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Top Five Books for Frazzled Parents

FPS (Frazzled Parent Syndrome) sounds like a makey-uppy illness, but I assure you, it’s as real as the baked beans ‘picture’ smushed onto your kitchen wall or the nappy stink in your favourite tote. In the 23 seconds we get to ourselves each day, Frazzled Parents can be found in a chaotic whirlwind that is our offspring, knee-deep in their bodily fluids, wondering, mid-wipe, ‘How did I get here?’ and more to the point, ‘How do I get out of here?’ Here’s an idea: go to the bathroom, lock the door, bung in some earplugs, and read. We only have 23 seconds, so here are five readable books that use techniques, anecdotes, and hilarity to console and advise, with simple proven tips that work. Forget condescending idealism, and get some insight, compassion, and even a few laughs. 

Baby-proofing Your Marriage

A hilarious and startlingly accurate look at how kids change so many aspects of your relationship, this book examines everything from in-laws to chores, from the office to sex. The authors (two stay-at-home mothers and one working outside the home) have themselves “crash test(ed)” these small actions that yield big results. They tell it straight, with a generous and unapologetic dose of honesty (and expletives) that make so much of this book relatable and compassionate. Thankfully these authors took the time to listen to a range of fathers as well as mothers, directly quoting them on the problems they faced, and the solutions they eventually revert to in order to reclaim some shred of coupledom. But it’s mostly for the laughs that I recommend this book. The “10-o-clock shoulder tap” alone will make some of you shudder with recognition, because it’s comforting to know that yours is not the only partner who is too shattered to help you fold laundry at 9pm, but come 10 bells he has miraculously reclaimed enough energy to try initiating a spot of sport sex…

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The Manic Mum's Guide to Calm Parenting and Co-operative Kids

So you nag your kids. They keep throwing stuff on the floor and stomping on it, so you nag them some more. They throw MORE stuff and stomp... Repeat 78 times (before lunchtime) and before you know it, you’ve spiralled downward into madness and despair. The parenting rollercoaster is non-stop, but if there’s one thing you can change, says Mitchell, it’s yourself. Her method of calm parenting is called the ‘Upward Spiral’ and takes seven weeks—sounds ambitious but it’s one habit a week. Things like: knowing what your goal is, listening in a way that connects you to your child, and helping them to take responsibility for their own actions. As I say, ambitious. For the Frazzled Parent, doing something different is really tough, but the Upward Spiral is possible if you mind yourself, be kind to yourself, and focus on doing just one thing each week. To hell with perfect—Mitchell’s approach is ‘good enough most of the time’. With compassion and these techniques, you can restore your sanity and the hearing you lost due to the sound of your own voice. 

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1-2-3 Magic

Dr. Phelan’s book has been popular for two decades and counting, and with good reason—his simple counting-style technique works. Focusing on children aged 2-12 years, Phelan breaks the book into six short stages, from ‘Foundation’ through to ‘Enjoying New Family Life’. He encourages us to face two things: one, our children are not the ‘little adults’ we sometimes believe them to be; and two, the only thing standing in harmony’s way is probably us parents and our chronic inconsistency. I say the word through clenched teeth—I’m an inattentive-ADHD parent trying to guide her equally inattentive-ADHD son, so consistency is as rare as a morning lie-in with coffee that is still hot. 

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Raising Boys

An oldie but a goodie, Biddulph uses detailed real-life stories to examine the challenges particular to each gender, from early childhood to adulthood. Don’t let this author’s extensive professional experience and credentials put you off, it’s his perspective as a humble human and father that makes ‘Raising Boys’ and his other book, ‘Raising Girls’, accessible and useful. Biddulph has updated these books through the years to include, among other developments, the growing role of technology in many children’s lives. He writes with compassion and encourages us to parent similarly.

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French Children Don't Throw Food

Writing with care and attention, Paris-based American writer Druckerman gives a new parent’s observations on pregnancy, birth, and childrearing à la Française. This is a humorous but in-depth analysis of how the French tend to rear their children from newborn to full-time-school age, and the stark differences between them (relaxed, in control, enjoying a full night’s sleep…) and parents in the U.K. and U.S. Druckerman learns first hand that the French protect their own plaisir with the sort of ferocity we Anglos apply to buying the right kind of organic biodegradable nappy. French parents preserve as much of their own lives (private, professional, sexual, and of course gastronomic) as possible. Druckerman explores the phenomenon of French newborns who sleep through the night, and for this alone I would pay ten times the cover price. Next year, we are hitting Disneyland Paris, so I shall look out for for brie-munching pregnant women, relaxed mothers and fathers, et bien sûr, gastronomically adjusted children who actually eat. 

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Nothing prepares you for parenthood. It’s a battle of wills, so empower yourself, educate yourself if needed, and most of all, laugh your way back to the semblance of sanity, if only for 23 seconds.


Nicola writes web content, including pieces for the Irish Independent, SavvyAuthors.com and a dating website. She writes romantic fiction under the name Nikki Weston. She lives in Dublin, Ireland.


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