Why your husband IS as important as your baby

Parenting guru: Gina Ford

Parenting guru Gina Ford has ignited a row over the taboo subject of when parents should have sex after a baby

For the past few years, Gina Ford has been the nanny liberals love to hate. She’s been vilified for her controversial advice that new mothers should stick to a rigid routine, not to mention her advocacy of ‘controlled crying’, and condemned for not being a mother herself.

Now her new book, The Contented Mother’s Guide, has ignited yet another row, this time over that most taboo of subjects: sex after a baby.
What’s her latest hand grenade Wait for it — she thinks that new mothers should not forget the importance of their relationship with their husbands.

There’s been predictable outrage from everyone from Mumsnet to the National Childbirth Trust — and, for the life of me, I can’t see why. The dirty little secret in too many marriages, post-children, is that couples gradually grow further apart.

There are few undertakings more exhausting than having children, or potentially more damaging to a relationship. Every couple I know with young children engages in competitive tiredness (‘But you slept last Saturday!’).

Without the bonds of intimacy, small resentments — nourished by lack of sleep — creep up on you, unannounced, until one day you realise the strong relationship you took for granted has become dangerously brittle.

We’re living through the most child‑centric period of our history. We’re encouraged to see our children as an extension of ourselves, and we pour energy into making them as perfect as possible. We want them to have all the opportunities we didn’t, whether that means going to a top university, playing the piano or being a county tennis champion.

Gina Ford

Seizing the day: Gina Ford has done new mothers a favour by reminding them of a man's needs and suggesting that they take early action

To pay for all this, we work longer and longer hours, and become more and more tired. Is it any wonder so many women are too exhausted for sex

For some mothers, their children become the all-consuming focus of their lives. They rattle along for years in an empty marriage until brought up short by an empty nest.

Most men, however, can’t simply rattle along. All Gina Ford has done is to suggest that we remember this and take early, preventative action. It’s hardly on a par with suggesting you beat your children. Yet once again she’s being treated as a bogeywoman.

I must confess to being a Gina Ford convert. For the first six months of my daughter’s life, I barely slept. Her colicky pains began at around 6pm each evening, and despite my best efforts — administering gripe water, winding her, rocking her — they continued throughout much of each night. I remember craving sleep much as an addict craves heroin: it became my sole obsession.

Throughout these early months, I used the revered child psychologist Penelope Leach’s definitive parenting manual Your Baby And Child, which counselled you to let your baby dictate the pace. Let your baby sleep when it wanted to sleep and eat when it wanted to eat. All you, the new mother, had to do was lovingly go with the flow.

There may well be some saintly earth goddesses — perhaps with staff, in a delightful villa somewhere warm — who manage not just to survive but to thrive on the Leach method. As a besotted but bone‑achingly weary first-time mother in a one-bedroom London flat, I was not one of them.

No sex please, we're exhausted: New parents can find it hard to communicate and rediscover the intimacy they had before their baby arrived

No sex please, we're exhausted: For some mothers, children become the all-consuming focus of their lives, and they mope along in an empty marriage

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Tragic: Madeline said her manifesto was 'only meant to be a light-hearted satire'

No age of innocence

Yesterday, Joan Bakewell attacked teen magazines for fuelling the premature sexualisation of young girls.

It’s not just the magazines — which in my experience are actually read by pre-teens — but the omnipresence of porn that has desensitised young people.

It’s available on every teenage smartphone. Boys have constant access to material their parents would never have dreamed of, let alone seen — and girls grow up thinking such sexual content is representative of normal life. This is why many teenage girls see nothing wrong with giving sexual favours to almost any boy who asks.

It’s a good part of the reason why a third of teenage girls claim to have been sexually assaulted by their boyfriends.

And it’s why student Madeline Grant, running for the prestigious role of Oxford Union Librarian, didn’t realise that urging people to vote for her because ‘I just have a great rack’ was tragic, not funny.

The vilest diet ever

Painfully thin: Demi Moore weighed just 7st when she was hospitalised earlier this year for exhaustion

Painfully thin: Demi Moore weighed just 7st when she was hospitalised earlier this year for exhaustion

The actress Demi Moore weighed less than 7st when she collapsed earlier this year, and was so thin that paramedics initially assumed she was a cancer patient.

Meanwhile, Hollywood addiction specialist and talk-show host Dr Drew says that, to his eye, Angelina Jolie — photographed last week flashing her thigh at the Oscars — looks seriously malnourished.

And Grazia magazine reports this week that Victoria Beckham is frail, gaunt and surviving on a plate of greens a day. But you don’t have to be a Hollywood star to starve yourself: ordinary people can now get the emaciated look with a diet so appalling it almost defies belief.

As revealed in Monday’s Mail, it involves being fitted with a plastic tube that goes up the patient’s nose and then down their throat, through which a continuous 24-hour drip of proteins and nutrients is administered via a pump.

According to one woman who lost 15lb in ten days, passers-by are sympathetic, as they assume you’ve got cancer.

So that’s all right, then.

Flawless: Samantha Cameron went for a rather glamorous jog

Flawless: Samantha Cameron went for a rather glamorous jog

I’m afraid Samantha Cameron looked far more ridiculous running in full make-up (right) than she ever did without it — and I say that as someone whose own face after a run resembles a shiny beef tomato.

How are men capable of spending an entire evening sitting next to a woman without once asking her a question about herself A friend who recently attended a large dinner in the City finished the evening knowing not only everything about the senior civil servant on her left (including where his sister lives), but also the intimate dietary habits of the barrister on her right. Over three hours, neither of them had the basic good manners to address so much as a single question to her.

Stella's nanny no-no

Manners: Stella McCartney has revealed that she prefers to refer to her children's nanny as a 'friend'

Manners: Stella McCartney has revealed that she prefers to refer to her children's nanny as a 'friend'

Stella McCartney, who combines a career as one of our most sought-after and expensive designers with being a mother of four, says she has a nanny but doesn’t like the word, preferring to call her a ‘friend’ instead.

This is a mistake. A friend will not just confide in you when her love life goes wrong, but has every right to ask for hours of your time, concern and advice.

A friend will expect you to forgive her when she’s grumpy, and understand when she puts her personal life before her job.

An employee, on the other hand, expects to be treated fairly and paid well — but only in return for a job done diligently and to the best of her ability, even if she has just been dumped by her boyfriend.

The truth is that a nanny is not a friend, but an employee with an extremely important job. It’s vital that she be well paid and well treated — but it’s also vital that her employer be able to hold her to account if necessary.

And it’s foolish and patronising for working mothers — especially celebrity ones such as Stella, whose friends include Kate Moss and Gwyneth Paltrow — to pretend otherwise.

Various peers — who receive 300 for every day they attend the House of Lords — have complained about the quality of food and wine in its four restaurants, with one moaning about the porridge being too thin at breakfast and another dismayed by the inedible pork escalopes on offer in the Pugin-wallpapered Barry Room. Time to adapt Oscar Wilde’s definition of fox-hunting to a definition of our not-so-noble Lords: the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable.