This book is marketed as a hilarious account of being a mother of young children. Since I picked it up thinking that's what it is, I guess the marketing is effective. One or two of the chapters are funny but most of them are memoirs of motherhood. Various other adjectives come to mind, including "heartwarming" and in some cases "bittersweet," but don't buy looking for a modern Erma Bombeck.
Wilson is a mother of two boys and a girl who lives in Manhattan. An actress by profession, she took some time off to be a full-time mom. (The book overlaps with her one-woman Off-Broadway show, so she's apparently returned to at least part-time work.) Her husband works twelve-hour days in the financial sector and is nearly invisible in the book. But the family has resources: they can rent a house in the country for six weeks or so every summer and send the kids to day camps while they're at it. They can go on week-long vacations skiing or to Disney World. Wilson gets babysitter support, and I will guess other support in the household. They can afford a lot of "Mommy and Me" classes, among other activities. In short, they are pretty darned affluent people, so their challenges are different from other people's challenges.
In literary terms, this background affects some of the characterization of other people (and herself). She will define some people and activities by brand names - - people who buy baby clothes brand X or Y, or shop at maternity store Z. That's not my world, and I have no idea what those brand names mean. Fortunately, it's not a central focus of the book.
The real strength of the book is Wilson's interweaving of stories and her own reflections. When she goes to those "Mommy and Me" classes, she reflects on the baby-centered focus of these activities and all the mothers' lives (including her own). When she has second and third children, she comes to realize that this kind of baby narcissism is no longer feasible. That means her experience changes, and also means that her firstborn's childhood is very different than the other kids', in ways both good and bad.
Wilson is thoughtful and can write a good story. She's smart and self-reflective, even fairly honest. Those are the characteristics that make this a worthy book of the bittersweet moments of parenting.
A few days ago my wife walked into our living room and tossed this book on the coffee table, it sliding down to meet my feet, and she said "thank you", with a smile that read `honesty' plastered across her face. The "thank you" she uttered was because, a few weeks ago, I handed her this book as we were getting on a plane. Being pregnant with baby number two has not been the easiest time in the world for my wife. Her first pregnancy was spectacular. She was never sick, always feeling fresh and happy, so much so that she would make comments like "I wish I could stay pregnant forever". She was in heaven. This pregnancy has been a complete 180. She is sick every night, always feeling run down and tired and depressed. She has been stressing over getting older, feeling as though being a mother is going to take away her youth.
I thought that this would help. Thankfully it did.
With her approval and strong recommendation (and the fact that I needed to read it before I could review it), I pried open this book and sunk my teeth in, and I never wanted to stop. I gobbled up every page as quickly as they came. I was so absorbed in this little book because it was SO true.
I think I should state right off that I am a VERY hands-on dad. Ever since my wife got pregnant with baby number one, I have read every parenting book she had. I attended all the classes willingly. I am in charge of bedtimes. I give the baths. Basically, when I come home from work, that baby (now nearly 3) is mine. Being a father is something that I have always known I wanted, and it is something I have never taken for granted. So, when reading this book I knew exactly what Amy was talking about, because I am just as much a `mother' and my wife.
I will also say that I was no where near as panicky about being `perfect' as my wife was, but I know exactly what Amy is referring to, because I've seen it.
The lovely thing about `When Did I Get Like This?' is that it is honest. Amy Wilson is not trying to create an image of herself that is holier than thou. She is not trying to tell you how to be a mother. She is just trying to help you see that the best mothers are the ones who learn, over time, to relax. As a parent, you are always going to want what is best for your child, and so that usually means that you sink your teeth way too far into what the media and your parents and your friends have to say about parenting. You often feel like a failure when you see another mother doing something you deem better than what you are doing instead of realizing that being a good mother (or a good parent in general) is about so much more than feeding them organic foods and making sure they get into the `right' pre-school.
But, as Amy so brilliantly proves, worrying is a big (and very important) part of a mothers job.
Written in a way that is humorous, engaging and relatable, `When Did I Get Like This?' is one of the best reads I've encountered in a while. It is breezy and very easy to get into. I also want to say that this is a book I strongly recommend for any mother-to-be. I remember when my wife was pregnant with baby number one. We were so excited. We saw nothing to be anxious or worried about. We saw her pregnancy as meaning one thing; a beautiful (hopefully healthy) baby. I wish that someone would have warned us that breastfeeding was going to be so difficult. I wish that we would have known that our little bundle of joy was going to scream like a demon when we put her down. I wish that someone would have informed us that it's important to develop your own pace and your own parenting style, being sure to listen to those who have been through it, but remembering always to take every ounce of advice with a grain of salt.
I wish Amy Wilson had written this book 3 years ago!
I was recently privileged to read Amy Wilson's excellent new exploration of modern middle-class motherhood, "When Did I Get Like This? The Screamer, the Worrier, the Dinosaur-Chicken-Nugget-Buyer and Other Mothers I Swore I'd Never Be" by New York actress-turned-writer Amy Wilson.
Rather than the typical, slightly whiny attacks on the "cult of motherhood" or attached parenting I have come to expect in these sorts of books, this one was amazingly personal and authentic. Amy Wilson is funny, to be sure, but in a heart-warming sort of way. She doesn't really advocate for any particular view or theory of parenting, but addresses many aspects of modern motherhood in balanced, storytelling sort of way that made me feel by the end of the book that she'd become one of my close women friends with whom I chat about this sort of thing all the time.
She starts out the book with three chapters on pregnancy - getting pregnant/fertility issues, diet during pregnancy and birth/birth plans. They are just lovely chapters, touching on the stress mothers face over trying to control and plan events that are ultimately out of our control - when, how and in what state of health our new babies will arrive. Yes, there are many things we can do to influence this - healthy diets, Bradley classes, prenatal care, etc. But giving oneself up to pregnancy and labor is a big part of learning that life with children will never be entirely in our control in the way that college-educated, middle class career women have come to think everything should be.
As a lactation educator, I was nervous wading into her chapter on breastfeeding, "Nipple Confusion." But the words I slightly wept through were some of the most balanced, authentic and moving I have ever read on the experience. She is not "anti-formula" or a "breastfeeding nazi," but simply recounts her confusion, her fear, her own experience and her "successful" outcome. She offers not any sort of "guidebook" but a recognition that breastfeeding is a learning experience that women need support and information. She doesn't sugar-coat the experience, but acknowledges that it is worth it in the end if you can find support and pull it off.
After this, Wilson takes us through the worlds of reflux, yelling at our kids, talking about bodies with kids, preschool applications, calling girls "pretty," husbands and childcare duties, lying (to kids and by kids), flying with children, developmental issues, the debate over "crying it out," and more. I didn't always agree with her (in that she didn't always do things "my way") but I found myself with such a healthy respect for her agonized decision-making and her journey, which is really what it's all about. Ironically, she never talks about feeding her kids chicken nuggets (or if she did, it wasn't a particularly memorable part of the book).
She definitely is writing for women in their mid to late 30s, with references to her "My Friend, Mandy" doll (I had a "My Friend, Jenny, myself). And even though her trevails over being chosen by a preschool in New York are quite different than my choosing a preschool in California, you can still relate to her hunger to find the "right fit" for her child and her stress over laying out her family and parenting to be judged by others. A particular treat was her reference to the excellent "Gesell Child Development" series in her "Disequilibrium" chapter dealing with the times we don't want to talk about when we don't always like our kids, as much as we love them.
on March 21, 2013
I could really relate to this woman. Her stories of bringing up 3 kids in NYC can resonate with mothers everywhere. I am kind of a cynic but this was one of the only books that has made me outwardly chuckle and laugh.
on June 24, 2011
For me, being a stay-at-home mom can be a rather isolating experience. It's very easy to feel like I'm the only mother in the world losing her temper, getting frustrated, and struggling with constant guilt as I try to raise my children to be productive, independent adults. So, finding this book was like finding a best friend, as Amy Wilson's two older children are the same age as mine and she sounds a lot like me (ie, perfectionist, Type A personality, etc). It was a great, highly entertaining read by a very, very talented writer.
Several other reviewers have commented on how true this book is when it comes to raising one's children. I agree completely. I can take care of 16 toddlers ages 18 months to 3 years in a Nursery class for two hours a week, teach a lesson, do singing time, help all the kids do a craft, and handle toddler conflicts all without losing my cool. Yet, when at home with my two young children, they can push my buttons to the point of insanity within a matter of seconds. This may sound odd, but I actually found it really comforting to know that I'm not the only woman out there whose "Bold Mommy"--to use Wilson's terminology--has ever thrown a shoe at the wall out of sheer frustration. :D
Overall, this book is very honest and open and I love that. There is zero pretense and Amy Wilson makes no attempt whatsoever to hide her foibles or paint herself as "perfect". I know far too many women who portray themselves as perfect mothers, so it was fantastic to read a book by someone who is down-to-earth and not afraid to show that she is as human and imperfect as I am.
As I mentioned previously, the writing is absolutely wonderful. For me, it is on a par with the visually descriptive writing talents of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. There is also a hilariously sarcastic and self-deprecating tone that really appeals to my sense of humor. Amy's description of her weekend with "Penny the Pig" was one of many highlights and rather accurately describes the insane lengths to which many of us perfectionist-type mothers will go for one of our children's class projects.
Anyway, this is an awesome book and one that I very highly recommend. It is a great way to laugh at one's own parenting flaws as well as the day-to-day craziness of motherhood. Get it, read it, enjoy it. :)
on November 24, 2012
I read this book at the right time and was very thankful. Even though some reviewers commented on her having money, the overall issues that all mothers deal with are there. I prefer this over some similar books I've read. It does a good job of making you laugh and making you empathize.
As the mom of a 6 year old, I can completely relate to the author's constant worry over "getting it right" for her children, when it comes to activities or events where there are enormous expectations put on the parents (usually the mom). For example, when her son was named "Person of the Week," the class pig (stuffed animal) was sent home to spend the weekend with their family, and the entire visit was to be documented in a giant scrapbook. The scrapbook was already full of adventures from all of the other families, since the author's son was the last person on the schedule to have the "Person of the Week" honor and the aforementioned pig visit. I would have done exactly the same thing as the author, struggling to come up with a visually-exciting portrayal of an awesome weekend for the pig, which was actually during a rainy weekend with no plans. As a parent, you want things to be right for your child, from the big, obvious things down to the ridiculous.....for example, the night before "Show & Tell" at our house is a little stressful for me because I want him to have something that the kids think is cool and something that my son is excited about, and that they can take turns playing with (one of the requirements in his class). I end up feeling like a political campaign manager, trying to maneuver my pint-sized candidate through the pitfalls of public life! And I am thrilled to know that I am not the only one, since Amy Wilson so vividly related her similar feelings and experiences in this very entertaining book.
I wanted to read this book because I saw myself in the title right away: it was dead-on, right down to buying those darn Dinosaur Chicken Nuggets, which I have to admit to doing once (OK, maybe twice). I expected this book to be funny, just based on the title alone, and it absolutely was both amusing and laugh-out-loud funny. What was surprising about this book was that, amidst all of the entertaining stories about motherhood, the author bravely pulled back the curtain to let us see (and feel) another dimension of motherhood: the anxiety, pain, and frustration that sometimes take over in between the moments of joy and hilarity. For example, she takes us through the agonizing waiting game of trying to get pregnant (the hard way, with fertility problems), right down to taking multiple home pregnancy tests that were all positive and STILL driving herself crazy with worry that it might somehow be a mistake. Then waiting for the call from the fertility specialist's office for confirmation that she was pregnant, only to get a hard-to-interpret message that she and her husband agonized over, listening to replay after replay, parsing the words and concentrating on the tone of voice, desperately trying to determine if it meant she was or was not pregnant. There were no laughs here, it was raw emotion. I felt like I wasn't just reading the story, but that I was part of the story, riding the emotional rollercoaster with them, and feeling thrilled and exhilarated when they finally DID achieve pregnancy.
I have to not only recommend this if YOU are a Mom at any stage, but I'd also recommend giving it as a gift to other Moms and Grandma's. It is such an enjoyable read, and not just for the amusement factor, but because of the truth and heart behind the smiles. Refreshingly candid, honest, funny, and just plain delightful.
Amy Wilson has written a funny memoir about being a mother, and a not very relaxed one at that. I've read lots of parenting guides -- some guide books, others memoirs. This I would put under advice book, specifically -- lighten up on yourself a bit -- and I would say it's one of the more enjoyable of the genre. Wilson excels at depicting the worry that parents feel once they have little beings they're responsible for, and her anecdotes go for the universal -- trying not to show favoritism, the profound changes that come with becoming a parent , making decisions that will affect your child's life, etc. She does this with great humor, fine writing, and a sympathetic point of view. She seems to be a fine mom, and is a terrific author. Very funny. Very human.
on July 5, 2014
Amy Wilson's memoir of motherhood is extremely funny. Some of the chapters had me laughing out loud, expecially the one, about husbands taking care of children. It is unfortunate, that she felt the need to drop an ugly swear word from time to time.
on December 22, 2011
This is the best (nonfiction) most real book I have read in a very long time. It fully deserves to be on a best seller list, and I am very critical of books. As a mom of 3, I could relate to something, if not everything, in every chapter. Hilarious, off beat, witty, and most of all TRUE. Amy Wilson makes the reader feel as though every crazy thought they have had as a mother is normal (and usually it is!), and most of all, that you are not alone in this crazy thing of motherhood (or fatherhood!). A must read for any mom, particularly any mom with more than 1 child.