‘The new baby will fit around our lives’ and other lies you tell yourself pre-children

It takes a brave soul to offer a new mother advice about how to look after her baby – when someone tried it with me, the mood swiftly degenerated into something closely resembling a scene from Saw V.

The other day, while listlessly flicking through TV channels in a bid to bore myself to sleep, I came across a series that aired a year or so back on Channel 4 called ‘Bringing Up Baby’.

I figured that it might just be dull enough to banish insomnia (which is ironic, because insomnia was the last of my problems when I was bringing up babies. Babies bringing up milk in my face, however, was definitely on the list).

The programme tested three different baby care techniques, Truby King, the Continuum Concept and Dr Spock, to see which method is best for children and parents. My own choice ‘The Path of Least Resistance’ has perhaps been left for a later series.

The latter method, Truby King, is ideal for parents who, on the whole, would rather they’d given birth to Sky+ or an iPhone.

Having brought your newborn home, you then set out to ignore it as much as possible so you can start having loud dinner parties at 7.30pm the day after you’ve given birth to illustrate the fact that you’ve given birth to a robot who could sleep through Krakatoa erupting next door.

Truby King nanny Claire Verity, who tellingly has no children of her own, is often hired by the rich and famous for £1,000 a day to practice the method on their offspring.

The technique involves rigid four-hourly feeds, no cuddling during the feeds or at most other times (‘attention seeking!’) and leaving babies outside in their prams for three hours a day in Siberian temperatures so that they can scream themselves knackered enough to sleep through the night.

It lends a whole new poignancy to Tom Jones’ hit, Baby It’s Cold Outside.

Verity’s aim is to restore ‘normality’ to new parents as quickly as possible. As far as she’s concerned, a baby is a bit like a flat-pack wardrobe from Ikea: a nightmare to begin with, but it swiftly blends into the background to the point where you forget it’s even there.

In essence, ‘normality’ appears to involve getting the parents to have a bottle of wine at 7pm every night to prove what little effect having a baby has had on them.

Parents clink glasses and look unbearably smug as Verity lurks outside the baby’s room, muttering darkly about how she refuses to be ‘manipulated’ by a distraught baby who is screaming itself mental in a darkened room.

It’s a definitive guide to the class system: pay someone a grand a day to tell you to get bladdered while your baby screams for attention and you’re middle class, ignore your kid on your own initiative while you down a few cans of cider and you’re working class scum who can expect a visit from Social Services any day.

Using the Truby King method, parents can expect their children to be sleeping through the night from six weeks, goose-stepping by six months and uttering their first sentence (‘who are you again?’) by nine.

Being ignored as a baby never did me any harm!

'Being ignored as a baby never did me any harm!'

Another method on trial in the C4 programme was the Continuum Concept, also known as the ‘Osteopath’s Meal Ticket’.

Parents must maintain body-to-body contact with their baby at all times for the first six months of its life, carrying the child in a sling throughout the day and allowing the baby to sleep in the parental bed at night.

The concept was inspired by the child-rearing techniques of the Yequana, a tribe of Amazonian Indians, who carried their babies continually throughout their first few months and seemed to raise particularly well-adjusted, happy children.

There are many good points about the Continuum Concept, not least the fact that you’re not expected to ease a six-inch lip plate into your mouth like the Yequana in the spirit of authenticity, but the technique has its downsides, mainly the whole non-stop carrying thing.

Just for the record, I’d like to make it clear that I maintained body-to-body contact with my babies for nine, not six, months – I called it ‘pregnancy’.

Finally, there’s the Dr Spock method, which is the perfect baby-raising technique for anyone too lazy, tired or sensible to read a baby manual.

Spock babies are fed on demand, sleep in the parent’s room in a Moses basket and basically rule the roost like miniature dictators without the facial hair (some even have the facial hair – there were some monsters born when I was in hospital).

As a Spock baby myself, I am still feeding on demand, although I am making a concerted effort to cut out the 11pm and 5am bottles thanks to continuing support from Alcoholics Anonymous.

With my own children, I decided that I could either study baby manuals and equip myself with as much information about child-rearing as possible so that I could make an informed choice about which technique to use, or I could spend the time I’d have wasted reading claptrap sitting on the sofa watching Hollyoaks and eating chipsticks.

By the time I gave birth, I knew nothing about child-rearing but a great deal about Chester teenagers and the differing quality of own-brand chipsticks from several leading supermarkets.

As a result, I made it all up as I went along. We quickly established who was boss in the house (the babies) and what kind of routine would work for us (one that involved me not getting dressed for days on end and looking as if I’d recently escaped from an asylum).

Instead of trifling matters like routines and consistency, I concentrated on far more important issues, such as buying really nice babygrows, identifying which jars of Organix baby food caused the much-feared ‘up the back and into the hair’ nappies and honing my withering put-downs for non-parents who dared complain about feeling tired in my ear-shot.

There’s nothing that irritates a parent more than a non-parent telling them how tired they are. Even if the non-parent has plenty of good reason for being tired, parents never accept that it can be the same kind of ‘I just washed up the margarine and put a hair brush in the fridge’ tired that we suffer from.

In turn, non-parents feel patronised when new mums and dads claim to have the monopoly on being knackered.

Of course, both camps have valid points, although you’d think those disposable-income spending, mini-break taking, tidy house owning, wide-awake, well-rested childless gits could cut us a bit of slack now and again.

Yes, you’ve just climbed Mount Everest with a fridge freezer on your back for charity and you’re moving house again, but I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since 1997.

I see your stress at work and I raise you impetigo, head-lice, threadworms and children’s entertainers. Now tell me you’re bloody tired again and I’ll brain you.

As I see it, I am selflessly continuing the human race so that there are enough care workers to wipe the backsides of the people who won’t have any sons or daughter to do it for them when they are old and infirm.

Obviously it won’t be MY children doing that particular job because they’re both going to be architects, but my point remains the same.

The least the childless can do to repay us is to let us have the upper hand when it comes to being shattered.

Oh, and maybe they could babysit a bit more often; say twice a week, preferably on the nights one of the kids has got tennis and the other one has football, simultaneously.

**** I’ve been away. I am going away again. But I’ll always be back ****


29 Responses to “‘The new baby will fit around our lives’ and other lies you tell yourself pre-children”

  1. May 17, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    I have a bottle of wine every night at 7pm, but it’s BECAUSE I had children, not to pretend I didn’t.

    Truby King sounds horrid. I hope she’s the first victim of the serial killers being produced from her technique.

  2. May 17, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Ah, it all used to be much closer, me and my kids. Lots of helicoptering around their every move, making sure they didn’t hurt themselves or do any number of “firsts” without me witnessing it.

    Now it’s pretty much (at 4 years down the road), “Isn’t the television raising you? If not, I’m having the cable disconnected.”

  3. May 17, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    That Truby King method sounds so appalling that it almost had me in tears but then again I am 38 weeks pregnant, loaded with so many pregnancy hormones that almost anything can set me off, and I’m tired oh so tired as heartburn robes me of my sleep.

    At least the house is looking relatively tidy.

    Oh and I was a Spock baby too.

  4. May 17, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    The satisfaction comes when the nonparents have their own and we can smugly say,”Oh, so sorry but I told you so.”

    I get to do that now with my friends who have teens. “It’ll only last another three or four years.” Ha.

  5. May 17, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Welcome back after a long rat-arsed vacation from blogging.

    First why do you coddle your children that someone has to be at any of their sporting events? See that is the problem with you breeders…you want everything. ha ha My parents told me, if you want to get involved in a sport that is OK. Either figure out a way to get there or you create a schedule with two other of your friends parents, and I’ll take turns driving the shift.

    Oh..and Dean Martin sung the song much better than Tom Jones…

    Glad you’re back.

  6. 9 Ana
    May 17, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    I remember when my two were infants wanting to kill everyone who said they couldn’t get a good night’s sleep because they had something on their mind. And now, two short years later, I’m up half the night worrying about things over which I have no control. I’ve decided sleep is for idiots and the weak. If you want to sleep really well, have a shot or two of Glenlivet right before bed — straight up, rocks back. Slightly more expensive than Nyquil, but well worth it.

  7. May 17, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Ah, I have missed you all. And now I feel stupid for mentioning Tom Jones – insert your own favourite version of Baby It’s Cold Outside (no Stereophonics allowed).

    Ana – the Glenlivet sounds good. I was going to ask if it was for me or the kids, but then I saw it was expensive. By usual standards, that’d mean it was for them. But on this occasion, I’ll treat myself.

  8. May 17, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    As you’d expect, I favour the Yequana method, which was actually copied from apes. The females walk around with babies clinging onto them while the males run off to collect coconuts and berries. I don’t know why humans ever departed from this system.

  9. May 17, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    haha very funny and I’m glad you’re back, temporarily at least.

    my youngest was 3 weeks early and he still had lanugo hair on his ears when he was born. If it hadn’t fallen off two weeks later I would have booked him in for elecetrolysis

  10. May 17, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    It’s great having you back, WIB, if only for a little while.

    I don’t believe my parents followed any guidelines or books (other than to throw at me). I was told how things were gonna be and I was placed in most empty rooms to entertain myself. I imiagine that’s where I developed my love for reading, writing, and drawing: three activities that require no other participants.

    The best way to rear kids, I believe, is to play it by ear. Every baby is different and the only way to learn what to do is to just get out there and give it a shot.

  11. May 18, 2009 at 12:28 am

    Your Wonderful! I am a practitioner of you kind of parenting. I feel our job is to raise people we wouldn’t mind hanging out with. I am also an insomniac. So my kids often stay up too late and even as babies they would often sleep later then most. But as I told them nothing good happens early in the morning, and things don’t really get swingin until it gets late.
    As for people without children giving advice… I once had someone tell me my 6 month old was trying to manipulate me. I told him, no she’s just evil. And he had better sleep with one eye open!

  12. May 18, 2009 at 10:18 am

    Yeah *sigh*. Getting this from ALL angles at the moment, ESPECIALLY from complete strangers such as the guy on the fish counter in Sainsburys. Weirdly he seemed to know exactly how my baby will behave and he alone knows the best way to deal with it (and also that Haddock is good for its brain).

    Husband works for a French company and they all seem quite keen on a Truby Kind style method which suprised/horrified me. I guess as it turns out I’m planning on following the WIB method. Great post and glad you’re back!

  13. May 18, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    I don’t have babies although I have tried to give birth on several occasions. No luck. My neighbours however do have babies and they let them roam outside all night long. I personally think people should be forced to keep their babies in at night. But that’s mostly because I get tired of them going through my garbage cans and peeing all over my shed to mark their territory. Damn babies.

    • May 18, 2009 at 7:51 pm

      Yes, exactly. Damn babies! Peeing all over my hardwood floors to mark their territory.

      But then I sort through all our itty, bitty baby clothes to donate them and I’m all, “Awww,” and “Oh, isn’t it adorable?!” and “I can’t believe how much they’ve grown!”

      I make myself sick with sappiness, but then I look around at the train wreck that is my home. I told my husband that no matter what I ever, EVER EVER say to him, do NOT, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES allow me to talk him into having another baby.

      Damn babies and oh! the cute! It’s nothing but a trick.

  14. 18 pinnythewu
    May 18, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    Nice to see you again!! Never a truer post has been posted. I myself go for the “make-it-up-as-you-go” technique as well. If it’s hungry, feed it. If it’s tired, put it to bed. If it’s covered in shit, stall and see if the husband will clean it, no, then clean it.

  15. May 19, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Babies are real bullies.

    Hateful little bastards.
    It’s only when they start talking that they get ‘cute’.
    After a few years of that they turn back into hateful little bastards.

    I don’t know what their game is, but they have a knack of ruing lives.

    Woamninblack, I apologize on behalf of all babies – speaking as I am, as a former baby.

  16. 20 okathleen
    May 19, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    We have to be nice to the little bleeders, that’s if we want to end up in Sunrise – a quality senior care home.

  17. 21 Ram Venkatararam
    May 20, 2009 at 1:59 am

    I have nothing interesting to say about babies and am pleased they are not generally allowed in prisons.

    So, instead, I will just compliment you on this very very funny post.

    Well done WIB.

  18. May 20, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Absolutely right on the Truby King bit. I used to work for an agency that dealt with child welfare and the behavior you describe — ignoring the child, leaving it to fend for itself, drinking as it wailed — were labeled “abuse and neglect.” Of course most of the families the agency dealt with were poor, and that makes all the difference.

  19. May 21, 2009 at 1:54 am

    With the first child, I read everything I could to prepare me. I’d babysat for years and have a younger sister. I kind of knew what to expect but I wanted to be prepared. As a baby, if he got dirty, I immediately cleaned him. I cuddled him, attended to his every need and whim.

    By the time the fourth child was born, I was much better at parenting.
    Poor kid.

  20. May 21, 2009 at 7:16 am

    I was a Mr. Spock baby and my parents, though not Vulcans, tried to raise me in a logical manner. Most curious.

  21. May 21, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    When I was born, all the family – and complete strangers too – were all too ready to give my mum some child-rearing advice.

    ‘What an ugly baby’, they said

    ‘He can’t be yours. Take the bastard back to the hospital. They’ve given you someone else’s brat by mistake!’

  22. May 21, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    P.S. Nowadays, of course, they insist they were only joking. Well they would say that, wouldn’t they. Ggrrrr

  23. 27 mel
    June 21, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Laughed myself sick at this. Did me a power of good. Am 40 with an 8th month baby and living abroad (Italy). Was wondering if it was just me who wanted to breastfeed and drink a cool beer at the same time. Never been so tired in my life but don’t feel so bad now that I know I am not alone. My husband is also knackered beyond his wildest dreams. All I want to do is sleep and eat crap, which is not a good idea as I am now hypothyroid, after the pregnancy wrecked my thyroid. Still, though laughter really is the best medicine so thanks WIB. Read Penelope Leach and am busy breaking all her rules on a daily basis. Despite the life altering properties of my baby I adore her and am no longer a cats and dogs mad woman.

  24. 28 MM
    June 29, 2009 at 3:55 am

    Stupid babies.

    Over at Not Drowning Mothering we had a right old laugh at Claire “no qualifications whatsoever” Verity when the show was broadcast here in Melbourne (13 hours ahead yet 3 decades behind. How can that be?).


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