Top critical review
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A disappointment after all the good reviews on here :(
on 20 August 2012
I bought this book because I thought it would be rather pertinent to me, having four daughters, but I'm very sorry to say that it has been a rather large disappointment. So much so that I have given up on it not even half-way through!
When I first opened it, I thought it looked great - right up my street. She talks about the spiritual side of parenting in the introduction, and about how patterns can be repeated through the generations, particularly along matrilineal lines. I know this to be true not just from looking at my own family, but those of my friends as well. I loved the idea of a book about parenting that took this rather esoteric idea seriously.
I also liked her analogy of a woman's life being a series of rooms in a house, moving up towards the attic. I can see quite clearly that the ancient ideas that women's lives have stages that match something around seven years each are accurate.
However, the book then went down-hill when I turned to chapter one only to have to plough through a whole load of information about pre-conceptual care. Why on earth any woman buying this book is likely to need this information is beyond me. If you're at the stage of wanting to conceive (ie. when the information would be helpful), you don't yet have a daughter (or not this one you want to conceive anyway!) so probably won't have picked up a book about having daughters. If you already have daughters then the information is entirely irrelevant.
It wouldn't be so bad if she just referred to it in passing as a potential explanation of why you might have certain health or emotional issues based on your own mother's pre-conceptual care, but, no, she explains at length what vitamins and minerals you might need and how you should look after yourself before you conceive.
I was irritated by this, as you may have gathered, because it felt like a real waste of time. I carried on reading in case I was missing something, but felt cheated. Anyway, I persevered but found the same kind of treatment being given to the early months of parenthood - how to parent a baby in the `fourth trimester'. Thank you, Dr Northrup, but I've already done that bit and would have been unlikely to be plodding through a great tome like this book at the stage when it would have been useful ie. in the first weeks after giving birth.
Sadly, there's more: quite a few things in the book that I simply disagreed with based on more than nine years now of reading, learning, talking, living and writing about parenting issues. Usually I can put up with bad bits when it's worth it for the gems that a book also offers a reader, but there were so many in only the first half of this book that the `bad-to-good' ratio was just too high for me.
Among the other good things were her description of our own boundaries as parents being imagined as an `external placenta' is very helpful and sensible, and the importance placed on the conception of ideas as well as the conception of children being a part of being a woman. She also explains the impact of our culture on how we mother our children, which really spoke to me.
I listed some of the major negative issues but won't go into them in great detail. The point was that they disappointed me in their directiveness and, with some of them, their inaccuracy:
"Most infants can start learning how to put themselves to sleep by the age of six months or so." p.128. This simply isn't so, and I know many parenting writers would agree, including Kathy Dettwyler
"...two books offer very practical, humane approaches for training your baby to sleep well..." p. 128. I just can't stand the idea of training babies, but maybe that's just me
On page 170 she tells us that children will kiss and cuddle their mothers, and tell them they love them, simply in order to get what they want. I disagree with the idea that children are born this manipulative and am irritated that she doesn't say that this is only really likely to happen when love and cuddles are used in this way by parents in the first place
Her description of `time out' for tantrums on page 176 filled me with dismay - "[do not] try to comfort her" (appropriate in some cases, but not all); "[turn] your back to her" :(
Her ideas about discipline are surprisingly draconian for such a forward-thinking book
On page 301 her ideas about gender differences seem to conflict directly with what she writes a few pages later, which is confusing and unhelpful
In addition to these things, despite writing brilliantly about guilt, she then undoes it all by writing an explanation of the root of inappropriate guilt which is too unbending to be accurate to many women - it certainly wasn't accurate for me at least!
And the thing I hated the most? The product placement! This woman is obsessed with vitamins and with promoting her favourite brands and her closest friends. She repeatedly refers to specific medicine companies and her favourite authors throughout the book and at the back has a whole resources section devoted to telling you which brand she thinks you should buy. This is more than the general `books you might like' appendix at the back of many books and reads more like a doctor's prescription, something that just doesn't sit well with me at all.
In my opinion, this one issue completely invalidates everything else in the book. I just don't understand how you can really trust someone who is clearly doing her best to use her name and her reputation to sell far more than just a book?
So, Dr Northrup, I'm disappointed. I'd heard good things about you, and especially about your work around the menopause and how you've empowered women, but I feel I've really wasted £11.60 and too many hours of reading time on this book and I'm delighted I've decided to stop reading it and use my reading time more wisely on books that annoy me less!
PS. I do find it ironic that she writes about narcissism but she has a huge big photograph of herself on the cover of the copy I was sent, which looks different to the version on Amazon.co.uk even though that's where I received it from! ;)