“The Tao of Poop: Keeping Your Sanity (and Your Soul) While Raising a Baby,” by Vivian E. Glyck
My first question as I approached this book was whether I would find the time to read it whilst caring for my one-month-old daughter. The second question was, of course, whether it would reward my efforts. Happily, the answer to both questions was a positive one.
The Tao of Poop is divided into ten very readable chapters, each with a theme or ‘life lesson’ for parents to reflect upon. These are diverse and some will resonate more than others with the reader at any particular time — thus I felt I was reading a book that I could return to again and again. My personal favorites were, “We’re not in control,” and “Healing the mommy wars.” In the former was the sentence that I took up as a kind of mantra for my first few weeks as a new mum: “The sooner you make friends with helplessness as a parent, the longer and happier you will live.” I imagine that every reader would find such gems that ring true for him or her.
In “Healing the mommy wars,” Glyck explores the tendency to compare oneself with other parents, leading to a false sense of superiority or of inadequacy. She encourages compassion for self and others as the simple, yet challenging, way out of this trap.
The magic of Glyck’s book is that whilst she tackles themes that ask a lot of us, she does so in a light and grounded way. Using her own experience as a mother as a starting point, she narrates her highs and lows in a way that will ring true for any parent who is trying to stay in touch with, and develop, a sense of “spirit” or “soul.” Her stories will provoke chuckles of recognition and come as a breath of fresh air to those dedicated parents who, having tried to digest and follow the usual “baby book” advice, are left exhausted and confused.
At the end of each chapter, she offers a “thought experiment” to encourage further reflection on the theme, and ‘sanity savers’ — tips to help with putting good thoughts into practice. The result is a book that feels friendly and approachable whilst talking to parents about what most concerns them.
For me, Glyck’s overall theme is an enquiry into how we can parent with authenticity in the most profound sense – authenticity towards ourselves, our children and the nature of life itself. She is encouraging us to stay truly human and openhearted within our parenting.. Although she directs her book primarily towards mothers, I would recommend this book to any parent who is concerned with the spiritual messages, challenges and benefits of raising young children. And yes, you may think you have no time to read it if your baby is just a few weeks old, but reading a few lines in those long hours of feeding or watching over your sleeping babe really will reward your efforts!
Padmaprabha works as a clinical psychologist with older people and is a member of the Western Buddhist Order. She lives with her husband and baby daughter in East Sussex, England.