On parenting magazines

I don’t read parenting magazines. This is not from lack of trying. I love the magazine medium: shiny paper, pretty colors, a pithy 1,000 words on some topic that both informs and delights. But I discovered early on in my first pregnancy that parenting magazines are built on a simple premise –

To sell you things you don’t actually need but that are designed to assuage some fear. Now you could say that about the vast majority of consumer driven capitalism, but I can’t really drop out of that, so I’m stuck there. I’m not, however, compelled to pay good money for a magazine that says on the cover, almost literally, “Don’t let your kid be the only one on the block without…” or, “This one fact could save your child’s life!” They’re as bad as bridal magazines. And we all know what a scam those are.

So any parenting magazine I picked up that had on the verso page an ad for diapers and on the recto page an “unbiased” article about how disposable diapers are good for the planet got immediately ignored by me. But that left me with a hole of time where parenting magazines are supposed to go: you know, sitting in the Dr’s office or while pumping breastmilk in the company “relaxation” room. Here then are a few of the magazines I found to fill that time. I recommend them.


Mothering is the high water mark of hippy maternity. I first found it almost 20 years ago when I bought it for a friend. At the time she thought she was having a biracial baby, whom she desperately wanted to name Lily (don’t ask, my early 20s were really strange) and the magazine had a grayscale picture of a tiger lily on the front. I figured, hey this might be the ticket. I read it cover to cover twice, despite at the time being defiantly against personally breeding. It was the first place I saw pictures of women breastfeeding that weren’t Africans in National Geographic. It was the first place I read about the downsides of circumcision for little boys. It was, in short, a total eye opening experience into a different kind of motherhood. The pages are full-color now and they take advertisements, but even those are for wooden “heirloom” toys and organic wool diaper covers. This is the most mainstream of the mags and I suspect I’ll be picking it up at my local newsstand long after baby girl has stopped co-sleeping.

Brain, Child

This one is a combination of essays and short fiction which I picked up accidentally in a search for something to pass the time on a Sunday afternoon. Their tag line is “The Magazine for Thinking Mothers” and I appreciate that. I can’t tell you how many times people, all of them childless, have suggested that perhaps my forgetfulness was a case of “baby brain.” Look, if by “baby brain” you mean I can’t remember your favorite color because I’m tracking my milk production vs. my child’s food intake vs. her mood vs. her burps vs. the number of times she soils a diaper, while also managing the rest of a normal day, then yes – I’ve got “baby brain.” What’s your excuse? (sorry, ranty aside over). But Brain, Child is devoted to helping people like me — sleep-deprived and yet looking for small chunks of deeper thought. It made me think.

hip Mama: The Parenting Zine

This one takes me back to my first experience with Mothering, see above. It is raw, black and white, and ranty as a Berkeley street corner protester. It is full of single page articles where parents pull out their soapboxes and sound off about the topic of the issue: race, home, food, belief. I didn’t agree with every one in the mag, but I’m not supposed to. I did love the bare honesty of the articles and the chance to almost talk with these other mothers from other lives, to see other ways this crazy mothering thing can be done. Of all three, this is my current favorite.

Published in: on November 7, 2011 at 11:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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