Best Parenting Books to {Laugh and Relax}

When I was pregnant with my first I read many, many parenting books. I figured that if I read enough I would have a good handle on how to raise a baby and be a good parent. (Ha!) It turned out that the more I read the more confused I became. One book would promote letting your child cry, another would highlight the long-lasting emotional effects of not tending to your baby immediately. This book would tell me to spend time nurturing myself, that book would tell me my child could only develop properly if they were with me at all times. Then after my son was born, I didn’t have the brain power left to remember what I had read anyway!

Three kids and eight years later I continue to read parenting books. Though now, instead of reading books that tell me how to raise my kids, I focus more on books that support me as a parent. When I read these I realize that I’m not alone in my struggles and I can find the humor in my mistakes.

I would love to share with you a few of my favorite parenting books. These books have helped me to laugh and relax into my role as a mother.


Buddhism for Mothers: A Calm Approach to Caring for Yourself and Your Children – Sarah Napthali:

You do not have to practice Buddhism to enjoy this book. This was one of the first books I read that was not geared toward nurturing the child but rather focused on nurturing the mother. You will find ways to enjoy the present moment and deal with the day-to-day challenges of motherhood. This is a book I read again and again.

Mommy Mantras: Affirmations and Insights to Keep You From Losing Your Mind – Bethany E. Casarjian, Ph.D., & Diane H. Dillon, Ph.D.

I love this book for many reasons. My favorite aspect is that you do not have to read it cover to cover to utilize the tools inside. You can quickly read any small chapter and then use the affirmation listed in your daily life. The affirmations are phrases you can say in your head that are useful during stressful and difficult parenting moments. It is amazing how quickly a situation can take a turn for the better with the right tools. Some of my favorite affirmations are:

“Within me there is a place of peace”
“They will forgive”
“I’m not Buddha”
“I can stand this”

Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box: Cut Yourself Some Slack (and Still Raise Great Kids) in the Age of Extreme Parenting – Ann Dunnewold

I will never forget the day I saw this displayed at my local library. The title drew me to it and what was inside kept me reading all day. I was thrilled to have finally found a book that helped me put an end to my belief that in order to be a good parent I had to be perfect. It allowed me to trust my instincts and it eased some of my guilt, worry and self-doubt. I started to realize that every other mother was not perfect, even if I had thought she was, and that trying to be is an unrealistic goal.  This book is full of humor and helpful ways to enjoy being an imperfect mother.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk – Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish

Faber and Mazlish are internationally acclaimed experts on communication between parents and children. Before reading this book, I thought my kids were the only ones who seemed to hear the T.V. just fine but had a filter when it came to my voice! I love that the methods explained in this book are clear and easy to implement.

Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children – Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman

While I have mostly given up on parenting manuals, this book was a real eye opener for me. There were many beliefs I had about how I was raising my children, and this book really gave me something to think about. I was left with new ideas on television viewing, talking to children about race, why kids lie, and how children develop speech.

The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are – Dr. Kevin Leman

I am an only child raising three kids so this book was fascinating for me. Birth order has more to do with your personality and parenting style than you might think. It also can affect your marriage, relationships with others, and your career.

Stop by one of Madison’s wonderful libraries during library week, April 13-19, and check out some of these books. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Jessica is a DONA International trained postpartum doula and owner of Fourth Trimester Madison, She has been married for over 10 years to someone who makes her laugh every day and reminds her not to take herself too seriously. Together they have three children- Logan (2006), Liam (2008) and Kate (2011). She grew up in northern Wisconsin but has called the Madison area home since college. She can be found reading cookbooks but not cooking, saying yes to more volunteer work than she has time for (and loving it), on a Netflix binge, or with her nose in a book.


  1. You’ve listed some of my favorites as well! I, too, spent my first pregnancy and maybe about three months after the baby was born, reading book after book that made me feel like a failure as a parent. And then someone gave me Mommy Mantras, and I realized those were the kind of books i needed more of. Just like you said: books that support you as a parent, rather than telling you how to raise your kids.

    I also just finished (and loved) “10 Mindful Minutes” by (believe it or not!) Goldie Hawn. It gives some great ideas for how to keep perspective and stay mindful as a parent and some simple ways to bring mindfulness to your whole family.


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