The Mother Dance: How Children Change Your Life by Harriet Lerner is one of my most cherished motherhood books. I purchased this book for myself during a period when I was devouring books on motherhood – not parenting, but motherhood. There were “few” books out there at the time, and motherhood with a focus on mom was one of my professional interests.
Dr. Lerner’s book is filled with honesty, humor, and an insightfulness that all mothers can relate to. While our experience of motherhood and its subsequent challenges is unique to each of us, there are some universal commonalities that Dr. Lerner identifies and brings to the forefront.
She begins the book by admitting her lack for natural mothering tendencies. She addresses the notion that having a baby changes your life forever, but Lerner goes beyond that to point out that life – as you know it – will never be the same, and there is no way to anticipate how your life is going to change. She brings up other typical, but rarely spoken of, outcomes of having children – such as childrearing issues between spouses, the changes in intimacy between you and your spouse, and how much mom’s life changes after baby and how little (often times) dad’s life changes.
In addition to the adjustment during the initial phases of parenthood, Dr. Lerner also addresses the stereotypical male and female roles, including women who return to work, and the issue of guilt in motherhood. She continues to address motherhood through children’s growing years and addresses sensitive topics such as moms who “hate their children”, step parenting, and even the empty nest.
Dr. Harriet Lerner is a fascinating woman. Her mother believed in therapy when it was not an acceptable norm, and Lerner was in therapy beginning at three-years old, deciding to become a psychologist when she was in kindergarten. She did become a psychologist and focused her work on women’s issues and family relationships. Other popular “dance” books include The Dance of Anger and The Dance of Fear.
When I read Harriet Lerner’s book – and I suspect you will as well – I felt like I was having a conversation with her. I can relate to the raw and honest, sometimes desperate feelings she shares. I felt like we could really connect should we have the opportunity for conversation. I appreciated her insight and wisdom and her ability to touch upon every parenting/mothering thought I have ever had.
The entire book is a symbol representing motherhood – that despite all the challenges and frustrations, the despair and the anxiety – there is nothing in the world that can take its place.
Lerner shares an exchange she had with her then eighteen-year old son:
“What’s your worst fear about being a parent?” she asked him. His reply? “That I’ll be like you guys”.
“Really?” Lerner inquired.
“Sure. No one wants to be like their parents.”
Her bravery to carry on the conversation impresses me.
“What do you imagine will be your greatest strength?” she asked him.
“Being like you guys. You’re pretty good parents.” was her son Ben’s answer.
I’m sharing this book with you because I have no criticism of it. The Dance of Motherhood is a book for all moms – but especially for new moms – because it is authentic, doesn’t hold back, and offers a deep understanding of the trials and tribulations of motherhood.
The reader doesn’t close the book depressed and in need of psychological help. Rather, she feels empowered, connected with other mothers, and inspired to the best – and the most real – mother she can be.
As I mentioned above, I bought this book through my own research. You can purchase her book at Amazon: