As if you have time to read anything when you have a new baby in the house, right? Right?? My idea of ‘spare time’ when my babies were young was catching up on ads for the Ab Cruncher 3000 during 3am breastfeeds and staring into space while I circled Westfield knowing that if the pram stopped, the crying started. Good times.
BUT books can make terrific gifts for new mums because they help you understand that you are not alone. Even better if the books are honest, funny and (mostly) positive like these new titles from Madeleine West and Julie Halpern.
Six Under Eight by Madeleine West
Penguin Australia RRP: $35.00
Hmm…Madeleine West..where do I know that name from? Oh that’s right! She’s the glamorous Australian actor you may know from such things at Neighbours and House Husbands. But that’s only one part of a very interesting story. She also happens to be married to Shannon Bennett (super chef) and together they have 6 children. Subtitled ‘When parenting becomes an extreme sport’, Six Under Eight is part diary/part guidebook, sharing the hard-won wisdom that comes from the intense experience of raising little people in bulk!
Like a lot of creative mums, West kept a diary while her first bubs were small. She recorded the funny things they said, the crazy mood swings (theirs and hers), sibling rivalries and terrifying moments of unexplained illness. The experiences are common to any parent, although we’re not all juggling quite so many at the same time. West tells her stories with plenty of heart and humour, keeping the names and photos of the brood anonymous but the stories full of detail.
5.47pm It’s certainly cocktail hour..Molotov cocktail hour, that is! Bath time followed hot on the heels of dinner and Mummy trying to resist falling into a bottle of Riesling. Who am I kidding, right now I’d happily crawl into a cask of Fruity Lexia and then take a nap on the inflated bladder. I’ve hit a new low, screaming at the two-year-old for kissing the twins too enthusiastically. Then, wait for it, I screech at four-year-old Princess for asking….to eat fruit(!?!?!?)
I know I’ve had moments like these! But in amongst the tales of laughter and woe, there are practical asides where the now-experienced West looks back on the new-mum West and gives her a little advice. She makes lists of ‘recommended purchases’ and ‘purchases which have proved pointless’ when it comes to setting up a nursery. She shares advice on preparing siblings for new arrivals, getting more sleep and breastfeeding twins. There are a few recipes and time tabling ideas tossed in, but nothing preachy or prescriptive. It’s a field guide to one woman’s experiences, laid bare in the name of entertainment and sisterly solidarity with some helpful tips into the bargain.
Maternity Leave by Julie Halpern
St Martin’s Press/Pan Macmillan Au RRP:$29.99
Helpfully subtitled ‘a novel’, Maternity Leave is pure fiction, although Halpern admits drawing on her own experiences of motherhood, and those of her friends, to inform the writing. This is a brash, big-laughs kind of story of one woman’s attempt to navigate life with a new baby, once she realises that maternity leave will not be all about blissful bonding time and ladies’ lunches. This is the gift for new mums who are a few months down the track and able to find the humour in the chaos of their new lifestyle! It’s not a book for anyone who needs help or advice – nor is it ideal for the squeamish.
Halpern is candid about all the unspoken truths of early parenthood – leaky orifices, post-baby sex, friends who don’t get it and babies who don’t sleep. Many of leading lady Annie’s experiences are exaggerated for comic effect, although lots of these unseemly and unsanitary things DO happen to some lucky mums. You’ll either weep with the relief of camaraderie or the relief that Annie’s life is nothing like yours!
It’s a little tricky to review a book like this when there’s not a whole lot of plot, but it’s a fast, easy read with plenty of gross-out, shock value moments that’s guaranteed to brighten up a dreary night of baby rocking if you have the energy to turn the pages.
For other new mum book ideas, as well as gifts for new babies and siblings, try some of these picture book suggestions…
Buy book gifts for new mums today at your local bookstore or here…