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Works by Sarah Bullen


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These titles sounded really promising: my daughters may be teenagers but it seems like only yesterday that the only time my bundle of joy was not surgically welded to my hip was when I was washing nappies, and sometimes not even then.

One thing all mothers have in common, even the really bad ones, is an unfailing instinct to make other mothers feel guilty and inadequate. Or maybe I was just paranoid. However, an ‘Irreverent Mother’s Handbook’ – written by South Africans – seemed well over-due.

As for ‘Romance 101’ – also South African – any book that promises to be ‘fresh, funny, and daringly unconventional about sex and motherhood’ is irresistibly alluring.

Alas, my optimism was sorely misplaced. These are wonderful books, but they reflect the concerns of the upper echelons of South African society, a tiny percent, with little practical relevance for the majority of us, reverent or not.

If though you belong to that small group in which full-time nannies, nappy services, a separate nursery, bottle sterilizers, baby monitors, party planners and bread-winning dads are the norm, the Irreverent Mother’s Handbook is definitely for you!

Sam Cowen and Lee van Loggerenberg come across as vital, caring and sensible women who share their experiences freely, and humbly delight in imparting advice based on their own experiences of motherhood.

The lead up to birth contains elements which are common to all women – weight gain, morning sickness, hormonal imbalance, restless leg syndrome – rich or poor. Tips on how to help your ‘dear husband’ feel included in the pregnancy are hilarious: ‘when you come across ‘confusing’ words in your pregnancy literature [episiotomy, engorgement] ask your husband to look them up and explain them to you.’

And the suggestions how to tactfully bypass the names your family put forward for consideration include ‘You were told your child’s name in a vision [works with all religions]’

After the expulsion [as the birth is called] most young mothers, whether from shack or chalet, become fascinated by certain matters they never considered before. For example – all the essential aspects of infancy end of in the nappy, and many mums find nappy-content analysis with their peers exceedingly instructive. Somehow, dads never get into the spirit of these discussions.

And this is where Sarah Bullen’s Romance 101 may prove useful. The Reader’s Club called it ‘the funniest book I have ever read. I laughed till I ached.’ Unfortunately, I didn’t. The book deals with serious issues which often cause relationships to breakdown once a couple is no longer a couple but a threesome – Mummy, Daddy and baby.

The only good thing about the demise of red hot lust is that it gives rise to intimacy, which is important to any relationship, although there comes a point where too much intimacy will destroy your chances of regaining any sexual sizzle.

“Red belt warning signs:
~ You’re pretty comfortable taking a dump while he’s doing his teeth
~ He asks you to check out his haemorrhoids to see if they’re getting smaller
Emergency advices … lock the bathroom door!”

Bullen points out certain fundamental differences between the sexes: for example, men find ‘Women want you to listen, not solve the problem. They can do that themselves’ while women discover that men ‘are really quite simple. We like sex, good food and fun… Sex is on our mind a lot’

Chapter Six – Sex it Up! BJs, Strip Clubs and Dildos – is of particular interest as Bullen notes:

“A lot of things will you missing over the year when you are parenting but {your sex drive] is the most elusive. It first disappeared during the disastrous round of organic washable nappies you attempted. But way back then, its absence was noted with relief.”

A quiz to discover if you are ‘avoiding the S word’ includes questions like: Do you find a cup of chamomile tea more satisfying than Saturday night sex? And ‘Is your family e-mail account getting hit by spam about ‘hairless Asian cookie’?’

These two books of tips and common-sense advice for well-heeled South African mums are a welcome addition to the local market: they’re pretty amusing too, which is a bonus.
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adpaton | May 15, 2009 |


½ 3.5