Jennifer's Reviews > How Not to F*** Them Up

How Not to F*** Them Up by Oliver James
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's review
Oct 18, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: library-loan, non-fiction, read-2011
Read from October 13 to 18, 2011

Don't get me wrong - there's a goodly scattering of interesting and sometimes worthwhile ideas in this book. But James knows dangerously little about birth or infant feeding... which are kind of relevant to infant existence... without seeming to realise. He does at least say up front that his book is not about working class child-rearing - on the grounds that such people have so little choice in how they rear their children that there's no point addressing them. Ahem.

He also borrows and reworks someone else's categorisation of types of mother (I don't know why he can't use more commonly used terms from the literature although I have some ideas). So we have the "Organiser', the 'Hugger' and the 'Fleximum', with examples from interviews which include far too many irrelevant details. His essential thesis appears to be 'mother know thyself' - if you think you 'need' to work, that is what you should do or you will become depressed and depressed mothers are number one bad news for children. The key thing is that to work without damaging your child you must not choose a day care nursery rather than a childminder, nanny or relative.

What perturbs me is that he appears to have no concept that unless you find childrearing or housework intrinsically fulfilling there could be any other route to mental health than paid work (it is *a* route of course). I am not sure he actually knows what people who are not gainfully employed even do with their days. This seems pretty weird for the man who wrote Affluenza.

He also seems to be sticking firmly to the line that what type of mother you are is determined by how you were cared for as a child yourself, and that should you experience emotional distress you must seek therapy that will focus on your own childhood experiences, nay traumas. Now, I am mighty fond myself of asking mothers to reflect on their own upbringing, and acutely sensitive to the limitations and potential abuses of cognitive behaviour therapy but James verges on the rabid.

He seems at first superficially to prefer the 'Hugger' Mum style but hedges it about with suggestions of 'opting out' and a danger of being unable to cope with increasing independence in the child (fair enough, I thought, until I realised that he was suggesting that some women, enough to raise the issue, can't even cope with the idea that their baby of a few months is mobile) No, I think he is ultimately more comfortable with the 'sensible''realistic' Fleximum so long as she doesn't chop and change her child's carer too often or kid herself when she is making choices which only benefit her and not her child.

I often enjoy Oliver James so I was not expecting to come away from this book feeling that ultimately it is a piece of tat and best avoided.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Jayne Lamb "such people have so little choice in how they rear their children." My GOD, does he actually say that?? I was looking forward to reading it!

Jennifer Yes, he does. It's a bit of a jaw dropper.

Cliff Watt I've just started the book and already recognise a lot of your comments. Not sure I'm going to get as much from it as I hoped which I'm disappointed about.

I'm a new dad of twins and kinda desperate for some good, reliable advice for looking after my son and daughter, get *some* sleep and, hopefully, stay sane in the process.

Any recommendations ??

Jennifer There's a new book out called Sweet Sleep which I have not read but which should be good (although I believe the first edition suggests dog owners look to Cesar Milan for guidance - I am assured by one of the authors this will not be appearing again) My *suggestion*, not advice, would be to avoid advice and look for information and support which is something superficially similar but fundamentally different. As Dr Spock said a long time ago, you know more than you think you do

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