I did not expect to enjoy, let alone agree with, Esther Wojcicki’s book, How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results. I was wrong.
If her difficult-to-pronounce last name sounds familiar, it may be because two of her daughters are well-known business leaders (Youtube and 23andMe) while the middle daughter is an anthropologist and epidemiologist. Because of her daughters’ professional prominence I expected the book to be a guide to raising career women and minimizing, perhaps even disparaging, the roles of wife and mother. I was wrong.
While I did cringe at Mrs. Wojcicki’s mistaken description of Judaism’s attitude to women based on her personal experience as the daughter of struggling immigrant parents, I found the book full of (unfortunately uncommon and counter-cultural) common sense, warmth and interesting anecdotes and ideas. Esther Wojcicki focuses on values that she used both as a teacher and as a mother and that she denotes by the acronym TRICK: Trust, Respect, Independence, Collaboration and Kindness. There is a great deal of thought-provoking material in this book and I do recommend reading it.
At just about the same time I read, Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters. Written by psychoanalyst Erica Komisar, to my surprise (since I certainly agree with the premise of the title) I found quite a bit to disagree with in this book. The tone is a bit grating and there are some strange statements as well as an annoying demand for government intervention.
However, I do think that this book is worth reading if only because the idea that a mother has unique gifts to offer her child is routinely rejected in today’s culture. This book will make uncomfortable reading for many parents whose children have already passed the ages being discussed but for those who are making decisions for the future it will raise worthwhile points to ponder. Among other nuggets, it raises fascinating questions that should be addressed by those couples planning on having a stay-at-home father and out-of-the-house working mother.
So few young couples today have a healthy grounding for raising a family. Many haven’t grown up in or near thriving families. The current educational system as well as government interference in family life sends confusing, misguided and mistaken messages. Without thinking, repeating patterns from childhood becomes the default and today’s cultural institutions do little to inject wisdom. If these books can provoke thought, discussion and deliberation they serve a valuable function.
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