The Seven Stages of Motherhood

( an important departure from most parenting guides, a new book provides information to help mothers develop.

Called “The Seven Stages of Motherhood” (Knopf, $22.95), the book looks at how women change and grow from the moment they become pregnant to the day they watch their child graduate high school.

“Too many moms,” says author Ann Pleshette Murphy, “are encouraged to focus exclusively on their kids’ needs, to read their children’s signals, accommodate their demands. We rarely take the time to reflect on where we are as women, and more important, where we want to be. I don’t believe you can be an effective mother if you don’t ask those questions and find the time to nurture your own development.”

Murphy should know. She’s not only the mother of two, she’s a former editor of “Parent’s” magazine and parenting expert at “Good Morning America” since 1998. She also writes a magazine column called “Mothers Know-How”.

Her book, based on her own experiences and on interviews with mothers and other child caring expert, shows how each stage of motherhood has its own challenges and opportunities.

For example, Stage One, which Murphy calls “altered states” covers pregnancy, birth and what she refers to as the “fourth trimester” -the first few months of motherhood when physical changes continue along with emotional and lifestyle ones.

Stage Two, the fourth month through the first birthday, Murphy says, is a time of finding your footing and finding yourself.

Stage Three, the toddler years, is a time of letting go while Stage Four, the preschool years, is one of trying to do it all.

“Reading the compass to God-Knows-Where” is how Murphy characterizes Stage Five, when the child is between six and ten and “Living in the Gray Zone” is what she calls Stage Six, the preteen years.

Finally, at Stage Seven, the teen years, she says, “It gets easier…and then they leave.”

“Motherhood,” Murphy adds, “forces you to hone muscles we never knew we had, to question our choices and goals, to reshape our relationships with family friends, our spouse; and most important, to rethink who we are and where we’re going. There is as much circling, sliding and falling back as there is surging ahead. If we’re lucky, by the time our children leave home, they may actually be singing our praises.”

Writing with wit, warmth and unfailing empathy about the challenge mothers face at each stage, Murphy offers insightful advice and gentle reassurance, showing moms how to make the most of their lives as they raise their children. The tips and tactics on how to manage at each stage help make this a buoyant contribution to the literature of maternal self-discovery. The bibliography and notes can help readers find more information along similar lines.

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