Cocktails at Naptime: a book review

As a Mum to two boys and someone who’s open to opinion on parenting ideas, I thought I knew a fair bit about motherhood.  I’ve juggled work and babies on and off for several years.  I’ve had many a frank discussion with other mums about just how we go about this ”business” that we do.  I guess I liked to think I had a few tricks up my sleeve.

Then the opportunity arose for me to review a new book, aimed at new Mums.  It was boldly entitled “Cocktails at Naptime”, and without even having a copy of the book in my hands, I was stopped in my tracks.  Cocktails, at naptime? 

At naptime?? 

Genius.

Why the hell hadn’t I thought of that before? 

Based on the title alone, my instincts told me that Emma and Gillian – the two clever Mums who wrote the book – just may know a thing or two that perhaps I didn’t.  So I volunteered to read Cocktails and Naptime – for myself, and for the benefit of several new Mums and mums-to-be I know.  Heck, for all Mums in the world at large…

And it turned out to be an eye-opening, absolutely hilarious read from start to finish!  Emma and Gillian leave no stone unturned.  All the important topics new Mums need to know about are covered: the extraction process birth, breastfeeding (behold the Alpha Boob!), midwifes (and yes, I encountered several that should definitely have been prison officers), your emotions, post-birth sex, getting back into shape, yummy mummies, life as a ‘Mum’, returning to work.

Yes many of these topics are covered in other self-help parenting books.  But there’s one key difference that separates Cocktails at Naptime from the rest.  It is a no holds barred account of the experience many of us have as a new mother. 

We need more books like these.  Who really tells you about what motherhood will be like?  I mean, really?  Yes, we’re often told about the joy of being a parent, the limitless amount of love you’ll have for your children… but the tough bits?  All I think my mother told me was ”oh..you’ll be tired”.  (And oh sweet Lord, was she right about that.) 

Despite the book covering topics that can be quite difficult and even traumatic for some new Mums, Emma and Gillian manage to do this while lifting your spirits.  Making you feel OK about it all.  Giving you ample chance to laugh about this motherhood gig..and at yourself.

I was able to ask the authors, Gillian Martin (of Aberdeen, Scotland) and Emma Kauffman (Baltimore, US) a few questions of my own.  (Sadly no I did not fly to interview them in person, it was done via email)  Here’s what they had to say.

I am amazed that you haven’t met each other yet! What was the most difficult thing about jointly writing the book while living in two different continents?

Emma: Well writing together had a lot of up sides – I mean sometimes writing can be a fairly lonely slog so it was really a joy to write with someone else – even if that person was 4,000 miles away (Gillian is in the UK and I am in the USA). But mostly it was energizing – she’d write a bit, then I’d write a bit and we’d be fired up by each other’s energy. I guess the toughest part was fine tuning it at the end – the editing process was tough when we couldn’t be in a room together! As for meeting each other I think it will happen we just don’t know exactly when!

Gillian: The more I think about this the mental I think it is. Why haven’t we met? How did we get this book written? We just kept on going til it was done. I always thought when we started out that at one point we’d have rent a room in some dodgy hotel midway and open a bottle of Absinthe, smoke a thousand Gitanes and mop each other’s fevered brows until it was finished. Sadly we just did it by email. I’d bought that Absinthe specially as well…. 

Many of us are juggling motherhood along with work and other projects. Do you have any tips on how you managed to write Cocktails at Naptime, while still doing all the things Mums have to do?

Emma: Well since my kids are older I don’t really have any excuse not to put pen to paper. My kids are both at school and I don’t currently work outside the home so I try to get a bit of writing done every day just to keep the creative juices flowing – when I’m not surfing the internet, twittering, avoiding the gym and generally faffing about that is. I don’t have that many distractions other than those self imposed ones I just mentioned. For example, I can work in a messy room and am the opposite of a cleanaholic.

Gillian: This is the tricky part. I work too much. I have freelance work, lecturing work and the whole family stuff going on. It’s probably fair to say that I let other parts of my life slide slightly to be able to write as much. These other areas can fit safely into the following categories: Home hygiene, home improvements, getting involved in any parent councils or committees, doing regular exercise, paying attention to my husband and body hair removal. I am always permanently knackered and will probably die an early death but I’d rather be writing than anything else, so I’m prepared to forgo old age, a clean house and my mother/mother in law’s respect and admiration.

I loved, but am admittedly a little afraid of, the Alpha Boob. Who came up with this hilarious notion, and did your Alpha Boob rule your life?

Emma: Well I had two Alpha Boobs that gushed milk to such an extent that I could have wetnursed a small village and started a cheese factory. Gillian suffered at the ducts of an uneven lactational pair of breasts and no doubt while suffering this ignomy coined the phrase of overproducing Alpha Boob and smaller less productive Beta Boob and I know many mums have had this rather stressful experience. In what ways did the Alpha Boob rule your life Gillian?

Gillian: You should be afraid of the Alpha Boob. I was! (and so was anyone who saw me naked). Yeah, I was the freak with the Alpha Boob. It happened to me in both instances. When my son was nursing at least the Beta Boob attempted to work a little but I think it was producing inferior shop bought milk – you know the kind you’d get from a budget supermarket that you could have in a store cupboard and it would keep for years – like in a nuclear bunker or in a space capsule. By Kid 2 the Beta Boob had retired entirely, it made no effort whatsoever. The phrase in the book “Hello my lopsided luverly!” comes directly from my husband John. I was a freak of nature. But so many of the people who have read the book have said, “That happened to me!” So we’re all freaks together.  

Cocktails at Naptime is a hilarious read. I’m sure that one of your key intentions was to make readers laugh from start to finish. How important do you think humour is for new Mums? Do you think we perhaps need to lighten up a little?

Emma: Well I consider myself to be a fairly laid back person but even for me the first weeks after giving birth to my first daughter were fraught with trauma – I couldn’t bear to hear her cry even though of course, duh, that’s the only way a baby can communicate. I did worry about every little noise she made at the beginning but after a few months I got into the swing of it and stopped fretting. But the reason I worried less than most is that I avoided all those earnest baby advice books. I think the greatest tonic in those early days was talking to other like minded mums (and by that I don’t mean those patronizing know it all types but woefully inadequate mums like me in my neighbourhood who can easily be identified by having crusty baby puke on their t-shirts as they shuffle bleary-eyed into Starbucks wearing odd shoes), who I had a good laugh about the trials and tribulations of new motherhood. Yes humour is essential for the new mum as it takes you out of yourself and stops you fretting too much.

Gillian: I think we need to stop trying to be perfect. If baby is happy and mum is happy then that’s it really. If you are a little bit haphazard, don’t manage to get into your day clothes until 5pm, haven’t showered in a couple of days and don’t feel like mother earth like everyone said you would then that’s OK.  Your brain goes a little bit weird in the months after you have a kid. You’re going to do stupid things. I locked myself out of my flat about 3 times, I went 100 miles with the baby down to visit my brother and forgot to pack myself any clothes (my son had his full range of bonnie outfits-I didn’t even have underwear). It’s OK to be a bit crap. It’s funny.

One last question. How often did you scull cocktails at naptime?

Emma: Like many people as I have grown older I have become less tolerant of alcohol. In my mind I am still a Holly Golightly devil may care party animal that could give Paris Hilton a run for her money. But the reality of the situation is that these days after two glasses of wine I am snoring on the sofa in front of the nine o’clock news. Actually I have this incredibly glamourous ex-model pal called Rachel who was feeling stressed with her tot who vowed, ‘Right I’m going to be one of those glamourous 1950s mums who quaffs sherry in the afternoons.’ But the next day after she tried her experiment she said ‘No, I can’t do it – the hangover is killing me.’ So, like Rachel, the reality is I may have had the odd sip of alcohol during the day now and again, you know, just to take the edge off … but it was more your vino than your hard core stuff.

Gillian: It’s funny you mention that. I have a friend who had twin girls about a year ago. She emailed me the other day to say, “And another thing, I have never drunk so much Pinot Grigio in my life. I don’t go out anymore, binge drinking, dancing til I fall down  and tumbling in to bed at 4am – I just drink wine at home in a steady flow.” Hey, I am the child of Scottish parents brought up in the Seventies, sculling a Cocktail at Naptime is pretty much what we do best. Of course, if my midwife or health visitor is reading this. All that is a joke. I never touched a drop. Especially when I was still breastfeeding. No not even that time after my brother’s graduation when I was too hungover to go downstairs and make the baby a bottle and unleashed the Alpha Boob about 6am to get him back to sleep. That never happened.

So there you have it.  If you’re a new Mum in need a good chuckle, or know of a someone who’s soon to be a Mum, grab a copy of Cocktails at Naptime.  Not only is it a refreshingly honest read, I think it’s the laugh we all need to have!

You can buy the book direct from the publisher’s website: http://www.finch.com.au/books/cocktails-naptime  It is also available from all good bookstores throughout Australia and New Zealand. You can also keep up to date with book news and what the authors are up to on their website: www.cocktailsatnaptime.com

I’m selflessly passing my copy of the book onto a friend of mine who is, as I type, 39 weeks and 5 days pregnant with her first child.  Bless her. 

Would you like to win a copy of Cocktails at Naptime for yourself?  Leave a comment describing what shocked you most about becoming a Mum.  What hit you for six?  (Winner will be chosen randomly on Sunday, 17 October).

** The winner of a copy of Cocktails at Naptime is Bronnie from Maid in Australia.  Congratulations Bronnie, enjoy the read!

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22 responses to “Cocktails at Naptime: a book review

  1. I’ve read the book cover to cover (which is a miracle in itself) but I had to weigh in with my shock comment anyway… The biggest shock was the burden of responsibility. The fact that from the minute that first child came into the world, I had Responsibility on my shoulder 24/7. I am still not over the shock that it really is all up to me. Me. x

    • I have to agree. It was the shock of responsibility – that this was it, the responsibility was here to stay..and that suddenly I had to go from being selfish to selfless in an instant. That, and being attached to a breast pump every 4 hours for six months, came as a bit of a shock!

  2. What knocked me for six….. was a combination of tight throbbing boobs, squirting milk ducts, grazed nipples, black and green poo, mixed with a dangerous minute amount of sleep and the realisation that I was now full responsibility for another tiny human being. This was topped off with an overwhelming, undescribable feeling of love.

  3. You know what surprised me the most? Everyone expects the baby years to be hard, but I’ve found the school years are harder. You’re weighing in there with homework, sport, bullying, personal problems, strengths and weaknesses. You get less time to work and/or to yourself, because you’re helping your kids through all this, which is as it should be clearly. But yes, I guess I assumed that as they got older they’d be easier, when in fact it’s so hard – dealing with depression, hard days at school, frenemies, hormones, disappointments, joys, not always being able to fix it for them. I wouldn’t swap it for the world, but it’s really full-on, and each year brings more challenges and joys.

    • That’s true – I guess I was in ‘baby mode’ when I wrote this post, as the book is about becoming a mum, and babies. But yes I agree, different ages bring with them different challenges….thanks for making that important point!

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  5. A few things shocked me.
    – First of all – how it changed my relationship with my husband. We became more team-like, more solid and I became to love him in a whole new way – as the father of my child. I was quite unprepared for that.
    – How little I would miss my ‘career’ I became more family focussed and as someone who was considered not really marriage-friendly (my friends were shocked when I announced my nuptuals, think power suit and proud of it) I took it one step further and took a step back with ease. I still love my work but it’s not central to who I am anymore. No regrets!

  6. Can I just warn all new mothers out there NOT to wear their very best, specially bought for hospital PJ’s after you’ve just given birth.

    No one warned me first time round about the gush factor and wish I had of taken the midwife up on her offer of an ugly gown.

    OH, and Ural, take it ladies, the minute you go into labour, when you eventually do wee after, it won’t burn like a mo fo.

    🙂 This book would also be fab for my 36 week pregnant best friend (after I read it first)

  7. Seeing as though I’m struggling to find one definitive answer as to what hit me for six the most, I thought perhaps I’d instead give you a TOP 6, as all were unfortunately evilly equally in the shock stakes.

    1. The fact that my birth plan, which I’d lovingly created and nurtured, was as good a use to me as a piece of toilet paper
    2. That I’d spent about $500 on various calm birthing and meditation techniques to have a tranquil (drug free) labour experience – and then proceeded to use the whole gamut on offer because no one had told me my son was posterior until about 10 hours before labour kicked off and proceeded to spent the first five hours smashing his skull into my spine like a wrecking ball that had been marinating in volcanic lava
    3. That my husband would literally take to pinning me to the bed because the midwives were wrenching with such force (and such huge forceps) to get my son out that I’d be tossed about like a rag doll
    4. Third degrees tears are NASTY! Do not expect to sit, pee, poo, walk or even talk without it stinging like you’ve sat on a hornets nest even few minutes. This only last, oh, for about 6 MONTHS
    5. The old adage that you “sleep whey they are sleeping” because you’ll be so utterly fatigued does not actually ring true for everyone (namely me). When your body and literally been torn apart its not so easy to drift of into an exhausted sleep because the pain of labour is still bloody hanging around like an unwanted house guest
    6. Breastfeeding is not, as I’d have been lead to believe, “the most natural thing in the world” and some babies (again, namely mine) simply cant latch, suck, or even get enough to quell their seemingly insatiable hunger.

    Sorry, almost enough here to warrant my very own post on the subject! I guess if there is ever any chance of me going back for number two (as explored in http://nappydaze.blogspot.com/2010/08/only-you.html ) I’d best be reading a copy of this book first 🙂

    • Oh God! I can only vouch for #6 as I had two c-sections (not by choice, and I certainly didn’t choose to be sliced open up the middle, yes vertical c-sections, both times)

      I’m heading over to your blog now!

  8. The first thing that shocked me was how tired I was. How much I craved sleep…just 3 hours in a row would have been a Godsend….I got over that.

    The next thing that shocked me was how much I would love and adore my child…my children, I knew I would love them, but how I would go to the ends of the Earth to keep them happy and safe…….and how strong a pull it was…it’s being a Mother that does it….

    • I agree, I was shocked by how strong those new emotions are. I was completely overwhelmed with emotion particularly in those early days (hormones going nuts of course). When a midwife handled my tiny newborn son far too roughly and made him cry, I swear I could have choked her.

  9. This would be great for my life long friend who is currently 9 weeks pregnant with her first child (and has NO clue what’s coming up! ) …. he he he. I do care, but as a now mother of two I have earned the right to have that evil smile on my face! ;-p~

    Warning if your currently eating or have a weak stomach, I advise you don’t read the following;
    Anyway as you said the book was no holds barred account … heres mine. A lot of pregnancy books talk about “The Show” and it being a mucus plug etc.. etc.. etc.. Well for me and more so during my second pregnancy I had NO IDEA that amount of goop could come out of you … oh and keep coming out of you for the last 8 weeks of pregnancy. Along with bleeding and clots up to the size of a baseball. I thought pads would be a thing of the past for me for 9 months … uummmm no, wrong again. The general ‘discharge’ would give niagra falls a run for it’s money in the last half of pregnancy. There’s also the burping, farting and lets not overlook the puking. Then once bub is out and all the ferral-ness continues with more bleeding … and this time not just down stairs, my nipples had to have ago also. My little vampire, I mean baby girl, sucked so hard even my husband was hesitant to put his little finger in her mouth (as she doesn’t take a dummy), meanwhile I have to shove my boob in her mouth 50 million times a day … men can be such pansies sometimes, but that’s a story for another day.

    Went looking for this book in my local big chain book stores today but they don’t have it on the shelves yet. 😦

  10. I think the biggest shock was the responsible decisions I needed to make regarding the time to sleep, eat, play, cuddle etc. That combined with the unsolicited mother in law visits with random family friends armed with a truckload of presents. We got more presents when son was born than wedding presents – I know that by the sheer number of thank you cards I wrote/sent. I can’t wait to read this bloody book…hope to on holidays with a cocktail or 2.

  11. the biggest shock is what happens to your own body. The womans body is amazing the way it handles birth but gosh if you don’t know all the leakages, bruising, weight gain, the droopiness, the grazing and everything we go through to have the baby and then nourish it – it certainly shocked me. If only men knew what we went through, Mothers Day would be every day!

  12. 3rd degree tear, infection, restiching all big owwies but what surprised my the most is what and amazing dad my husband became and I fell in love with him all over again 🙂

  13. There were many shocks about having babies, but one moment always sticks in my mind. I was nude, I was on my way to the shower and stopped off to go to the toilet. Mid-wee I realised my boobs were squirting milk, in every direction, all over the place. Freaked out and unsure of what to do I just sat there cupping my boobs “collecting” the milk while yelling out for my husband to help me out. By this stage I was laughing somewhat hysterically. Who knew the milk squirted out of a whole number of ducts!!!

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