One of the greatest moments of my parenting career was the day I through away the guide books. For the early months of my son’s life I had crucified myself daily on the cross of mammy guilt.
The Contented Little Baby Book did not make for a contented mammy and I felt as The Baby Whisperer was screaming in my ear if I deviated, even one iota from her patented EASY routine (which was anything but easy). The books on how to raise your child so that they don’t turn into an evil megalomaniac left me quaking with fear than five minutes extra in front of Bob the Builder would seal my child’s fate forever.
I won’t go so far as to say the books contributed to my Post Natal Depression, but they didn’t help. The prescriptive approach to child rearing took anyway any sense of control I had over the new life experience I was fumbling my way through. If my instinct was telling me one thing, the books would tell me to do it another. One their advice I didn’t hold my newborn son as much as I wanted to. Visitors were told to leave him in his cot so as not to spoil him. Nap times were strictly adhered to even when he clearly was nowhere near wanting to sleep and my determination to get a colicky baby into a strict feeding routine had me reaching for the Prozac.
I was demented and yet as my mother - who had successfully raised four of us - tried to convince me that a baby will always find his or her own routine I scoffed. That was not what the Baby Whisperer said - and sure hadn’t there been an entire plethora of parenting/nannying shows to teach us all how to do this parenting melarky properly?
The day I found myself slumped on the bathroom floor, hair like a bird’s nest, eyes red ringed with exhaustion wondering if I could open a bottle of wine at 10 in the morning that I finally threw the books away.
Within weeks we had found our own routine - the one that was unique to me, my husband, our baby and our family. He was hugged a lot more from that point and was much more contented because of that and consequently I started to fall into my own contented mother routine. I still, always, regretted that I had trusted some “expert” in a book more than my own instinct and when my second child was born any notion of following any prescribed routines went out the window. I took to bed with her for around a week after her birth - and we had our “babymoon” - precious time where I allowed myself to get to know her and she was allowed to get to know me. We cuddled, and slept (side by side). We got up when I wanted to. We took it easy and she was much more chilled out right from the very outset.
Perhaps it is due to the significant differences in both my early parenting experiences that I now view these so called experts with suspicion.
So when I heard that Gina Ford - she of the Contented Little Baby Book series - had a new book out offering advice to help mothers be more contented I was intrigued.
There are certain things everyone should know about Gina Ford before they read her books. She is not a mother. Now this in itself doesn’t necessarily rule her out from being qualified to give advice about raising children - she has helped many families - but helping a family is not the same as being a family. Helping a mother, does not make you a mother. Ms Ford can never truly understand the emotional ties, the mountains of worry, guilt, love and joy that comes with caring for your own child.
Ms Ford has also never given birth. This makes her most recent gem all the more ludicrous.
In her new book she has, controversially, said women should start to show sexual interest in their men four to six weeks after the birth of their baby.
Only a woman who has never give birth - who has never pushed a human being in excess of 6lbs through her most delicate of areas, who has never had a surgical cut to her lower region or (apologies for graphic word) torn and been stitched could make such a claim.
Only a woman who has never felt bruised and battered or has been trying to heal from a Caesarean section could say such a thing. A woman who is hormonally rung out, emotional and exhausted does not a happy bed fellow make and the published advice from fellow women, including the gem “sometimes you may just have to grin and bear it”.
Loving sexual relationships should not be about “grinning and bearing it”. A woman has, always, a right to choose what is right for her body. A decision to resume certain aspects of your relationship must be made jointly and must be when it is right for you.
It’s dangerous and harmful to women to ask them to put the needs of their partner before their own needs - especially at a time when they are feeling vulnerable and exposed anyway.
My advice, for what it’s worth is (ironically I know) throw away the advice books and do what is right for you. You will be so much contented because of it.