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
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
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
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!