Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

June 7, 2010

Extreme Parenting. Really?

Did you read the article in yesterday’s Sunday Times Style Magazine about a totally radical approach to parenting? I did. It was the most hilarious thing I’ve read for ages. Basically, it was a plug for Matt Rudd’s forthcoming book, 'William's Progress' about the virtues of ditching the traditional parenting guidebooks and just going with the flow instead.

Having read the headline ‘Extreme Parenting’ on the front page, I was looking forward to a riveting read about parents who had raised a baby Bear Grylls, sending their child to be raised by a pack of wolves in Tibet, or teaching their 3 month old to eat steak and chips or something. So, I was disappointed to read that the ‘extremes’ being referred to are simply: no nappies, no cot, no bottles, no buggy. No wolves then?

I’ll give you the edited highlights.

No nappies from 7 months old
Apparently, this all went really well, as long as the child was ‘offered’ (?) a wee every hour. What’s that you say? Every hour? From the age of 7 months? I’m no statistician but that’s a hell of a lot of wees being ‘offered’ before the child’s first birthday. Rudd thinks this was a fantastic idea and says, “there is nothing worse than trying to unpeel a heavy two-year-old’s poo bag.” Oh yes there is. Trying to scrape up sloppy baby poo off the carpet eight times a day.

Basically, they shunned the idea of the child having its own cot, bought a massive bed (emperor size – does that really exist?) and dad retreated to the spare room for 2 ½ years. Nothing so extreme about that – most dad’s retreat to the spare room when babies come along. Oh, but when No. 2 came along, daddy moved into the top bunk with junior on the bottom bunk. OK, I’ll give you this. A 35-yr old man sleeping in a bunk bed is a little extreme.

What? Feeding from the breast? Now, that IS extreme. This man is a genius.

No buggy
Apparently, “the fourth dimension in a stress-free, clutter-free parenting existence is to ditch the buggy.” His words. Not mine. Rudd’s 'Mrs' apparently had a massive revelation in an airport and decided to use a sling instead. Now, I’ve nothing against slings as such but, ditch the buggy? Are you insane man? Where on earth am I supposed to hang all the shopping bags and spare coats and store all the ‘just-in-case’ hats, drinks, teddies and snacks? Then again, maybe I was missing out because apparently, if you use a sling you can go to this extreme, secret club called a ‘Sling Meet’, where other ‘slingers’ can whisper bad things to each other about the buggy pushing, nappy wearing, bottle feeding, cot sleeping parents while they sip on their Fairtrade coffee. That’s 'Fairtrade' coffee. He makes an explicit point on this for reasons only known to him. Maybe they sponsored his book?

So, I’m afraid, Matt Rudd, that I was a tad disappointed when looking at your extremities, as it were. Maybe there is some toddler trolley dash or infant rock climbing at some stage in the book. Perhaps I’ll have to read it to find the really juicy bits.

Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention that this fantastic, ‘extreme’ approach to parenting also meant that mum and dad didn’t go out together for three years. Blimey – sounds brilliant. Maybe he’s onto something after all.



  1. Hahahahahahahahaha.... *fades into distance after men in white coats come to take her away for laughing hysterically*

    Of course, it would be a man writing this tosh, eh?

    Is he still married or has she ditched him yet?


    LCM x

  2. Hi Hazel,

    Is this man for real? Ditching nappies at seven months old? The mind boggles! Is Mum supposed to become sort of robot? And bring baby for a wee ever hour? I seem to remember a hell of a lot of pooey nappies when mine were seven months old. I wonder should we also stick in a few poo trips as well; lest we bome selfish and try to get outselves a sneaky lunch or maybe even a wee trip all to ourselves!

    Isn't there enough strains on the modern relationship without suggesting Mum and Dad sleep in different beds for years and worse still - ensuring they never take time out for themselves. I agree that we should embrace our role as parents and do what's best for our children but we shouldn't loose sight of ourselves or out relationships in the process.

    Great article, usual (I mean yours, not his!) Pity you didn't make it on Friday. We'll arrange something else in the next few weeks.

    Maria x

  3. The man is an eeejit. I cannot abide these "parenting experts" at the best of times, but a bloke spouting forth on the subject matter is even more irritating!

  4. I am surprised there was no "no parent" option . He!he!

  5. So this man is expecting his long-suffering wife to stay permanently shackled indoors breastfeeding, while scooping up pee and poo. He truly is a catch, isn't he?!


  6. The pointing East when it comes to the no nappies idea makes me crossed eyed. My first husband was Thai and I lived in Bangkok for several years.

    Plenty of babies and kids were nappy free, not all because of economic issues.

    Rather than babies trained to use the loo as soon as they can squawk "I need a pee !" you got year round half naked, (try that in a European winter) kiddies crawling or walking around, who just squatted and went on the floor, inside and out.

    Either the hovering nanny or one of the adults would do a clear up, so its not like it was a poo\pee filled home issue,(thank god they don't usually have carpets or lots of soft furnishings in Thailand. Can you imagine how unhygienic the consequences would have been in that setting ?), but the idea that other cultures, that are less keen on nappies, produce immaculately trained babies in record time is an overstatement.

    I saw children as old as five or six still going whenever and wherever the urge struck, secure in the knowledge that somebody else would be making the real effort on their behalf.

    I personally would rather change a million nappies than deal with the kind of mess in-laws, friends and acquaintances were cleaning up all day everyday for years.

  7. Wow. 7 months? My house would reek of pee/poo and I would be one crabby mommy. Just cleaning it out of the clothes on the occasion gets me crabby. GROSS!
    I am all for breastfeeding and sling wearing, but libing in the city I still need the stroller for my 2 year old (who isn't potty trained. Perhaps I should just let her whiz in the stroller?) and for goodness sake's, not go out alone for years? I say he is raising some mommy dependant kids!

  8. Crazy man!!!! I would be interested to see the state of his carpet after ditching the nappies.

  9. Lol great post. I do get so annoyed by self-styled baby rearing experts telling us the best way to do things. Quite often men aren't they? I wonder how much extreme parenting he's done one on one day in day out. There was another similar 'expert' on Women's Hour the other week, I can't remember his name. He was so evasive and defensive about his viewpoints that I became quite suspicious of him. I think he was just trying to sell his book rather than provide any useful help to parents.

  10. I read it too. What a tosser!! No nappies from 7 months.. yeah good luck with that one!
    B X

  11. Great post!!! Shame about the original Times article. So when you don't have a buggy, and they're too old/big/heavy for a sling, what are you supposed to do with them? Carry them everywhere like Suri Cruise? (that was a Daily Mail remark, I know she's only carried because of the paparazzi).

    This man is extremely ridiculous. And his wife even more so for putting up with him.

  12. Oh I read it too, just as I was about to go to sleep. And then because of it my mind was buzzing with thoughts of their carpet etc! He did seem like quite a fool, but (in his defence) he did say at the beginning it was his wifes dream of being a earth/hippy mother!
    So that's it, they are both nuts!! With incredibly light children-I'd love to see my 3 yo's face if I tried to squeeze her into a sling!

  13. I know people who have done EC and they're not 'nuts' and their children weren't just making messes all over the house every day. If it's done from birth most babies don't have many uncaught messes because the parent learns when they need to go. I mean, I know that my son will poo within half an hour of eating his breakfast and goes very still or goes into a corner a few minutes before so at that point I *could* just whisk a potty underneath him or take him to the toilet. I suppose it's no more work than having to go change the nappy a few minutes later.

    As for slings being impractical for daily life, it depends on the sling, the parent and the child. Trying to put a 3-year-old in a sling who is not used to it would most likely hate it but if they're used to it from birth then it's not a big deal. I wore my daughter in a sling loads until I became pregnant again just before she turned 2. We also used a pushchair though, for when I had to get lots of shopping or just didn't feel like it.

    I see what you mean about it being irritating when someone advocates for things you find utterly impractical, but I don't think he ever said it would work for everyone or that everyone should aspire to be like their family. He just wrote about what worked for them and some families will find that style interesting or appealing. What's wrong with that? Writing about your own experiences of parenting isn't an automatic condemnation of others. Isn't that exactly what the 'cry-it-out, anti-bed-sharing, scheduled everything' parents say -- it works for them so don't judge? Well, it works both ways. If they don't want to be called control freaks or cruel, they shouldn't call parents who do things differently 'nuts' or 'unrealistic'.

  14. " He just wrote about what worked for them and some families will find that style interesting or appealing. What's wrong with that?"

    Look at the reoccurrence of "natural" and "naturally" throughout the article. It's that kind of proprietary use of an adjective that gets up people's noses.

    "Sensible parenting - when you chose sensible parenting you realize that you automatically breastfeed for six months only"

    "Caring parenting - parents who chose to parent in a caring manner do not reject physical pusnhiment because they love their children enough to dicipline them"

    "ethical parenting – as ethical parents they reject the concept of a placing boundries on a child's behavoir through rules, regulations and the need for parental permission to be sought"

    See what I mean ? The adjective serves to cast a exclusive, postive light over one set of choices and by definition excludes other choices from being under the same umbrella of description.

    It is this over dependence on adjectives that don't so much as give a description as pass a judgment that creates the antipathy.

    I recognize it like a brush of stinging nettles over the skin. An example of recent times is how fast you can get my hackles to rise and a low growl to start low in my throat is when people label a specific form of home educating "non-coercive" thus implying that all other forms are coercive by default.

    If people don't want to hack other parents off they need to lose the passive aggressive, judgmental tone of their descriptions. My most sincere suggestion is that they aim to describe what they do without labeling it in such a way that they make massive assumptions about what everybody else's style is or isn't, can or cannot be.

    I'd call his parenting "paraphernalia free", rather than natural, humans have created, sought and used tools and time\hassle saving devices, so picking nappies, pushchairs and bottles is at least as natural as eschewing them.

    If we want to get rid of the parental olympics the first thing that has to go is the swaggering around with adjectives as seen in the article in question. Although I doubt you'd get that concept past the marketing department.

  15. This type of parenting is quite common in San Francisco. Slings are much easier than strollers with our hills, and quite a lit if folk switch to a sturdy backpack carrier for older kids. I made use of these and also a stroller. Sometimes you do need somewhere to put things. I do find the EC thing a but extreme, my kids are in daycare, it would be unreasonable to expect them to gave 7 month olds out of diapers. But though we didn't co sleep it is very common in much of the world and accepted as normal here in sf too. Culturalnirns are just that, the way mist people in a particular culture behave. There are other perfectly good ways to raise kids that seem extreme compared to our cultur norms, but they are just a different normal

  16. "Look at the reoccurrence of "natural" and "naturally" throughout the article. It's that kind of proprietary use of an adjective that gets up people's noses."

    But you could say the same about articles or books extolling the virtues of things like scheduled naps, bottle feeding, cry-it-out, strict discipline, etc.. They often use words like "practical" and "realistic" and "maintaining control." That may be the case for them (even if I don't agree with their methods) but I don't get my nose out of joint, insisting that because these things work for them that they are automatically denigrating my choices as IMpractical or UNrealistic or OUT of control. Maybe they are, maybe they aren't.

    My point is, why care? Unless someone is trying to pass a law banning your preferred method of parenting, why attack with names and negative words about THEIR parenting style? I for one am sick and tired of being made to feel [not necessarily here but in general] that I'm wanting to be some kind of martyr or that I'm looking down on others just because I choose to breastfeed, babywear, co-sleep, etc.. It's become de rigeur to call parents such as myself nuts, insane, smug, hippy and/or ridiculous, as evidenced here and all over the Internet. But dare someone utter one negative word about formula or cots or controlled crying then woe betide them because they will be called out as judgemental, hurtful and guilt-inducing and instructed to just let everyone do their own thing and not interfere or comment unless asked. Which is fair enough, because I agree; let's have rational discussions and leave the emotionally-charged criticisms out of it.

    But to those who say they want a little courtesy and respect from the "natural" parenting crowd? Try extending some in return.

  17. Ah I really needed a laugh and now I've had one XXX

  18. Wow, I am a little speechless. I breastfed and used a sling (held onto the nappies), does that make me an extreme parent?? Nope, not at all but it obviously is in this guys eyes. Hilarious!! Jen.

  19. "My point is, why care?"

    Cos the bulk of humans do care about the attitude that is revealed by the words chosen to convey the message. How people describe their parenting\femaleness\relationship values\role values will tell you if they are......

    a) aiming to describe what they do, how it works for them


    b) aiming to define themselves as people via their choices

    or even more inflammatory

    c) aiming to define themselves as "better people" via their choices

    An end to the mummy Olympics will start with a certain amount of care in the words used to label parental flavours with "value added" adjectives. Or it will not start at all.

    You say you don't care if the underlying message is a, b or c, fair enough, but what the thread does show you is that plenty of people do, it doesn't make them right and you wrong or vice versa, it just demonstrates that the reaction, while not 100% universal, is one that occurs and shows how it is instrumental in deepening divisions.

    Since there are enough people who do care, and if anything I would say humans do tend to react at least as strongly to the tone of a message as they do to the rest of the content, I'd say the fastest road to a resolution is a recognition of that factor with a view to stamping out the worst of the provocative and "value added" language.

    I can tell you "who cares ?" above all others. The writer of the article. Had he written that piece less dripping in the provocative use of "value added" language it wouldn't have created so much as a ripple, nappy free or not, and would have sunk without a trace.

    The use of language was so contrived, so overdone that it was was points to a deliberate stratagy, with the precise intention of causing heated discussion on the mummyweb thus raising his profile, maybe getting further media attention thanks to the kerfuffle if lucky and improving the chances of shifting a few extra copies of his book. (allegedly, ( :)

    Another person who cares is me. I don't like being called "mad" etc anymore than you do. I get it in the neck about being a home educating parent all the time. The "smuggyknickers" tone of far too many homeschooling books\articles\posts\debates\comments is really lousy PR and colours people's (already somewhat automatically negative) attitudes in a deeply unhelpful manner.

  20. Blimey! I went and ran a mini marathon after posting this and look what I came home to. Thank you all very, very much for your extremely well put thoughts and opinions on my post. Extreme parenting? Extreme commenting more like!

  21. Love the blog but am seriously digging the comments! Can't wait to read the next installment!

  22. I have to say I skimmed the article as I am well over all of that! Thank god. It did all seem a bit obvious to me and not really an article for the Style magazine. What's stylish about poo on the carpet? And whatever happened to boundaries between parents & children. Can't help but feel these are the same parents who encourage their kids to drink with them and have their boy/girlfriends for sleepovers. And yes what a great debate you've sparked up! It's great that people have such strong views on it.

  23. I actually enjoyed the original article but then, as a breastfeeding, slinging till 3+ yrs, and cloth nappying, co-sleeping mother of 3 who has heard criticism of my choices in the past (and now choose to ignore) I suppose that's only 'natural'. Personally I'm a little jealous of the authors wife as he seems to support my parenting ideal, excluding the nappy free bit which I'm not ready for yet (ever!)

  24. Figures a man would write about all that stuff. How extreme can he really be if he hasn't been out with his wife in 3 years.

  25. Hilarious posting.. Is that man for real??
    Two points;
    1. Only a man could write something as daft as that and then consider it a "model" for others to follow.
    2. How on earth did he manage to get a book deal from that?? Hot Cross Mum you def deserve to get published before that drivel!!

  26. No nappies? No buggy? I don't miss the nappies, but I do miss the buggy now I have to carry my own shopping. No cot? Good grief. I can't wait for the sequel...

  27. We've done the no buggy thing from 18 months, more out of necessity than choice. And the thing about the buggy is that is not much to do with ferrying the children around. No, it is far more useful for tying them to one place when you have to wait in a queue.

  28. It seems like attachment parenting to me, right, but with a new label?

  29. I co-slept for six months. I love the idea that I am somehow an extreme parent!

    I'm with Noble Savage - all too often ideas veering away from the mainstream are labelled as 'crazy'. Surely we should get the chance to do what we want without being ridiculed?

    Having said this, I just read the article and think this guy does sound like a bit of a tosser. Would love to have heard his wife's side of the story.

  30. SUCH a depressing idea. Take all modern conveniences that make having a small child bearable and chuck them away. Eh... no.

  31. He must be taking a piss of all the mothers! What sort of dad is he, by the way! Unreal!


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