Thursday, May 29, 2008

Review: The Yummy Mummy Manifesto

When it comes to mothering, at least in this culture, there's a lot of pressure to do it all. Be a combination of Martha Stewart, Marmee from Little Women, June Cleaver, and - oh yeah - make sure you're still dynamic and sexually attractive. For god's sake don't lose your style!! Because, you know, we aren't under enough stress as it is, juggling the kid(s) and the career(s) and the relationships and the housework and all. So when I see the term "yummy mummy" it tends to set my teeth on edge - I associate it with a very judgmental perspective on being a mama. But I have to say, Anna Johnson's The Yummy Mummy Manifesto does a really nice job of reclaiming the term for what it really should be all about: loving yourself and finding a way to be a whole, passionate, vibrant personality, even while you're caring for a small person who regularly coats you in their bodily fluids. Here's a representative quote:

I will tell anyone in the first year of mothering to hang on to her pregnancy rights (the cravings, the emotions, the attitude, and, yes, even those ten pounds) and to fixate less on going back to what she was before. Once you're a mother, it's all about more. ... It isn't easy to be expansive in a culture that is constantly urging women to contract, shrink, and diet to the point of disappearance, but that is probably the greatest challenge of Yummy Motherhood: to feel delicious every step of the way. Proudly so. Pregnancy is the milestone we carry up front. This is the most glorious moment to be all of your many selves. Never will you occupy so many variations of one body in such a short space of time. And, hopefully, never will you feel so free, in high heels, in overalls, or in nothing at all.

Johnson's free-ranging tome covers everything from pregnancy style (key message: embrace the flamboyant), to sex, to fighting fair, to throwing a yummy birthday party. It's not a radical book - the underlying assumption is that the reader is a heterosexual woman who finds makeup and fashion at least a little bit fun - but Johnson has a fundamentally kind and caring approach. This is not a book that will harangue you into exercising and getting that baby weight off (thank god). This is a book that will encourage you to find a way to move your body with joy, and eat things you love, and wear clothes that are both comfortable and beautiful, and damn the torpedoes. There are lots of handy links to web resources for SAHMs and WAHMs (stay-at-home and work-away from-home moms), along with recipes, craft projects, and ideas on how to be more of an eco-mom. But I have to be honest - I think my favorite part of the book is the design. The pages are lushly illustrated, in rich colors with botanical motifs - the whole visual experience of the book exactly reflects the "yumminess" the author is promoting. Does The Yummy Mummy Manifesto offer any amazing new insights into modern motherhood? Nah. But it's a loving reminder that life is more fun when you approach it with humor and zaniness and passion, and that - as Martha would say - is A Good Thing.

(Reviewed as part of the MotherTalk blog tour.)