There’s a baby book for everything.
Books on how to prepare for birth and a new baby.
Books on how to feed them.
Books on how to make your baby sleep, talk, play, even how to analyse the meaning of their shit.
Worryingly enough I just saw one at the library entitled ‘Caring for your depressed and anxious toddler’. Bloody hell doesn’t that sound like a jolly read, and one which I should probably stay away from or I will be diagnosing my own children with bi-polar.
But it led me to question “how helpful are these books really?”.
Last week I took the kiddy winks to church. I wish I could say we are a spiritual family and regularly attend church, but really we were doing the pre-christening ‘please christen our children’ visit. I thought it was time we got the big little christened as she thinks God is not a person but in fact a naughty word. (Teach us for using his name in sin. We have now reverted to using the word gosh.)
However back to my story…
While in Sunday school I witnessed a poor stressed out mum clinging to the last of her nerves trying to keep her boisterous toddler in one spot. All the children had been told to be quiet for 20 minutes while they were told a bible story. The fact these children where between the ages of 0 – 4 made it an impossible task. And what made it worse was the scornful looks each mother received from the story telling police if your child so much as breathed too heavily.
This poor little toddler just wanted to play with the glittering toys at the other side of the room, but we all know that if you try to hold a toddler in place they scream, and by gosh (nearly said the other word there) did this child scream. The story telling police eyes pierced the poor mother and I seen her fade into a puddle of shame behind the dusty pews.
Once story time was over and we were able to recoup the keys to our mouths, unlock and unzip them, the mother started to apologise for her little ones behavior. She had nothing to apologise for, he wasn’t naughty, he was just a tiny kid who didn’t have the ability to listen to a story about a man with a long name that none of us could even pronounce. I myself drifted off half way through and started to think about my Sunday dinner. I didn’t blame him.
But her next comment stuck with me. She explained how she had been reading every parenting book and had him on a strict parenting routine for his behavior but it wasn’t working. It struck a cord with me because I knew how she felt. During the first episode of my mum funk I didn’t medicate or do therapy I found solace in parenting routine books. It give me back a feeling of control and order that I had lost. But when my daughter didn’t react like the book said, which was most of the bloody time, I broke down. This woman was me three years ago, she looked broken.
I would have loved to give her advice to get rid of the books, but that would have been hypocritical because I’m still fighting demons to stay away from them myself.
My demon is Gina Ford and her routine of terror. I used it with my daughter from when she was 3 weeks old because it said it would make her a contented baby and me a contented mother. It did no such thing but what it did give me was a guide when I felt lost, out of control and needed advice but was too scared to ask for it. For anyone who hasn’t used her routine its basically an hour by hour strict routine that tells you when to feed your child, when to play, put them to sleep or change their nappy in the aim they sleep better at night and don’t cry throughout the day. Because I kept telling myself I was a shit mother and had no clue what I was doing, I absorbed in every inch of this book feeling calm that at least I would be a better mother if I stuck to a professionals word. I was hooked and for a year it consumed my family’s life.
In my last blog, Nurture or Nature, I discussed how I can suffer from OCD when I feel out of control or over anxious. Well this routine fueled that. I became so obsessed with following it word by word that if anything went out by one minute my anxiety would hit the roof. I would either end up crying or getting irritated at everyone and everything. We followed it so strictly that on our honeymoon in Italy, rather than enjoying the sight’s or culture at night, my husband and I wasted away the entire holiday sitting on a balcony the size of a cardboard box at 7 each night just so our daughter went to bed at the exact time Gina said so.
It took a lot of effort to stop the routine but as my confidence in my parenting skills slowly increased I found it easier to give it up. I realised how shit the routine and book actually made me feel. It said my daughter should act one way when really you cant control a baby at all. And when she didn’t I either thought something was wrong with her or just thought I was an even more shite mother than before.
I knew when baby number two came along that I couldn’t live by that routine again. I wanted to be able to enjoy life. But that was easier said than done.
As soon as my mum funk hit with my second baby the search to find the Gina Ford book began. This book hadn’t just affected me and my husband, every member of my family had been affected by it. If they stayed at my house or had to look after my daughter they got whipped into the routine too, and if they didn’t, they met my wrath! So as I was searching for my book my mum and husband where busy burning every copy they could find. But alas, that didn’t stop me I just downloaded it on ibooks instead. Technology really will be the death of me.
I was caught out by my husband who was adamant we weren’t doing it again this time. And we aren’t… Well not really. I’ve only taken a few key pointers from the book such as how much sleep and milk a baby should be getting a day, but apart from that I’ve tried to ask for advice from my health visitor, friends, and family, and its been working. It’s still hard to not open up my electronic copy but I try to keep my mums words in my head “Do the people writing these books have children?”. And the answer is no.
Gina Ford has actually been criticized for her lack of maternal instinct in her routines. It’s said following them leads to a lack of bonding between mother and baby. And I actually agree with this. It took me a very long time to bond with my first child not just because of my postnatal depression, but also because the routine didn’t allow for cuddles or over fussing, so I missed out on all that skin to skin contact that makes bonding easier. I noticed the effect it had on my daughter too when she was around 8 months. She wasn’t fond on cuddling and wouldn’t find comfort in them like other children her age. She was great at getting into bed and going to sleep herself but I thought was it really worth missing out on all that emotional connection? And it wasn’t. We started trying to get rid of the routine then and luckily enough my daughter is now the biggest snuggle monster around. I love our cuddle time, it’s the best moment of my days.
Recently a new parenting guru ‘The Three Day Nanny’ has came out to say that as a parent she herself cant follow her own routines. She finds its too hard to be that strict with her child when she feels she has to comfort her.
This has just spurred my decision on to try and stop reading these bloody stupid books!
I wish I could give all you parents out there advice on how to get out of the routine if your stuck, or how to be a happy go lucky parent, but I cant because I’m least happy go lucky mother I know . All I can say from experience is don’t read them in the first place! Rather than go to them for advice like I did, ask your midwife or health visitor or even other family members or friends if you can. They can give you proper maternal advice and not make you feel like an absolute failure at every turn like these books have for me.
And if you have them…
and DON’T activate touch to pay on your smart phone! In fact just cut up all your cards and start using an old Nokia 3210.