Debunks the concept of "maternal instinct" and tells a new story about what it means to become a parent. Chelsea Conaboy delves into neuroscience to reveal unexpected upsides, generations of scientific neglect, and a powerful new narrative of parenthood.
While Conaboy’s impetus for writing Mother Brain was to understand her experience, there is also a strong political message ... While postwar parents revelled in the 'trust yourself' mantra of Benjamin Spock and anxious Gen-Xers found comfort in William and Martha Sears’s all-breastfeeding attachment parenting, Mother Brain feels like a book that will inspire today’s new parents: socially alert, inclusive, kind. There are places where the science is still evolving, but Conaboy at least promises a new route through the parenting wilds.
This book contains a lot of complex research findings, and in general, Conboy does a good job of presenting it. So, will women find it interesting and helpful in understanding their experience of becoming a mother? Some will. But this 261-page book, with a further 71 pages of references, is not for the faint-hearted. The biggest problem is that the book is needlessly long. She devotes an entire chapter to debunking the myth of the maternal instinct, something that could have been done in a few pages — and then for good measure revisits it again in another chapter. The last four chapters of the book are meandering and sometimes repetitive, and whatever new information or insights they contain could have been easily integrated into earlier chapters. Conversely, there is quite a lot of information about fathers scattered across the book that merited a separate chapter ... In the preface, Conaboy discloses that her original intention was to write an essay about her own realisation of motherhood as a developmental stage. But then, as she delved into the research on the parental brain, to use her own word, she was 'hooked' and unfortunately it shows. A little bit of distancing from the research and a lot of editing would have made this a better, more readable, and useful book.
... illuminating ... Conaboy’s detailed research and eye-opening myth-busting add up to a cogent argument that 'all human adults... are fundamentally changed by the act of parenting.' Surprising and enlightening, this should be required reading for all caregivers.