I'm going to go out on a limb in this post and describe a book as THE single most practical parenting-related book I've ever read. It's not (yet another) baby sleep book, although I have my share of those, don't we all ;-) It's not a behaviour management or child-rearing book, although I would posit that following the ideas in it would help with addressing some key issues under those headings too. It's not an "experience of parenthood" book, really, although it is in some ways; it will help many people's experience of parenthood be a lot more coherent, I believe.
Instead, this is a book about family logistics - about building the frame within which your family can grow and develop together, and everyone has the best shot at thriving. It's about, as my husband remarked on flicking through it, the superstructure of life - how you manage the housework, how you budget, how you provide food, how you balance competing needs and activities. In a word - it's about the Power of Planning ;-)
Planning With Kids is written by well-known and well-loved Melbourne blogger, Nicole Avery. Based on her highly regarded blog of the same name, Nicole, aka The Planning Queen, takes the reader on a detailed, pragmatic and helpful journey through the myriad of ways in which planning can enable family life to run smoothly (well, at least more smoothly - no-one, least of all Nicole, suggests that all eventualities can be planned for!)
The book is divided into 4 parts - Organising your family (Routines, Meals and Family Finances); Ages and Stages; Enjoying Parenting; and Family fun times. I found each part interesting and worthwhile, but confess that I think the real meat of the book, and the parts that are most universally applicable, are found in the first and last sections. The meal planning advice and practical modelling are solid-gold PWK, as is the budgeting section and the tips on holiday, Christmas and party preparation.
What's so nice about the way it's written is that the author isn't telling anyone what to do, or even how to do it - this is more a roadmap, a tools list and a series of markers to help you decide where you want to go in these areas, start going there, and critically, how to measure success in your journey. Nicole has also drawn on the thoughts of commenters on her blog to provide valuable fresh perspectives on issues, which adds a really strong feeling of immediacy and conversation to the text.
If there is a fault to find with this book - and I am stretching here - I guess I would say that it is in the fact that the whole message is underpinned with an assumption that two responsible and involved parent-figures are available in each household. I know that Nicole explicitly states several times that X or Y might not work this way for single parent households, and several of the comments from others come from single parents, but for me, I did feel the whole thing was deeply embedded in the traditional-household model.
The third section in particular, on Enjoying Parenthood, I personally loved but have received two comments from single-parent friends that a lot of it wasn't applicable to their situation. (That said, they *adored* the first and second sections and I have yet to successfully get my copy back from one of them, so I am in no way suggesting that this is only a book for mum-and-dad households!) I suppose I'm just noting that this book is fairly well encultured in the life experience of its writer. Not that there's anything wrong with that, and for me, it resonated because that is also my experience.
All in all, this book is fantastic and you should immediately go out and buy 5 copies. (Kidding ... one will do :-). And if you are not a reader of the blog, I'd suggest you make its acquaintance forthwith.
Note: I was NOT provided with a review copy of this book - I paid for my copy like everyone else! Nor was this review solicited by the author, publisher or any other person. No financial consideration was offered or accepted for this review. All views are entirely my own.