THE MOTHER DANCE by Harriet Lerner


How Children Change Your Life
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A popular psychotherapist writes with grace and striking candor about what it is like to be a mother. Lerner (The Dance of Deception, 1993, etc.) has two sons, both now grown and out of the house—but still friends with their mother and father, and with each other. That is no small accomplishment, and while Lerner gives herself and her husband (also a psychologist) appropriate credit for what they did right, she also looks back regretfully on what she did wrong. “Readers . . . [of] my other books may be surprised to learn that I can behave so badly with my own children,” she writes, a confession that is designed to give comfort to every mother who suffers from hindsight guilt. Using anecdotes from her own experience and that of colleagues and friends, Lerner looks at issues of control (“we are not in control of what happens to our children”), at the decision to have children (“a leap of faith”), at how the reality of the baby in the bassinet at home affects the relationship with a spouse (it changes, not always for the worse, but it changes). She also describes the wild extremes of emotion that many new mothers entertain, from “intense elation” to murderous rage, and roller coasters of guilt and fear. A self-styled “big worrier,” Lerner also offers advice on how to finesse worrying, power struggles, and such common mothering traps as food, sex, dress codes, and raising sons to be “mama’s boys.” How siblings develop relationships with each other and the intricate networks of extended families are other subjects she tackles. Entertaining and revealing. Lerner’s committed readers will enjoy and perhaps be reconciled to their own parenting styles from this view of her as a mother who is sometimes irrational, sometimes wise, but who loves her children “beyond words.”

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-06-018768-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1998