6 Books About Motherhood that Aren’t All About Motherhood

 

Whitney Popa

Whitney Popa is a Communications Consultant and mom of two toddlers. She lives where the mountains meet the sea right outside of Seattle. Her goal this year is to read 35 books.

I am a lifetime reader. The ritual of crawling into bed, opening a book, and feeling my eyes get heavy is the only way I can fall asleep. Books have given me a safe place to land when the world feels too heavy, they’ve taken me to new worlds, and they’ve taught me pretty much anything I could dream of learning. I love the smell of them, the weight of them, the artistry of them. Drop me off at a library or bookstore and I’d give you barely a glace over my shoulder as I run inside to #learnallthethings. It should come as no surprise, then, that I majored in English.

But I don’t love just books. I love SO many mediums: magazines, podcasts, social media, terrible and delicious reality TV shows. When those things started getting in the way of my books, I decided it was time to start forcing myself to give my books the attention they deserved, so I gave myself a measurable yearly reading goal. This is my fourth year actively measuring myself against a book number. It’s also my fourth year as a mommy.

When I started my yearly reading goals, I was mostly resistant to “parenting” books because I, like many new mothers, had so many people providing unsolicited commentary on my body, my baby, his body, and our assumed parenting choices. My book time was precious—I didn’t want it invaded with more big, unsolicited opinions. I was careful about what I picked up and added to my stack. I wanted my books to entertain or educate me. I was even more excited if they did both. So, when it comes to reading about motherhood, I’m looking for relatable stories, science that validates the universal mommy experience, and a general sense that I’m not alone.

This list is the output of reading more than 100 books over the past four years. I hope they make you feel seen, celebrated, and perfect just as you are, wherever you are on your path in parenthood. They are highly feminist and written by women I admire. Motherhood is messy and it’s beautiful and I’m so happy I get to share it with you.

If this list resonates with you, I track my favorite books in real time here. I’d love to chat about them with you.


1

Like a Mother by Angela Garbes

Ever wondered how and why your body grows an entire new organ to support your baby? From breast milk to wine intake and everything in between, Angela is your girl.

$18

Current motherhood culture is a constant barrage of information and opinions, often unsolicited. This book, written by a food and culture columnist in Seattle, marries science-based research with personal memoir and deep curiosity. I found it fascinating and validating and unabashedly feminist. If you were ever curious about things like how breast milk changes to give your baby the EXACT nutrients he/she needs, how any type of birth is a natural birth (medically intervened or otherwise), or how medicine needs to catch up with women's health, this is the book for you.

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2

This Is How It Always Is: A Novel by Laurie Frankel

What do you do when your son becomes your daughter?

$12

Our children tell us who they are from the moment they start growing in our bellies. I am a firm believer in listening. This story of a family of four children born male, with one who transitions to female, is full of nuance, heart, and complexity. Written by an author raising a trans daughter, it is uniquely relevant reading for today's cultural moment.

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3

Dear Girls by Ali Wong

An absolutely hilarious look at life and motherhood from one of the country's hottest comediennes.

$24

Ali Wong has LIVED and she's telling her girls all about it in a series of letters that are laugh-out-loud funny. This is an easy read full of stories from Ali's past and mis-adventures parenting in the present. If you've ever changed a blow out in a parking lot while wearing a post-partum pad, you'll love this book.

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4

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Two vastly different approaches to motherhood in the same small town.

$11

There is no right way to be a mother, but there is always common ground in motherhood. This book weaves two worlds together—one of extreme privilege and one with much less. Big, big questions are explored here: how do race and privilege collide? Is motherhood by blood or by bond? How much does our past inform our futures? It is beautiful and mesmerizing and it will make you think differently about more than just motherhood.

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5

Grit by Angela Duckworth

How do we raise resilient kids?

$10

Raising resilient kids isn't the whole premise of this book, but it's an important part of it. I loved Angela's personal anecdotes, along with the challenge she's given each of her family members: to pick something hard every year and stick with it. This book is a good reminder that some of us are born grittier than others, but that persistence can be practiced and cultivated.

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6

Ordinary Insanity by Sarah Menkedick

You're not crazy. You're a mother.

$22

This is probably THE most validating book I've read on motherhood. It explores maternal health, especially post-partum and all things related to PPA and PPD, which is a big spectrum that most doctors don't understand how to diagnose, support, or appropriately treat. Prepare for it to make you feel seen and for it to make you a little angry. It's also a strong reminder that we are our own best advocates.

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