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The 7 Stages of Motherhood: Loving Your Life without Losing Your Mind

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This refreshingly candid parenting book puts mothers—not children—center stage. Ann Pleshette Murphy provides a reassuring, wise, and often wildly funny mix of anecdotes and advice as she describes the seismic shifts in women’s lives and identities from pregnancy through a child’s graduation. She draws on countless conversations with mothers and with child development experts she has met as the parenting contributor to Good Morning America and as the former editor-in-chief of Parents magazine. The mother of two, Murphy freely shares her own trials and errors in stories that will have readers laughing in relief and recognition. Written with wit, warmth, and unfailing empathy, The 7 Stages of Motherhood is an exuberant and indispensable guide to making the most of motherhood.

Words of Wisdom for Every Stage of Motherhood

_ Forget  the “mothering comes naturally” myth:
And don’t be afraid to ask for help

_ Avoid keeping up with the Joneses:
Give your kids what they need, not everything they want.

_ Know when you’re in the wrong movie:
Don’t try to cast your kids in a remake of your childhood.

_ Give yourself credit for finding Lego Man’s hair:
Little acts of caring matter more to your kids than getting through your to-do list

_ Be a mother, not Mother Teresa:   
When you neglect your own needs, you shortchange your kids

From the Trade Paperback edition.

290 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 2004

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Ann Pleshette Murphy

6 books1 follower

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5 stars
20 (10%)
4 stars
48 (25%)
3 stars
73 (39%)
2 stars
30 (16%)
1 star
15 (8%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 42 reviews
Profile Image for Megan.
156 reviews12 followers
July 11, 2008
I didn't rate this book because I didn't finish reading it. It didn't seem to have anything new or revealing to say. I keep hoping to find a book that reflects more of how I feel about motherhood, or encourages me to see it in a valuable new way. Not having much luck. The reason I quit reading this book is the same reason I hate going to baby showers. We don't seem to have the right vocabulary to talk about being mothers. Instead, we reduce it to awful cliches that either fail to do it justice or reduce it to a chore. But we keep talking, trying to figure it out, taking our only clues from the consumerist vision we've been given. I want to talk about mothering in a new way. I find it to be the most fascinating experience I have ever had, and the most demanding. But how to articulate the details of that in a way that doesn't diminish its complexity? Hm. Perhaps we can only talk about it in poetry or song--something that allows nuance and emotion--a capturing that is not an explanation.
32 reviews1 follower
May 26, 2009
The last stage of the book is when the kids are about to leave the house. I really have to disagree with that thought. I would at least say that for me there is at least a stage 8 or 9 stage. The 8th stage being relying on my mom to help me through college and being there to support me in deciding a career path. The 9th stage being becoming a grandmother I rely more on my mom now for advice with my daughter than I ever have. In my opinion this book just stopped too early in the stages of motherhood.
Profile Image for Molly.
125 reviews
June 8, 2022
I was looking forward to advice like clear cut checklist form when I started this book.

That being said As the early stages of Motherhood are passing and I’m finding myself further in my journey I find myself wishing I read this earlier . It’s one that will show you aren’t alone in your Journey, there is someone else going thru similar experiences as you.

As I got to the stages I would be entering it made me consider where I’ll stand on certain issues and questions I haven’t even thought of yet.

It did leave me inspired, questioning, loving motherhood in my current stage and in tears as the conclusion of the book brought it full circle.

What a gift it is to have children but with power comes great responsibility has never spoke so deeply to me.

Ok wiping my eyes and going back to the housework.
Profile Image for Kendra E.
11 reviews
August 24, 2022
Although I agree with the central tenant of this book, it is not LGBTQ or BIPOC friendly. It is written for cisgender white middle-class women in heterosexual, married relationships. I think that I was expecting science But what I got was a replay of Ericksons eight stages of child development and the role that the mother plays alongside the child as the child progresses through each stage. Basically I got that, it’s the mother‘s role to support the child by troubleshooting the unique needs of their unique child, to continually self reflect in order to navigate the mother and the child’s emotional and intellectual experience, to work to communicate with everyone, and to self reflect some more to keep expectations in check.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Gigill.
146 reviews2 followers
April 21, 2018
Picked this one up at the library randomly. Overall, I enjoyed the book but I was will looking for a certain "something" to round out the book. There was one perfect paragraph in the conclusion that nailed motherhood and made this book worth it to read, so I like how it ended on a perfect note. I also nodded along to stages 1 & 2 (which I've already passed) and enjoyed getting a preview of the stages I'm in (3) and the future ones. Motherhood's a complicated beast, and I'm glad there was a book out there attempting to tackle the complex highs and lows that go along with it!
Profile Image for Tricia.
240 reviews
September 6, 2018
As the mother of a 1 year old I enjoyed this book because it gave me a "sneak peak" into the stages I have ahead. And there were several practical bits of advice that I know I will find helpful. It was also nice to hear honest stories of other Mom's struggles so I don't feel like I'm the only one facing certain issues. My only complaint is that nothing in the book felt particularly profound or enlightening - a lot of it was sort of common sense.
14 reviews
August 4, 2021
I couldn’t finish this book. Her heteronormative, pair bonded assumptions dated this book and made the first section hard to get through.

I also found that with a 1yr old the sections are too broad and there isn’t a lot of relevant information for my particular phase. I wanted more of a how to for this particular phase and that’s not what she wrote.

I gave a second star because I actually found myself quoting the book randomly in a discussion about separation and babies moving away at 1yr.
Profile Image for Kristy Ledford.
12 reviews
July 30, 2018
Not what I was expecting or looking for. The audiobook was particularly boring and didn’t offer anything new. I should stick to audiobooks written and read by comedians.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,710 reviews46 followers
May 13, 2014
The best thing about this book is that the idea of writing it is what enabled Murphy's children to have a parent around more of the time. That's not me being snippy - towards the end of the book she talks about how we are judged on our parenting and yes I'd agree that is mostly a bad thing with an overfocus on outcomes rather than process. But I do believe there is a lot in the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis quotation that if you bungle raising your children nothing else you do well really matters very much. I had to step back at various points and reflect how all the experiences she relates were actually coming out of very short periods of time with her children - neither parent home until after 7pm at least on weekdays. (Of course a good deal of the work of parenthood may not be done with them right there, and she shows that well... but still....)

Anyway, unlike other journalists who write books about parenting, Pleshette Murphy didn't do it as an extended maternity leave, nor did she go back to work and quickly decide it was a terrible mistake. A strength of this book is that she writes about how children and mothers (not much about fathers here) evolve together and showing how it isn't a steady process of increasing independence, that your children merely need you in different ways. I admire her for recognising at a point where the expectation is often that mothers move further away from their parenting role, that the right thing for her family was to focus on it.

I almost gave up on this book early on. She is offensive about a particular breastfeeding support organisation yet does it in a sneaky way so she can claim she's only quoting... but her endorsement of the opinion is clear (even if the evidence for it is not) It ill behoves someone who has made a good living almost certainly based on formula advertising revenues to trash breastfeeding support volunteers in this way... and does nothing to help mothers.

Elsewhere she doesn't do this delineation of tribes or label styles of parenting which is so tediously prevalent now, and this contributes a good deal to the book's readability. She's chatted to a few friends, some of them in the UK... and I rather like the number of therapists-as-parents who share their own challenges. She also, unintentionally I think, shows just how many people are writing books about how to parent which is thought-provoking.

The narrowness of experience does show up when the final stage of motherhood is when the children fly the nest to college - this seems to be because that's the stage she's at with her own family rather than because that really is it, job done, game over. I suppose it is an example of taking one day at a time! I don't think the book is about making the most of your life as a Mum, despite the title, but it does depict some of the themes.
Profile Image for Kristin.
85 reviews34 followers
August 9, 2009
I grabbed this book on a whim at the library, and I am very glad I did. Although I could only personally relate to stages 1-3 (I am currently in stage three of motherhood: Letting Go: The Toddler Years, One and Two), I very much enjoyed Murphy's insights into the stages that I will eventually be entering. The forecast is greatly appreciated, since, upon first learning that my husband and I had conceived, I really had no idea what I was in for.

I could definitely relate to stage 1 - Altered States: Pregnancy, Birth, and the Fourth Trimester. It was especially heartening for me to be tuned into other women's accounts of their pregnancies, deliveries, and the first three months with their babies. Personally, I did not care for being pregnant, my son's birth was much more difficult than I had anticipated, and I felt like a zombie during the my son's first three months (well, actually until six months, when he finally started sleeping through the night). Before having my son, women limited their recollections to the sweet, charming aspects of being a new mom. I did not expect the sleep deprivation, loneliness, or resentment of my husband's relative freedom that I later felt. Knowing that other women experienced the exact same feelings as me was very validating. Before reading this section, I felt like I must have done something wrong, since I wasn't in constant bliss during my son's first three months. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade my son for anything in the world. Bringing him into the world (and through the fourth trimester) simply wasn't the piece of cake I expected it to be.

The only complaint I have about this book is the sparse peppering of "f-bombs" throughout the text. This wouldn't have bothered me, except I actually listened to the book on CD while I was running errands with my son. All of a sudden, the narrator would say the "f" word, and, even though my son was in all likelihood completely oblivious, I would say loudly, "Duck! Duck! The lady said 'duck!'" I just don't think this language is necessary.

the Seven Stages of Motherhood is a celebration of the most difficult, thankless job in the world. Murphy's practical advice will certainly help me as I raise my son, and her words also inspired, strengthened, and heartened me as a mother. I especially loved her analogy in the conclusion about how we (parents and children) each have our own melody. Just when we know how to sing our child's song, the melody changes, and we need switch gears into learning a new song. So true!
Profile Image for Lain.
Author 15 books118 followers
December 3, 2007
Ann Pleshette Murphy turns her vast skills as a mother (of two) and writer (former editor of Parenting magazine) into this filled-to-the-brim book. In a refreshing take on parenting tomes, Murphy focuses on the mother instead of on the child.

I found the early sections to be full of "oh my gosh, I can relate" moments as I laughed and nodded along with Murphy's personal tales as well as the anecdotes from hundreds of women, and I made mental notes of her suggestions in the sections for parents of older kids.

My biggest complaint is that because the book is divided by age, two-thirds of it did not apply to me, and would apply to women only at certain times in their lives. I would have liked to see her divide this book into several different volumes, each addressing a different age group. That way you could read about what you're going through and what immediately awaits you, but save the discussions about teens and tweens (in my case) for later years when they're more applicable.

Another complaint was that while Murphy had no problems addressing homosexual relationships in teenagers, noticeably absent was any discussion of religion or spirituality for kids (or parents).

I really believe that spirituality/faith is such a crucial part of parenting, that I cannot imagine writing a book without including any mention of these topics. I felt that Murphy became a bit too "PC" in addressing the issues facing older kids.

Nonetheless, this is one of the few books I've read that have discusses what moms go through at different ages of their children. Though I probably won't pick it up again when my kids are older (who has time for re-reading books??), I will take some of her recommendations to heart.
Profile Image for Meagan.
373 reviews1 follower
August 22, 2013
Although I didn't necessarily agree with everything the mother who wrote this book said, I truly appreciated this book for all that it was. Her honesty was exactly what I needed. It was so rewarding to share her experiences because as the mother of a toddler and one on the way, I felt like I wasn't alone in my struggles. Not only did I receive assurance for the past and encouragement for the present, but I also got a glimpse of my future with my own children and some of the struggles we may or may not face together. As someone who used to struggle with thinking that working mothers were selfish, this book helped me along the road to better understanding where they're coming from. The bottom line is that some people will love this book and some won't, depending on whether or not they can understand the author as a real and honest person who truly wants what is best for her kids. Any mother knows that while sacrificing her own desires for her kids is essential, she has to know where to draw the line and take care of her own needs, too.
148 reviews15 followers
January 17, 2009
As a not-yet-mother, I have been reading "mom" books voraciously to get a glimpse of what to expect. Most fall into 3 categories: the uber-mom, the anti-mom, or the feminist-mom. The 7 Stages of Motherhood is better than all 3: it's like having a conversation with a wise and down to earth friend that's been there, done that.

Ann Murphy manages to deftly move from one chapter to the next, weaving in her own experiences with those of the women she interviews. Her voice is warm and clear, elucidating the joys and challenges of each stage. The result is a highly-readable map of the territory of Mom.

49 reviews1 follower
September 30, 2015
I would say depending on where you are at in "motherhood" is definitely going to impact how much you will enjoy this book. I have an almost 3 year old and am pregnant with my second child. Having already gone through the newborn/toddler phase it was nice to be able to look back with my perspective and to be reminded of what is coming. The book has fabulous references to many other parenting books which I have marked to read. My favorite part of the book was the perspective it gave me for motherhood. I am often caught up in my current role and looking ahead to what the teenage years will bring helps me enjoy the fact that my daughter still wants to snuggle with me and hold my hand.
Profile Image for Kayce.
285 reviews
March 29, 2012
I couldn't finish this book. I listened through about ages 6-10. The main theme of the book is be a mom how you want to be a mom, don't stress about being perfect, and take care of yourself. These are good things to hear, but I also felt like there was a strong undercurrent of "this is how you be a perfect mom" that really undercut the message of the book. Additionally, the author is an editor of a major magazine and still has serious issues repeating words. If I heard the word "ambivalent" one more time, I was going to mail her a thesaurus. If you're looking for a mommy book, this probably isn't the best one.
Profile Image for Trish Boese.
727 reviews2 followers
January 23, 2016
2* I started out enjoying this book, enjoying the ideas to make the most of the motherhood journey through each and every stage. However, it became obvious as the book progressed that the author and I have very different goals and completely different parenting styles when it comes to training our children through the adolescent and teen years. I recommend the first half of the book but not the second half!
Profile Image for Denise.
909 reviews
April 16, 2015
I liked this book. It didn't go beyond the teen years and that was the only thing I was surprised at. I thought 7 stages would include being parents of adult children and growing old as a mother also but I guess that would add way too many stages! She wrote with candor and I thought this book could be very helpful to new mothers of all ages whether you birth a child, adopt one or marry into a family with stepchildren and any other role I might have left out! :)
Profile Image for Cathy.
785 reviews10 followers
July 2, 2015
This is one of those books to read when you need some reassurance about how you're doing as a parent. The author offers practical advice, but also shares stories and anecdotes that help you relate to your own parenting joys, trials and tribulations. It's not a sit-down-and-read-all-the-way-through-in-one-sitting or read-it-once-and-stick-it-on-the-shelf-to-gather-dust book. You will find yourself gravitating toward this book at each of the defined stages.
Profile Image for Peggy.
264 reviews
May 8, 2008
This book was neither inspirational nor helpful. Just a bunch of stories from the trenches of motherhood. The only thing I really got out of it is that the joys and frustrations of motherhood are universal, that we're all in it together, so to speak, and that there is usually somebody out there going through the same things you are.
3 reviews
June 18, 2009
Easy to read with great references. Great mix of expert research with case study examples. This gave me a neat framework for getting my head around what I'm getting myself into! (I'm currently in 2nd trimester of pregnancy for 1st child). Great to hear topics talked about that can be taboo. This will be a book I re-read over the next few years.
Profile Image for Grace Smiley.
35 reviews
July 8, 2009
Best part of this book for me was the extensive bibliography. She had many wonderful quotes from other sources that were great. I related to the book until the middle when the chapters for older children were too far off in my future to garner empathy. I'll pick it up again in a few years when my baby is older.
Profile Image for Alissa.
2,144 reviews34 followers
May 8, 2010
I really enjoyed this look at motherhood, which included both insight and advice on how to mother children of different ages. Felt like I was glimpsing at my future once I read the 6 other stages.
A great and inspiring look at motherhood that is grounded in reality and deals with all sorts of topics.
Profile Image for Jemma Z.
115 reviews3 followers
July 23, 2013
This is a ggod book to revisit when you are transitioning through different stages. You will be reminded of how far you have come, what you have accomplished, and that your expectations were not always realistic. Invest more time reading about being a mother than you do in reading about pregnancy & childbirth and toy will feel more grounded.
Profile Image for Heidi.
174 reviews
August 27, 2015
I didn't finish it. I felt like she was saying the same things over and over. I never got to the chapters of the stages my kids are in... which is why I wanted to read this in the first place. But I did like how she wrote about the other stages. I would consider giving this to young/new mothers.
Profile Image for Jen.
289 reviews1 follower
June 8, 2011
While Murphy touches on several motherhood principles (guilt, guilt, with a layer of guilt on top), I didn't like her writing style at all. I would have expected the editor of Parents magazine to have a better, more accurate vocabulary.
Profile Image for Erin.
213 reviews4 followers
January 31, 2013
The title of this book had me very excited/intrigued...but as I read it, I realized it wasn't what I was looking for. I'm not sure why, but it kind of annoyed me. Not finishing it. There's nothing fundamentally BAD about it. It just bugged.
11 reviews1 follower
March 16, 2008
Love, love, love the insights in this book. Author does a great job of describing the ups, downs, tears and laughs of being a mother, through each age-appropriate stage. Highly recommend.
6 reviews1 follower
May 20, 2008
This book was helpful at the time. When you are the parent of a toddler you need to know that it does eventually end.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 42 reviews

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