A Conversation with Stacy M. DeBroff, author of The Mom Book
What makes your book unique from other parenting advice books?
I wanted The Mom Book to cover what I, as a modern mom, had been missing: straightforward, practical solutions tested by other moms and offered with the authority of their seasoned experience. That everyday, over-the-backyard-fence wisdom is difficult to come by now that families live farther apart and women don't have the benefit of daily interaction with other moms. Until now, no other book has filled this enormous gap.
The Mom Book is a one-stop source of quick and savvy solutions to on-the-spot questions about fussy eaters, tantrums, starting a new school, balancing work and family, and the thousand and one other skills needed to thrive as a mom. After all, who better than experienced mothers to share insider parenting advice?
Today's Moms are pressed for time and can't waste hours wading through long stretches of text or hundreds of web site postings to find an answer to their dilemma of the week. Too often, we stumble about hoping to arrive at an effective way to handle a parenting-dilemma, be that getting everyone out the door in the morning to changing a squirming child's diaper. The Mom Book does all the hard homework for moms and shares the best pragmatic thinking of hundreds of smart, experienced moms.
How did you research this book?
I'd done a lot of reading and scouring the Internet, but it's time-consuming to separate the wheat from the chafe; nobody edits the Internet. What worked best going straight to the source: my own experience as well as the hard-earned experience of friends, relatives, and hundreds of members of the MomCentral.com community. These moms generously agreed to lengthy interviews and also e-mailed me their tips for everything from starting a new school to surviving a rainy day at home with the kids. I included in The Mom Book only the very best suggestions and most creative approaches to tough issues.
Who could use this book?
Any mom with one or more children, from newborn through elementary school years.
How do you see parents using it?
The Mom Book is like your favorite recipe book, only the recipes are solutions for the thousands of issues that arise in parenting. This isn't a book to sit down with and read straight through. I expect that it will be dog-eared and highlighted, with pages pulled out for further reference and formula or food stains on the sections most relevant to a mom at any given time.
What was the funniest/strangest piece of advice you received?
Lots of women shared funny stories and tales of woe. One that springs to mind was from a mom who worked from home and had a newly-adopted toddler who answered a business phone call in Russian. This quick-thinking mom told the caller it was her new, Russian secretary! Another mom always introduces herself and offers to buy the person who sits in front of her son on a plane a drink in order to build goodwill. One mom of multiples keeps a bowlful of pacifiers, like mints, on the living room table, so one is never too far from reach.
What are some of your favorite tips from the book?
Lots of moms love the idea of keeping a red washcloth on hand in case of cuts and scrapes that bleed a lot and scare a child, and using a bag of frozen peas as a flexible ice compress.
A great one for fussy eaters is turning a child's washed-out plastic dump truck or Frisbee into a serving dish at meals to make things fun and interesting enough for your child to try new (and healthy!) foods. Or serve chicken, tuna, or egg salad in an ice cream cone. I loved as well the family tradition to mix things up by every once in a while having a backwards day with chicken nuggets for breakfast and pancakes for dinner.
I also really like the one about starting your visit to a museum at the gift shop, and purchase a few post cards with exhibit items to treasure hunt for while you're there.
Moreover, I'm convinced that I've added five minutes to every day by hanging a hook next to the garage door. My car keys go there when I come in. Now my husband and I can find keys in a flash.
Anything that made even you say, "I can't believe I never thought of that!"?
One couple wrote a long letter to their children and to a potential guardian to be read in the event of their unexpected deaths. In it they included information that they thought was important for their children to know eventually but that they weren't old enough to understand as preschoolers. The letters took them more than a year to complete, but it gave them great comfort and security.
On a lighter note, I loved the tip told to me by one mom of lighting all the candles on a birthday cake by first lighting an uncooked strand of spaghetti that when kept tilted downwards acts like a long-burning match. Another involved putting all the candy inside a birthday piñata into pre-packed small baggies for each kid at the party, so that when the piñata finally bursts open the kids don't trample each other in a shoving match for the most candy and prizes!
What's your background?
My first parenting book, Mom Central, consisted of every conceivable list a mom would need to keep her home and family running. The process of co-authoring Mom Central, finding a publisher, and becoming a one-woman promotional machine got my entrepreneurial juices flowing. By building a web site, MomCentral.com, as well as the Mom Central electronic newsletter, I was able to build a large community of moms who share my desire for practical parenting tips and advice. This community served as the basis for innumerable interviews and email tips that appear throughout The Mom Book.
How did you handle conflicting advice -- when two moms suggested different solutions to the same problem?
Conflicting answers are actually an asset of The Mom Book, because parents who read it appreciate learning multiple solutions to an issue and understanding how to approach it from different points of view. For instance, I included tips from moms who are enthusiastic fans of disposable diapers as well as moms who lay out the benefits of cloth. Breast or bottle-feeding, how to handle tantrums, bedtime, toilet training, feeding a fussy eater, staying at home versus working, and childcare are all potentially knotty issues that can have more than one viable solution depending on a parent's philosophy. I felt strongly that including only one point of view on the subject would do moms a disservice as they make their own decisions. That way, if a mom tries the "strip and go" approach to toilet training with no results, she has a Plan B.
Who inspired you?
I lost both my parents in a plane crash when I was twelve years old. Growing up without them was difficult, but as an adult and a mom myself, I realize all the wonderful things they taught me about family, rituals, and unconditional love in just twelve short years. My mom left me a wonderful legacy that I am just beginning to fully appreciate, and I consider this book and my own parenting style a tribute to the great job she did as my mother.
Why just Moms? Not Dads?
While many Dads take on significant parenting responsibilities, the truth is that it's mostly still the Moms who accept primary responsibility. For a snapshot view of the issue, take a look at women's magazines versus men's, and add up the parenting and family articles in each. Moms, even those working full-time, are the ones who seek out parenting advice and, for the most part, take the lead in running their homes and raising their kids. Times are changing, slowly, but we're still at least a generation away from a more equal embracing of parental roles.
What do your kids think about the book?
Kyle and Brooks, above all else, love having me here when they come home from school. My daughter Kyle, herself an aspiring writer, loved to bring me inspiration while I worked away in the office: a sheaf of notebook paper for "brainstorms," suggestions for favorite snacks, games, and even discipline tools her teacher used. They're hard at work sharing their many ideas with me for my next book, which will focus on helping parents select activities and sports for their children, as well as daydreaming about the book they will each write when they grow up.
Why did you decide to write this book?
Moms and I needed it!
Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.
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