I was interviewed a couple of weeks ago by a very nice journalist called Patricia for the UAE newspaper The National. I'd almost forgotten about it until it came out today. I do recall, however, that she called me quite late one night when I'd already got stuck into a rather pleasant glass or two of French red, so I was somewhat garrulous. Thankfully the kind woman edited my words vigorously... probably a very good thing as I remember being quite forceful with some of my opinions and occasionally using unprintable language. Naughty.
Anyway, I digress.
The article is about a new book, The Parent Manifesto by psychologist Jodie Benveniste (www.parentwellbeing.com). I have absolutely no idea if it's any good or not since I haven't read it (these days I avoid baby books like the plague) so don't blame me if you rush out to buy it and it turns out to be absolutely pants, but from what Patricia told me about it sounded a million times better than the usual parent-flavoured 'how-to' drivel on offer.
In my humble opinion, the majority of parenting books are an absolute crock and written with the sole intention of making you feel utterly incapable of being a half-decent parent. Obviously this is a clever move designed to drive you to buy more parenting self-help books.
I devoured all kinds of books when I was pregnant with my first child, many years ago now. I hung on every preachy self-righteous word, feeling a failure when I gave in to my almost constant cravings for ice-cream (Mint Cornetto if you must know, in large numbers) instead of the rigorously healthy diet I was supposed to be on, full of wholemeal this and apple-juice sweetened that. The only baby book I've been tempted to recommend since is Gina Ford, and only then for new and utterly desperate mothers in danger of keeling over from serious sleep deprivation; Gina is the last resort, frankly, and even though it's hard to follow if you're as naturally lazy and unstructured as I am, it does actually work.
Here's my own three-point new-parent manifesto:
- Don't try to be superwoman. Ask for help and be honest about how oddly emotional and barking mad you feel. It's normal to want to weep and stay in your pajamas until the baby is at least six weeks old. Just go with it. It doesn't last for ever.
- Throw money at the problem. Spend as much as you can afford on getting decent help at home - cleaner, nanny, whatever - in a bid to keep your sanity. After childbirth your body and brain goes into total hormonal shock. You need as much sleep and nourishment as possible to recover, which does not mean trying to cook gourmet meals whilst scrubbing the floors and ironing hubby's shirts (trust me, I tried to be incredibly impressive and failed miserably at it).
- You will probably be fat for six months or so after giving birth (unless you are one of those rare freaky types who lose all their weight in a nano-second and then act insufferably smug about it for ever), so get used to elastic waists for a while. Coming over all amorous will probably be the last thing on your mind for a month or two anyway, so who cares? You can hit the gym and resist the biscuits when you feel vaguely human again.
Yeah, that's it. Everything else you'll figure out for yourself or your mum/ best friend will tell you. Just try to do what comes naturally, love and cuddle your baby as much as you can (not a tough call since almost all babies are unbearably cute), enjoy every chaotic, messy moment of it and it will probably turn out just fine.
Now, pre-teens... that's a much trickier subject...