Thursday 19 July 2018

Books: A frank and funny account of the trials and tribulations of parenthood

Memoir: Forgot To Take My Pill!: An Honest Diary of a First-time Mum, Sharyn Hayden, CreateSpace, pbk, 202 pages, €9.99

Candid: Actress and writer Sharyn Hayden has shared her first-time mummy memoirs
Candid: Actress and writer Sharyn Hayden has shared her first-time mummy memoirs
Forgot To Take My Pill: An Honest Diary of a First-time Mum

Tanya Sweeney

Much like the task itself, writing a memoir on motherhood isn't an endeavour for the faint of heart or the feeble of spirit. In fact, it can be desperately hard to hit the right tonal shades.

Wax too ethereally evangelical about the minor miracle of motherhood and you run the risk of alienating your harried audience; provide too many grisly, visceral details and you create a needlessly labourious read.

Some have at the target squarely, and with impressive elan: Anne Enright's Making Babies strikes a balance between enlightening and touching, while comedian Jackie Clune's Extreme Motherhood offers an engaging, and genuinely hilarious, account of raising triplets.

The latest to pitch a tent in the (admittedly overcrowded) mummy memoir field is Dublin actress/comedian Sharyn Hayden, who has self-published her own account of motherhood. As a writer, she has already been testing the waters on her 'Raising Ireland' site (bearing the tagline 'for parents who need to keep their wits about them', suffice to say that Mumsnet, it ain't).

Much as the book's title suggests, Hayden wasn't entirely prepared for the slalom of motherhood (although her first child, Jacob, she informs readers, was loosely planned). Further compounding the tough times, Hayden and her partner Alan - named affectionately in the book as 'Ass Monkey' - started a business together at the start of her pregnancy. No matter; Hayden's lack of readiness for the not-inconsiderable task at hand makes for a much more interesting time.

Not for her are any reservations about providing too much information: with chapter titles like 'Infant-Induced Alcoholism', 'Buggy Ninja' and 'Baptism By Smoking', this book runs the full gamut, from the sublime to the ridiculous. From the ignominy of giving birth to receiving post-pregnancy visitors, Hayden leaves no stone unturned, no salty detail unmined, in her retelling of her son's first year.

As a narrator, Hayden jumps in with both feet, deploying a writing style that's at once boisterous, bolshie and ramshackle. There is plenty of candid truth-telling involved - always a welcome quality in a parenthood tome - but Hayden's voice is chaotic and uncompromising; a bit like your very shouty friend who is always threatening to get up and dance on a nightclub table. Many readers will love her in-your-face realness; others of a more delicate constitution may balk at her (admittedly very) potty-mouthed delivery.

There is a commonality with all good motherhood memoirs: they remind the reader, often a parent themselves, that they are not alone at this puzzling, uncertain, petrifying time. That amid the tiny earthquakes of raising another person and keeping it alive, it will all come good in the end.

For all her brashness, Hayden is an extremely companionable and relatable narrator. Those looking for a little textual healing to keep spirits up during those dark 3am moments could do a lot worse than having the dependably energetic Hayden to hand.

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