Long Days, Short Years: A Cultural History of Modern Parenting

MIT. Aug. 2022. 184p. ISBN 9780262047159. $22.95. CHILD REARING
Physician Bomback’s (medicine, Columbia Univ. Coll. of Physicians and Surgeons) work on modern parenthood takes on many prevalent topics, including economic anxiety, social pressures, and the tension between careers and family life. His narrative also reveals the internal pressures that parents face to become the best they can be in that role, while recognizing the limits of their resources, patience, and personalities. With a somewhat loose organizational structure, this book by Bomback (the author of essay collection Doctor) covers the history of parenting advice, including the formidable Dr. Spock, the divisive and physician-criticized On Becoming Babywise (a Christianity-based guide to infant sleep training), and more recent works by the likes of economist Emily Oster and journalist Pamela Druckerman. Bomback also shares stories of his own family and raising three children with his wife, also a doctor. Sections addressing gender differences in parenting expectations and the prevalence of childhood diagnoses, especially autism and attention deficit disorder, are among the most compelling.
VERDICT Though it’s difficult to parse Bomback’s writing into one neat takeaway or nugget of wisdom, his empathy and frankness shine through on each page. This book is enjoyable to read and likely to be validating for many parents of young children.
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