Being the type who likes to feel prepared even when facing a situation for which there is no chance of being prepared I bought a couple of baby books before Maddles was born and diligently read them. They made me anxious and the anxiety felt familiar. The other day it occurred to me the baby books remind me of the way diet books make you feel. The two genres, I realised, are actually very similar. They have catchy titles (like "The Baby Whisperer" / "The Contented Little Baby" / "The Lard and Beer Diet") They make big claims ("The secret to calm and confident parenting" / "Lose weight by consuming more lard and beer") They have annoyingly smug testimonials from people who have used the book successfully ("My baby started reading herself a bedtime story by three weeks old and sleeps for 16 hours" / "I've lost 20 kilos eating nothing but lard").
If I'd noticed the similarities earlier I might've saved myself a lot of heartache. The Contented Little Baby in particular has caused me many anxious moments. My baby is never up and feeding at the times the author recommends. I have never eaten my toast and tea at the scheduled point in time. Maddles refuses to lay contentedly on her playmat for twenty minutes while I sterilise the kitchen and prepare things for topping and tailing (whatever that is. It sounds like something you would do to string beans). And when exactly am I meant to have a shower?
On numerous occasions I have thrown this book across the room but for some reason I still keep picking it up again. I think it's the word "secret" on the cover. Because you can't help feeling (hoping?) that there is some magical secret to this parenting thing and that if only I knew what it was my baby would sleep through the night and start tap dancing do all the other wonderous thing the authors of these books tell you your kid should be doing. Sometimes I want to collar the other mothers I see pushing prams around my suburb and say "Do you know the secret? What is it? Tell me. TELL ME!"
And when I find what the secret is I'm going to write my own baby book. Or diet book. Or a combination of the two... Actually, that's not a bad idea. I could combine a rigorous baby routine with a strenuous diet and fitness routine to send new mothers completely off the dial with insecurities and exhaustion. Bound to be a best seller.
Having said all this I should add that Maddles actually sleeps pretty well over night. She just likes being up during the day which, when you think about it, is perfectly reasonable.