Review by BRIGITTE ROZARIO
THE MUMSNET RULES
By Natasha Joffe and Justine Roberts
Mumsnet is a British website for mums with resources on food, education, discipline and everything in between. These ladies have been offering support to each other for a long time.
To reach out to a wider audience they have been publishing books as well. These empowering guides, provide quotes by real mothers on various topics.
Don't be mistaken, though. This is not a how-to guide. This book gives mums honest quotes from other mums. While not all the advice, tips and opinions might be applicable to everyone and for families in Malaysia, what it does offer is a sense of camaraderie.
Mums feeling overwhelmed, wanting a day off, those who have days and times when they don't really like their own kids, or even those who have accidentally cursed in front of their kids – this book is for you.
It doesn't encourage parents to swear and smoke in front of the kids. However, in a nutshell, it says, “Hey, you're human; give yourself a break if you're not a 'perfect' mum. It's okay.”
This book is empowering because it tells mums it's okay to name your child what you want to name him/her. It's your kid, you don't have to name your child what your grandmother or mother-in-law wants. Mums and dads are the ones who need to decide, not every other relative.
It also reminds parents that just because the advertisements, other parents and the media is selling bottle warmers and changing tables, doesn't mean you need to get one. There's a whole chapter devoted to stuff you don't need to buy for that new baby. It's so true, right? Haven't we all seen that changing table on sale? Looks nice but hey, you have other more important things to spend on and your baby can be changed anywhere – bed, floor, desk, etc.
The other empowering chapter is the one on breastfeeding in public. This one caught me by surprise because I'd always thought countries like Britain were more advanced than Malaysia when it comes to breastfeeding awareness. Then, I read the quotes by real mums who said they had people giving them looks and others even admonishing them for breastfeeding in public. Of course, some of these brave mums who were still new to breastfeeding did something we Malaysians will not dare do in public – whipping out their breast in public to feed their baby; mostly because they were still new to it and it would be harder to fumble beneath that pashmina or shawl.
Still, reading this chapter reminds us all that there's still a long way to go and there needs to be more advocacy and awareness on breastfeeding.
Mumsnet is honest – that's something so refreshing. These mums, most using pseudonyms, concede to things that most of us know and nobody wants to admit to. For example, admitting that you do have a favourite child. Yes, nobody admits it and yet it does happen in most families. The trick is not letting your children know, if you can. Mumsnet's mums say you need to spend individual time with each child, even if you prefer spending time with one more than the other. And, remember not to overcompensate because then the other kids will think you prefer that one child.
One chapter that I disagreed with was the one on family meals. Mumsnet says their family meals are generally disasters and that you don't really need to have family meals. I think as Asians we often gather over a meal and that's when we bond, even to our adult years. We have Christmas, Chinese New Year, Hari Raya and Deepavali lunches and dinners. This is when we communicate, exchange stories and enjoy good food. Counsellors and trainers in Malaysia also recommend the family meal for the perfect time to communicate with the children.
In my opinion, families should have meals together, at least once a day (dinner if you can). It's a great time to share with each other significant events that happened during the day and to just talk to each other and share some laughs.
The Mumsnet Rules advocates letting kids explore and this means letting them play with other kids … without first wiping down all the toys in the room! Doctors do say that the best way to help a child build up his immune system is to expose him to germs rather than overprotecting him.
Not overprotecting also means letting the kids fall and scrape their knees. Kids who are overprotected won't be exploring as much, might not be having as much fun and importantly, will grow up not knowing how to protect themselves.
As the book says: “As they get bigger, you need to train them up to deal with water, roads, fire, other people. Because we are not protecting them at all if we don't provide them with the skills to look after themselves.”
Another interesting chapter is the one on arguing in front of the kids. Some parents think it's best not to argue in front of the kids, but Mumsnet points out that if you never argue in front of them, they think that in an ideal relationship/marriage, couples don't argue. Not very healthy, is it? It's better to let your children see you argue (controlled version, of course) and also see you make up. In some families, the children become insecure and fearful because they only ever see the parents argue and not the making up process.
Other chapters that made me nod along agreeing are the ones on “Your childcarer is not your friend” and “Choose the best school for your child, not the 'best school' (primary variety).”
Mumsnet may look like a thick book to read and it's all text with no diagrams, either, but once you start reading it, it's a breeze to get through. Most of the book is made up of points and also quotes by real mums. The honest and candid quotes by mums always makes Mumsnet books a delight to read.