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Full Time Mothers

campaigning for real choice for families

Book Reviews

Family Policy, Family Changes; If You've Raised Kids You Can Manage Anything; What Mothers Do; Endangered; Why Love Matters; A Mothers' Rule of Life; Seven Myths of Working Mothers; Choosing to be different; Baby Hunger; The Miseducation of Women; Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families; Broken Hearts; Mother Love; The Smart Woman's Guide to Staying at Home; Ghosts from the Nursery - Tracing the Roots of Violence; Work-Lifestyle Choices in the 21st Century - Preference Theory; The Social Baby; Expecting Adam; Good Food for Kids; Access to Maternity Information and Support; Single Parents in Focus; The London Baby Directory; Marriage-Lite: The Rise of Cohabitation and its Consequences; Anything School Can Do You Can Do Better

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen R. Covey

I confess to having read this book purely for the sake of marital harmony - it seemed the only way to stop my husband haranguing me about it! So, for those of you whose hackles rise at the mere title, I understand, but suspend your disbelief for long enough to see through the jargon and you will find a wonderfully positive affirmation of family life.

As a full time mother, I found Covey's passionate belief in marriage and the family (he has nine children of his own!) really inspiring: his practical wisdom on 'creating and sustaining a strong family culture in a turbulent world' has much resonance for those of us battling against pressure to return to work.

But it is not just another self-help book. As well as enriching family relationships generally, the 7 Habits is full of highly practical ideas on finding answers to such common family challenges as making 'quality time' for the family when it seems to take all your effort simply to keep food on the table; influencing a recalcitrant teenager who just won't listen to you at all; strengthening your family to withstand destructive influences in society; disciplining without punishing and creating a spirit of fun, adventure and excitement in the family.

Covey's 7 habits, which include 'Being Proactive', 'Putting First Things First' and 'Seeking First to Understand...Then to Be Understood', are based on a fundamental principle that, however many times you lose your temper and get it wrong, it is still possible for families to achieve 'a sense of joy and balance'. It is never too late to put your family first!

For example, how many times each day do parents face those agonising questions of priority: do I sort out the washing or take the children to the park? do I stay at the office until I've finished this report or make it home in time to read the children's bedtime story?

'Put First Things First,' says Covey. Imagine that you have in front of you a jar full of small pebbles and next to it several large rocks. The jar represents the next week of your life. The pebbles represent all the things you'd normally do. The big rocks represent all the important family things, such as 'family nights' and 'one-on-one time', that you really want to do but can't usually 'fit into' your schedule.

Try to fit the big rocks into the jar of pebbles and, as hard as you try, you might just, with much sweat and many tears, force in two or three. But take another container and put the big rocks in first and you can get in a lot more. Then you can pour the pebbles in over them - and most of them will still fit it! But the big rocks will only get in at all if you put them first.

It is heartening to read a book which encourages the view of full time mothers that 'Putting First Things First' means putting our children before our careers. 'Love is a verb,' says Covey. It takes effort and sacrifice, but his 7 habits provide the inspiration and the practical insight to create 'extraordinary family relationships'. However many mistakes you make, you can still keep coming back and showing through what you do that your family is the most important thing in your life. There are many wise ideas in this book on how to do that - not always easy, but then, as Mrs Covey says in her introduction, 'Motherhood is not for wimps'!