WMST-L logo

Books Helpful to Housebound New Mothers

What follows are recommendations for books that housebound new
mothers may find helpful, along with some suggested strategies
for coping with the situation.  This discussion took place on
WMST-L in May 2003.  For additional WMST-L files available on the
Web, see the WMST-L File Collection.
Date: Mon, 12 May 2003 13:14:34 -0400
From: Betsy Keller <elkeller AT EROLS.COM>
Subject: books helpful to housebound new mother?
I'd love some recommendations of books, either fiction or non, that
might be helpful to one of my students. She is at home with a new baby
and a toddler, new to the area and doesn't know people, stuck out in
suburbia in a big new house, and suffering post-partum depression. She
had previously worked full-time, and I get the impression she misses her
job and feels a bit lost without it. I thought that some books in which
women talk about similar experiences could help her see she isn't the
first one to confront this situation. I have thought of the Yellow
Wallpaper, The Awakening, The Women's Room... Do folks have
recommendations for other books that address the isolation and
frustration of the housebound mother?

Many thanks in advance for any ideas!

Betsy Keller
elkeller  AT  erols.com
Date: Mon, 12 May 2003 13:37:42 EDT
From: Darlene Furey <KAOSX5 AT AOL.COM>
Subject: Re: books helpful to housebound new mother?
tillie olsen- I stand here ironing
Date: Mon, 12 May 2003 11:00:32 -0700
From: misia <misia_sert AT YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Re: books helpful to housebound new mother?
I'd wholeheartedly recommend a new book called "Mother Shock: Loving
Every (Other) Minute Of It," by Andrea Buchanan.  It's out from Seal
Press, new this spring, and is a collection of short essays that deal
with motherhood from the perspective that there is an experience of
"mother shock" that is much like the experience of "culture shock" one
goes through when one moves one's life to a foreign country or cultural
situation.  It's funny, feisty, feminist, approachable, and Buchanan
has been through several of the situations your student is now dealing
with and addresses them specifically.

Best wishes to her -- and to you for being such a thoughtful friend and

Hanne Blank
Hanne Blank, writer / editor
hanne  AT  hanne.net
misia_sert  AT  yahoo.com

Date: Mon, 12 May 2003 14:05:30 -0400
From: Mary Catherine Moran <mcm2101 AT COLUMBIA.EDU>
Subject: Re: books helpful to housebound new mother?
I recommend Rachel Cusk's _A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother_ .  It's
smart, serious, satirical, and devastatingly honest.

Mary Catherine Moran
mcm2101  AT  columbia.edu
Date: Mon, 12 May 2003 14:11:46 -0400
From: J Biddle <jbiddle2 AT cox.net>
Subject: Re: books helpful to housebound new mother?

Besides suggesting some books for your student, how about suggesting
that she get herself out of the house, and that she connect with others
who have children who are the same age as her toddler.

Sometimes people who work full time/part time, or who may be
unaccustomed to caring for children in their homes, or who don't spend
time in their homes or neighborhoods, etc..., often fail to make
connections with neighbors and other people who have children who are
similar in age to their children until at least pre-school, or
Kindergarten. Sometimes, the first connections with others in the
neighborhood occurs only when children go to preschool, or to Kindergarten.

If your student lives in a neighborhood in which there are other
families, she should consider getting herself out of the house, put the
kids in a stroller, and start taking walks around the neighborhood at
different times of day. It's spring--people are outside, walking,
gardening, looking for other people who may have moved in during the
winter, looking for connections to neighbors......

A good time to start would be around the time that the school buses go
around to pick up children in the morning. Even better, go out when the
Kindergarten bus comes around, if there's also a separate bus for
Kindergarten children.

Such a time is when many mothers are out at the bus stops with their
children, and often, mothers of younger children have other young children.

This time is a good time to begin to network with other mothers in the
neighborhood. Your student may find that there are possibilities for
walking partners (you can walk with strollers), play companions for the
toddlers, moms socialize at book club discussion groups, babysitting
co-ops, LaLeche League, the local pool, church, etc. All of these
opportunities exist "out there" and can provide various support networks
into which your student can connect with others.

There are numerous possibilities/opportunities "out there" for
connecting with other people who may have children the same age as her
children, and who may even share some of her interests.

As for books, I personally would suggest emphasizing connections with
other people instead of increasing the focus inward. If she continues to
feel depressed, she should seek out a therapist and discuss her feelings.

Life with a couple of small ones can be challenging. It can also be a
lot of fun. Children are often the link that young mothers have to other
mothers. I'm sure that if your student gets out into her neighborhood,
she'll find other people who she can talk with, and who have had similar
experiences. People in new neighborhoods are usually eager to find out
who their neighbors are. I expect that she'll find other people who are
also looking forward to meeting her.

I wish her success.


Joan I. Biddle Ph.D.
LTC, USAR (ret)
jbiddle2  AT  cox.net
joan.biddle  AT  us.army.mil
Date: Mon, 12 May 2003 14:16:54 -0400
From: Jennifer Harris <jharris AT yorku.ca>
Subject: Re: housebound/mother + bibliotherapy
Hi Betsy,

I will admit to being amused by the three books you name: the protagonist
goes mad in one and kills herself in another, the third I don't know. It
reminds me of the time I had a depressed housemate who--out of all the books
on my shelf--picked up The Bell Jar. There has to be an alternative, and yet
oddly enough, when I combed my bookshelves, and came across very few novels
that dealt with the situation you describe in a way that might not further
contribute to one's depression. Kaye Gibbon's _Sights Unseen_ is possibly

"Bibliotherapy" as a practice akin to art therapy is a growing field. See:

A google search of bibliotherapy +partum on google resulted in a number of
links which I unfortunately didn't have time to investigate. DO other people
on the list have knowledge in this area or access to appropriate resources?

All the best,
Jennifer Harris
jharris  AT  yorku.ca
Date: Mon, 12 May 2003 12:03:31 -0700
From: Elizabeth Say <elizabeth.say AT CSUN.EDU>
Subject: Re: books helpful to housebound new mother?
Adrienne Rich's classic, Of Woman Born
Date: Mon, 12 May 2003 13:09:13 -0600
From: "Grotzky, Marilyn" <Marilyn.Grotzky AT CUDENVER.EDU>
Subject: Re: books helpful to housebound new mother?
It might be a good idea to choose some strengthening books with upbeat
endings or just some of the list's favorite books about women.  One of
my students recommended Ms.ery, which is an old book of cartoons about
needing a women's movement and then having one.  She's a single mother
with a toddler and recognized some of the "mother" situations.

"The Fabric of the Future" is an anthology of women envisioning the
future.  It's interesting to have something new to think about while
you work at home, especially when you are trying not to think about
other things. I enjoyed "Perfection Salad," about the rise of domestic
science -- some of it is very funny and it does a nice job of showing
us the culture in which the suffragists lived.  "Hope's Edge" (Lappe
and Lappe) is a story of travel and adventure (non-fiction) that
reminds us of the importance of our choices, especially in terms of
the food we buy and eat, and offers a lot of hope as well as some
heroes of both sexes.  (The Lappes are a mother and daughter team.)
There are classics, like "Century of Struggle" and "The Chalice and
the Blade" that offer hope along with history and gateways into new
paths of thinking.  "The Root of This Longing" has glimpses of a
number of spiritual pathways.  What about "In Search of Our Mother's
Gardens" and Georgeanne Brennan's boo!  k about kitchen gardens?  It's
the season for it.

Many books are available through libraries and others are available
online second hand.  If you can find a copy of the first edition of
"Laurel's Kitchen," the introduction is very encouraging about the
importance of being at home.  Since the authors teach and write and
are involved in a community (one is a nurse), they often appeal to
both women at home and women who work, though perhaps not to all

I teach research paper writing part-time, and my students are amazed
at how much they can learn about something in less than a semester.
This may turn out to be one of the most productive periods and happy
periods of this young woman's life -- a time when there is some time
to find new things and let them connect her to other women and lead
her along paths she's never considered.

Good luck to your student.
Marilyn Grotzky
Auraria Library
Denver, CO 80214
Date: Mon, 12 May 2003 16:35:24 -0400
From: aoreilly AT YORKU.CA
Subject: Re: books helpful to housebound new mother?

In addition to the several books recommended I would add (i am
working away from my office so only have incomplete information;
my apologies). _The Mask of Motherhood_, _Misconceptions_, _Naked
Motherhood (by Australian Wendy Leblanc by Random, difficult to
get in States but worth the search). The New book A Potent Spell
By Smith...and for memoirs or novels: Laurance _Fire Dwellers_,
The Mother Knot,. Also The Journal of the Association for
Research on Mothering published an issue on Becoming a Mother.
Please visit www.yorku.ca/crm

Most important to all new mothers is to find a community of
like-minded new moms. I know there are many such groups through
the US. ARM has links with many of them; see above website. Also,
many moms find/sustain community through associations or virtual

If your student is interested in more information, have her visit
the ARM website or email me directly. In my position of presient
of ARM i speak to many many scholars of motherhood and many more
mothers. I would be happy to share with her any information I or
ARM has.


andrea oreilly aoreilly  AT  yorku.ca
Date: Mon, 12 May 2003 20:25:47 EDT
From: Maureen Reddy <MTRRI AT AOL.COM>
Subject: Re: books helpful to housebound new mother?
Hi Betsy and Listmates,
I love Jane Lazarre's THE MOTHER KNOT (memoir; also mentioned by Andrea
(philosophy/women's studies). Several years ago, I co-edited with Martha Roth
and Amy Sheldon an anthology of pieces about mothering called MOTHER
useful, as it contains a large number of pieces in lots of genres--cartoons,
poetry, short fiction, essay, memoir--from many different perspectives, life
stages, etc.
Maureen Reddy
Date: Tue, 13 May 2003 00:27:05 -0400
From: Emily Regan Wills <emily.wills AT YALE.EDU>
Subject: Re: books helpful to housebound new mother?
No one's mentioned the work of Ariel Gore yet.  I don't know how
relevant it is to your student's context, but I have a close friend
(unmarried, gave birth at 19, on welfare) who swears by her work.  Her
website, www.HipMama.org, is a good place to start; she also has
written "guides" to motherhood and pregnancy, and has edited a book or


Emily Regan Wills
Political Action Coordinator, Yale Women's Center
emily.wills  AT  yale.edu
Women's Center Telephone: (203)432-0388
Date: Tue, 13 May 2003 06:24:18 -0400
From: Kimberly Simmons <kcs AT MAINE.RR.COM>
Subject: Re: books helpful to housebound new mother?
I really appreciated Christina Baker Kline's edited anthology called :
Child of Mine. Lots of easy to read, very honest snippets about the
transition to mothering -- I used to hide in the shower with a pint of
ben and jerrys and the book, hoping my partner and my infant could last
45 minutes without nursing.   There is a huge cultural emphasis on
attachment parenting that can be hard to sort out -- I found the blurb
in Our Bodies Ourselves that said, very clearly, women need adult lives
to thrive a useful counter-balance to the messages that I should carry
my daughter 24-hours a day.  Still, it is complicated, and to that end,
the book The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood is useful for
understanding the mixed messages that we get -- I would be interested
in a feminist analysis of the new book on the history of parenting as
well.  Although Misconceptions was not my favorite book, it sounds like
it could be very resonant for your student.  I also would suggest an
on-line community -- I like the Salon.com discussion boards on
mothering, myself.

It seems to me to be very useful to provide analysis of and information
about the transition to motherhood in our classes, as it is a place
where so many of us get stuck in figuring out how to live our feminist
lives and what it means to be feminist mothers or what the variety of
ways there are to mother and also remain a person-in-the-world.  I feel
for your student.  However, as Joan said, eventually babies get older,
people leave there house, make friends, try babysitters, insist on more
help from their partners, get jobs, etc .  Nevertheless, it would be so
much better if we were not each inventing the wheel for ourselves in
our own isolated homes.

Kimberly Simmons, PhD
kcs  AT  maine.rr.com
Date: Tue, 13 May 2003 09:27:43 -0400
From: Jackie <jackie78 AT LOCALNET.COM>
Subject: Re: WMST-L Digest - 10 May 2003 to 12 May 2003 (#2003-123)
I'd like to second the recommendation of Andrea Buchanan's "Mother Shock"
and also add everything Ariel Gore has written/ edited: "The mother Trip,"
The Hip Mama's Guide to Motherhood," the anthology "Breeder," and also her
latest "Atlas of the Human Heart."  They've been very helpful for this
feminist/stay-at-home mama/working part-time for pay mama.  There are
definitely organizations out there to help her meet other mothers (Mothers
and More is one that comes to mind, with national chapters and a website)
but having books around is helpful for new mothers who need something
encouraging and reassuring that they can dip into during their (rare!) spare

Jackie Regales
Instructor, American Studies/ Humanities
Anne Arundel Community College
Arnold, Maryland
Date: Tue, 13 May 2003 11:41:28 -0400
From: Adrienne McCormick <McCormic AT FREDONIA.EDU>
Subject: housebound mother
Also check out www.hipmama.com as a way to connect with other mothers
while in the house...during naps, after bedtime, whenever you need to.

Seal Press has lots of good stuff on mothering in general. I especially
like work by Ariel Gore (one of the website's founders...book may also
be titled Hip Mama, and gives survival strategies for mothering, and for
single motherhood in particular) and Ayun Halliday (_The Big Rumpus_
especially, which is a look at having a second child, publishing a zine,
and finding humor and joy in bucking traditional definitions of family
and motherhood).

Adrienne McCormick
SUNY Fredonia
Date: Wed, 14 May 2003 07:45:20 +1200
From: Andy Williamson & Ruth DeSouza <andy AT wairua.co.nz>
Subject: Re: books helpful to housebound new mother?
Hi Betsy and list members

I am heartened by the responses of list members to your query. I am a mental
health nurse (among other things!) and have begun compiling resources on my
website with regard to "Maternal mental health" and I wondered if there
might be some resources on the site that might be useful to your student and
whether I could add the book suggestions to the site. You can view it at:

I've worked mainly with women with perinatal distress as part of a
specialist community mental health team, but my sister has recently been in
a similar predicament to your student and I think the helpful suggestions of
list members will be useful to her as well.

Warm regards, Ruth
Date: Tue, 13 May 2003 16:00:50 -0500
From: "Kathleen (Kate) Waits" <kwaits AT UTULSA.EDU>
Subject: books helpful to housebound new mother?
Okay, I can't help myself.  Maybe she needs to consider going back to

If she and her husband can afford to live in a big house in the suburbs,
then presumably they can afford some  quality daycare.  Some people just
aren't cut out to be stay-at-home parents.  And, as discussed in
Sunday's NY Times Op Ed page, children of women who work in the paid
labor force do just fine.

Further, some women don't especially enjoy newborns.  I make no bones
about the fact that I find babies pretty boring.  I also don't care for
their depedence.  Give me a surly teenager over a newborn any day.  (My
kids are now 17 and 14, so I can speak with some authority on this
subject.)  It's AMAZING how many women agree with me (often with
comments like, "Yeah, infancy wasn't my favorite stage either") once I
suggest that I prefer older, more verbal, more independent children.

As has been mentioned, this society isolates stay-at-home moms.  But
this woman is much more isolated than average,  because she's a
stay-at-home without pre-existing friends in the area.  Not to
trivialize post-partum depression - from which I myself suffered - but
maybe it's the isolation, fatigue and stress that's depressing her.  She
may also want to consider short-term therapy, including possible drug
therapy, for the post-partum depression.

One final point: this story raised a bit of a red flag with me that her
husband may be very controlling.  (My field of expertise is domestic
violence.)  I'm NOT, NOT, NOT saying that he IS an abuser.  But
isolation is a key tactic that abusers use.  And abused women often
suffer, understandably, from depression.  I would be especially
concerned if she says something like, "My husband thinks I need to stay
at home with the kids," in response to an inquiry about her returning to
paid employment.

Hopefully our intrepid moderator will not consider this response too off
topic.    I suspect that any responses should be directed to resources,
etc directly related to women's studies' responses to the issues under

Kate Waits
U. of Tulsa College of Law


Kathleen (Kate) Waits
Coordinator, Women's Studies Program
University of Tulsa

Associate Professor
University of Tulsa College of Law
3120 East 4th Place
Tulsa, Oklahoma  74104-2499

918-631-2450 (voice)
918-631-2194 (FAX)

E-mail: kwaits  AT  utulsa.edu

Date: Sat, 24 May 2003 16:02:33 -0400
From: Georgia NeSmith <georgia_nesmith AT LYCOS.COM>
Subject: Re: books helpful to housebound new mother
I'm a bit late in responding to this query, but I just came across this
resource today while doing a search for potential publication markets
for my non-academic writing on Writers Market online
(http:www.writersmarket.com). Apparently there is a new magazine (begun
in 1999) called _Brain, Child_, described as follows in the intro on
the magazine's web site at


 >>Brain, Child is a quarterly print publication that reflects modern
motherhood-the way it really is. It's been called "The New Yorker for
cheeky mothers" and "a literary time-out for moms." We like to think of
Brain, Child as a community, for and by mothers who like to think about
what raising kids does for (and to) the mind and soul.

Brain, Child isn't your typical parenting magazine. We couldn't
cupcake-decorate our way out of a paper bag. We leave the tips and
professional experts to the traditional publications. What we do offer
are words from women in the field: mothers (who also happen to be great
writers) like Barbara Kingsolver, Jane Smiley, Alice Hoffman, and Susan
Cheever. Each issue is full of essays, features, humor, reviews,
fiction, art, cartoons, and our readers' own stories.

Our philosophy is pretty simple: Motherhood is worthy of literature.
And there are a lot of ways to mother, all of them interesting. We're
proud to have published articles and essays that are smart,
down-to-earth, sometimes funny, and sometimes poignant. <<

I liked enough of what I saw to make a birthday gift subscription of it
for my daughter, who is expecting her fourth in October.

Writers guidelines are at


Georgia NeSmith, Ph.D.
Rochester, NY
georgia_nesmith  AT  lycos.com

Website Directory at http://georgia_nesmith.tripod.com
More Than Words - Communications Consulting
Georgia NeSmith - Writer, Artist, Photographer
The Healthy Eaters Club

For information about WMST-L

WMST-L File Collection

Top Of Page