Happy parents laugh at themselves, toss perfection to the curb and realize parenting is often a beautiful mess. They learn from their kids and discover that other parents share the same struggles. Yes, finding time to read a book can be a challenge—especially for new parents—but once you do, these 10 books contain wisdom that will last you at least until the kids leave for college.
1. Sleepless Nights and Kisses for Breakfast: Reflections on Fatherhood
by Matteo Bussola
A designer and cartoonist, Matteo Bussola lives in Italy with his wife, Paola, and three young daughters (ages 8, 4 and 2). In this self-deprecating memoir of fatherhood, Matteo has a gift for making us see the beauty in the ordinary moments of being a parent.
This isn’t a book about working versus staying home, but one that makes a case for being present—emotionally and physically—as much as possible during your baby’s first three years. Working mom Erica Komisar, a licensed clinical social worker,encourages a “more is more” philosophy in which you reduce distractions and focus on quality time with your baby. The oxytocin that is produced during mom-baby bonding provides babies with the nurturing they need to be emotionally healthy and happy, and makes moms feel happier, too.
by Tina Fey
Get ready for a well-deserved laugh as writer, actress and producer Tina Fey faces her most daunting challenge: motherhood. Watch as Tina attempts to be taken seriously at work, navigate the in-laws and shake off the guilt that comes from feeling bored when you no longer find your child’s jokes funny. “Don’t waste your energy trying to change opinions. Do your thing and don’t care if they like it,” she writes.
4. The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children
by Shefali Tsabary, Ph.D.
Parenting isn’t about raising a “mini me” but a spirit shining with its own signature, writes Dr. Shefali Tsabary. Rather than viewing children as ours to control with quick parenting fixes, the book says, ask yourself what your child is teaching you about yourself. Our children can show us how to live with a greater state of presence that can make us more peaceful parents.
5. Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents
by Christine Carter, Ph.D.
Christine Carter, Ph.D., draws on her research in sociology and psychology to give actionable do’s and don’ts for raising happier kids. “What makes us truly happy is letting go of our fantasies about the future and engaging in the journey, in the process, and in the present moment,” Christine writes. Discover how to raise kids who have gratitude and are kind, while avoiding the pitfalls of trying to be a perfect parent.
6. Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids
by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross
What if doing less for your kids helped them more? The authors of this road map to a simpler way of parenting are looking back to simpler times when childhood meant plenty of time and space to play. They also suggest reducing unnecessary clutter and scaling back from overscheduling in order to let your kids enjoy their freedom.
Based on a popular blog started by the author, scarymommy.com, this book tackles the realities of parenting. Let go of all the “bad mom” guilt, says Jill Smokler, and realize your kids will be fine if you let them fall asleep in front of the TV or if you help a little too much with their homework. “Being a parent is dirty and scary and beautiful and hard and miraculous and exhausting and thankless and joyful and frustrating all at once. It’s everything,” she writes. So stop beating yourself up.
8. Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting
by Laura Markham, Ph.D.
With a doctorate in clinical psychology, author Laura Markham focuses on helping readers establish a close emotional connection with their child from the very beginning in order to create lasting change. Once this vital connection is established, she says, parents won’t have to bribe or plead with their kids to get them to behave. Learn the keys to this and other strategies for positive parenting.
9. The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity
by Meg Meeker, M.D.
“Mothers are expected to do it all: raise superstar kids, look great, make good salaries, keep an immaculate house, be the perfect wife,” writes Meg Meeker, a pediatrician and counselor. Take a walk away from the pressure and try on a few of the habits listed in this book. Make real friends, she advises, not just acquaintances; spend some time alone to revive once in a while; and do less more often.
10. Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child From Zero to Five
by John Medina, Ph.D.
John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and dad, shares funny anecdotes about the way a young child’s brain develops—and what you can do to optimize that development. Find out why Dad should do more around the house, and how teaching your child impulse control is the best way to get them to go to college.
Sandra Bilbray is a contributing editor to Live Happy, and the founder and CEO of themediaconcierge.net.