From "A Baby In The House", by Mary and Richard Gordon, 1966.
REPRODUCTION, despite such modern distractions as betting-shops, the Costa Brava, and the risk of nuclear incineration, remains unquenchably popular with the British public. In fact, they can hardly wait to get at it. Thirty years ago most girls were deaf to the sound of wedding-bells before coming of age. Today the joyous clangour is heard under twenty-one by a third of brides each Saturday afternoon.
Only a few gay youthful years elapse between a girl’s freedom to risk the life and health of fellow-citizens in general behind the wheel of a car, and her freedom to risk the life and health of one in particular behind a pram. She does not expect, in the present state of evolution, to be born with the natural instinct for driving. She is bitterly disappointed to find, in the present state of evolution, she is not even born with the natural instinct for child-rearing.
Nobody, not even a freshly qualified doctor, manages to combine pride with blue fright like a new mother. Hence many kindly and articulate paediatricians have written books simplifying the mysteries of motherhood. So many that the weight of reading-matter facing the pregnant woman is now considerably heavier than the baby.
All these books are futile.
Firstly, they are never there when you want them. Clearly, you cannot put down your baby to find your book, because he will scream his head off and wake up father. By the time you discover it in the dog’s basket, look up ‘Blue, baby turning, causes of, in the index, and thumb through the hundreds of pages—the great Spock has 627 of them in his pocket edition, Lord help us—the baby has turned pink again.
Worse still, the young mother ruffling among the print finds herself faced with such unimagined but apparently rampant problems as dirt-eating, aggressiveness, lead poisoning, strabismus, objects up the nose, castration anxiety, rat-bites, ruptures, convulsions, and precocious sexuality.
How, she asks herself, tossing the book hopelessly among the day’s crop of nappies, can she measure up to those paragons of mothers plainly demanded by the doctor-author? And still cook her husband’s supper and see Panorama occasionally? Handling a baby strikes her as a full-time job needing the skill and concentration of handling a supersonic airliner. Can you blame the poor girl for sinking into a fit of depression and wishing the whole project back on the drawing-board?
Now this book—which aims to teach the rearing of young children despite good advice—is based on two entirely new PRINCIPLES OF MOTHERHOOD:
(1) Whatever you do is probably wrong.
(2) Generally, it doesn’t matter much anyway.
This should instantly give a feeling of relaxation, so you will muddle along with a happy-go-lucky mixture of trial-and-error, rule-of-thumb, wait-and-see, and all’s-well-that-ends-well, never once risking losing your patience, temper, head, sense of humour, figure, or husband.
With luck, you may make as good a job of it as your great-grandmother did."