Your pregnancy test has revealed a telling little blue cross. You celebrate; you panic; or perhaps you simply smile secretly to yourself. But regardless, if you’re like most women, the next thing you do is go searching for information and parenting advice. Fortunately, you’re spoiled for choice.
Want to read a book? The ‘Parenting’ category on Amazon.com at last count contained 33,955 titles. If you read a book a day, that would be 93 years of reading material. Want to consult a website? There are thousands to choose from.
But what if most common sources of information about navigating pregnancy were fundamentally flawed? What if they were peddling advice that was at best anecdotal, or worse, factually incorrect? What if they were riddled with myths, confidently presented as fact?
When I became pregnant with my first son, I started reading parenting books. Like most parents-to-be, I was full of naive enthusiasm – by studying up, I’d be able to help my children reach their maximum potential, avoid classic parenting pitfalls, and maintain a semblance of my former life. Unfortunately, disillusionment set in quickly. Here are my top complaints about typical parenting information:
- Unsupported by evidence: Most parenting books and websites make unsupported statements, or reference ‘studies’ or ‘research’ without providing any citations. Conventional wisdom runs rampant in the field of parenting.
- Not actionable: On the other hand, the books that do offer high quality factual information are often those that are the least practical in providing recommendations on what parents should actually do.
- Lacking context: Parenting books rarely put risks into context – what’s truly dangerous, vs. just slightly risky? How does the risk compare to something like driving in a car? And if I choose to ignore the advice, what trade-off am I actually making?
- Unnecessarily lengthy: Most books devote pages and pages to the ‘softer side’ of parenting – the challenges, emotions and struggles. This type of reading can be extremely valuable, and I personally benefited from much of the advice on how to cope with the changes of pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood. But I was also frustrated at the difficulty of finding the nuggets of factual information buried within all of this empathetic prose. Most of us don’t have time to spare, and I was always wishing I could buy the CliffsNotes.
Unsatisfied, I decided to research the answers to some common parenting topics myself. We live in an era of unprecedented access to information, and I soon realized that on Google scholar, anyone can read studies which just a few years ago would have been accessible only via a visit to a university library. But even in this new information age, I was wading through large amounts of irrelevant information and often paying for access to various articles before finding what I was looking for. It therefore occurred to me that if I were doing the research anyway, I should share it more widely with others who might be like me. I would write a series of books designed for parents with a desire for factual information. I chose pregnancy as my first topic – why not begin at the beginning. So here I offer up parenting book number 33,956.