McLaren is a guest blogger at Boing Boing and coauthor of Ad Nauseam: A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture. She lives in Brooklyn, the former home of her now defunct Stay Free! magazine.


You could burn most every guide to parenting babies and the world would suffer no great loss, but, as the mother of a one-year-old, I feel compelled to endorse a few standout pieces of writing that have helped me survive babycare.

First, Jeff Vogel's diary of raising his daughter Cordelia, as an infant, then toddler.

I watched TV, peacefully, with Cordelia lying on the couch next to me. She made some mildly fussy noises, so I picked her up, took her into the nursery, and checked her diaper. I then found that she had shat out, conservatively, 70% of her body weight. The waste product flowed around the diaper like the wind passes by a stick. I had to cross myself. It was majestic... I am almost positive that she can unhinge her hip bones.

Second: this bit of fiction by the late, great postmodern writer Donald Barthelme:

The first thing the baby did wrong was to tear pages out of her books. So we made a rule that each time she tore a page out of a book she had to stay alone in her room for four hours, behind the closed door. She was tearing out about a page a day, in the beginning, and the rule worked fairly well, although the crying and screaming from behind the closed door were unnerving...

Finally, Tom Scocca's "Underparenting" column at is excellent.

(via Daniel Radosh, Daddytypes)


  1. What, no comments? Where are all the concern trolls?

    Enjoyed the Donald Barthelme link, thanks Carrie!

  2. Teach your cat to eat paper. Ours does it naturally, and our 2 year old has figured out that his door should always be securely closed so “KITTY DON’T EET BOOKS!” Having a kid who likes being in his room with the door closed is a godsend sometimes.

  3. Though I happen to be 1) childless and 2) male, I really enjoyed “A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother” by Rachel Cusk. Very funny and ambivalent take on a subject that’s too often bowdlerized.

  4. One of the very best books is Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year. She describes a “yellow poop volcano” similar to what Jeff Vogel experienced. Her book is hilarious, thoughtful, wonderful.

  5. Since we are going for comedy, my vote for an influential parenting book is
    “What I Want to Be When They Grow Up: The First Collection of Committed” by Michael Fry.
    These images will stick with you and you will laugh yourself silly.

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