Sunday 16 December 2018

Not tonight, darling, we have a new baby

Chrissie Russell

Once again Gina Ford, the controversial childcare guru, has mothers up in arms. Famed for her routine-driven tome The Contented Little Baby, Ford has a new book out.

Since the babies have been taken care of, she's set her sights on the mums.

The Contented Mother's Guide only launched this month but has already caused a mother-lode of controversy over the notion that it puts pressure on new mums to set baby aside, slap on some make-up and start sexually pleasing their man mere weeks after exiting the delivery room.

"Shocking book, shocking woman and shocking advice," read one mum's response to the book on mummypages.ie. "She has never given birth -- how can she possibly understand what it's like to be a mum," added another. "They don't call her Nazi Nanny for nothing," fumed a third.

The divisive writer is used to being loved by some and loathed by many, but is such fury at her most recent guide really warranted?

For a start, the advice that seems to have mums most wound up doesn't come from Ford but from other 'real life' mums, quoted in her book.

Admittedly the ladies in question come from Ford's Contented Little Baby forums but it's a mummy saying: "The thought of sex can be worse than the action. A bit like going to the gym -- you can't be bothered, but once you're there, you enjoy it and feel better after." Not Ford.

The author, who has 30 years' experience as a maternity nurse, says: "Sex can take up to a year to get back on track. The most important thing is that you remain intimate and close until it does ... time for you as a couple is not a luxury -- it's a necessity."

It has to be said the book's advice, like suggesting mums can consider sex around the time of their six-week post-natal check-up or try something like painting their toenails to look and feel better, is more moderate than some of the criticism levelled at it.

Parenting expert Joanna Fortune, from Dublin's Solamh Parent-Child Relationship Clinic, reckons that as unpalatable as some might find her, the controversial baby guru makes some valid points. She says: "It is really important that parents and couples remain invested in their own relationship, not just four to six weeks later but four, five, six years later.

"Not only is it important for the parents but it's also important for children to see they have a relationship outside them, it's good for their development."

According to Fortune, Ford's suggestion of adult-only date nights is great and it's important to not put off the sex issue -- even if you're not having it, you need to be having the discussion.

She says: "Intimacy is important, but intimacy is about more than just intercourse.

"I don't agree with having a timeframe for sex -- that's a lot of pressure -- but I think being intimate and talking about sex is important in a relationship."

The reason she thinks Ford inspires such negative reactions is because her books, and indeed many parenting guides, are interpreted by mums as judgment or criticism.

She says: "I think when something comes out saying 'this is how to be a contented mother', and you're not doing it, then it can provoke a sensitive reaction.

"There's a lot of guilt involved in parenting and fear of not being good enough, books can add to that pressure."

She adds: "But no one writes a parenting book to try and make your life more stressful. I think it's important to try not to have a knee-jerk reaction, there might be aspects that work for you, or things you can adapt, and if not, just close the book and walk away.

"It's not the Bible and it's not the only way of doing things; every family and parenting experience is unique."

Irish Independent

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