Parenting manuals make dummies of us mummies

Do parenting books really provide solutions? Cartoon by Laura Riding

I’ve said it before: babies are aliens. While they are learning to understand us, we are trying to understand them.

We’re desperate to understand them. Why are you crying? What do you want? How can I make you sleep through the night? Why the weird face?

And as is the way in our capitalist society, someone somewhere has worked out that they can make lots of money out of this. Step forward the parenting manuals.

New parents are probably – aside from the babies they are responsible for – the most vulnerable people on the planet.

They have had the stress of pregnancy and labour, they have spent huge amounts of money on baby items and products they may or may not actually end up needing (nappy disposal bin: don’t buy one; changing table: just use your dining table like everyone else).

Parenting books offer answers and an easy life

On top of this they are sleep deprived and terrified, while having to appear before friends and family as if they’re the happiest they’ve ever been.

No wonder, then, that sat at said dining table, atop which sits a pile of soiled nappies instead of the fruit bowl and with a screaming child stuck on scream mode, that when offered a book promising THE ANSWERS, the guidelines, the secrets to successful parenthood and a happy child, no wonder we buy the book.

Why wouldn’t we? At £10.99 it’s a bargain for what it is offering: an easy life. What monster wouldn’t spend a measly 11 quid if it ensured their child’s future success and happiness?

So they head to Waterstones (alternative stockists are available) to buy the book, thrilled at the prospect of their new discovery and the new life ahead stuffed as it will be with all the answers. a

And herein they are faced with a problem: a whole wall of parenting manuals, all claiming to be the one with said answers”. A quick perusal of a few blurbs and it becomes obvious that each book is preaching its own set of rules, its own definition of family happiness, its own conclusive solution.

In short, I think it’s fair to conclude that the upshot of too many contradictory answers is in fact it brings us full circle: no answers at all.

I have a strong suspicion that babies are completely random, whether they are easygoing or whether they bawl through the night is simply the luck of the draw.

No book will change that. It’s surely best simply to take each day as it comes, and hope that one day, maybe, you’ll be able to make sense of the little thing, even if thats long after they’ve grown up and moved out.


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