By Nancy King
I discovered Brain, Child during a mothering class at Stanford University. This was no ordinary or practical class on how to properly bathe a newborn or the pros and cons of using cloth diapers; this was a class on motherhood viewed through the lens of literature. A group of twenty of so women gathered every week to discuss texts that ranged from The Price of Motherhood to The Nanny Diaries. I did not come looking for tips on what to buy or how to use it; instead, I was looking for wisdom, insight, compassion, and empathy. The transition to motherhood, for me, had been bumpy, and I was hoping to discover why–and what to do about it. The class turned out, in some ways, to be a lifesaver because it introduced me to a roomful of intelligent, curious women who were engaged in the same struggle as I. What’s happened to my life? Who am I now? Why do I feel so ambivalent about parenthood? (Or, as one classmate said during her introduction, “I’m trying to figure out how to pick up the shattered pieces of my identity.”)
One evening, another mother passed around a copy of Brain, Child, and on her recommendation, I ordered a subscription. I read it cover to cover for the next two years. Unlike the chirpy, candy-colored parenting magazines that beam from the newsstand or the pediatrician’s office, Brain, Child isn’t about the latest stroller, clever birthday party favors, or rainy-day activities. It is, as its tag line suggests, the magazine for “thinking mothers.” Virtually stripped of advertising, it delivers nothing but thoughtful and thought-provoking pieces that ask and try to answer the frequently difficult questions mothers grapple with. And for every essay that raises serious and sometimes painful issues, there’s another that delivers a dose of humor (I remember one written by a hygiene-freak mom trying to navigate her son’s germ-infested kindermusik class). When I think about it, Brain, Child is like my most-cherished mom friends–brave, wicked smart, tender, and always questioning. If you find yourself looking for more than “The ABCs of Potty Training” or “How to Bake Rice Krispie Critters,” pick up a copy. But be warned, it’ll make you think.