I have been trying to break out of the domestic mold for some time now. I bought girl clothes, attended a grown-up party, and made a new friend whose children are so close to being out of the house that talking kid stuff is just not a temptation. So when MotherTalk presented the opportunity to review Anna Johnson’s new book The Yummy Mummy Manifesto, I jumped at it.
I was not disappointed. More than a guidebook, the manifesto (as all good ones should be) is an intricate call to action: getting away from the “Juicy sweats” and ponytail that often seem easiest and most practical for mothers of young children to wear, and recognizing and fulfilling ourselves. Not to be selfish or to escape from our children, but to be better mothers.
Johnson covers all aspects of early motherhood, from pregnancy through childbirth and into the toddler years. While I had a hard time relating to pregnancy fashion (I’m done) and sexuality (HA), Johnson’s treatment of sensuality in pregnancy is right on. Linked to the process of birth itself, her discussion may seem a bit odd at first blush, but how right she is that one must reflect on childbearing as “a state rather than an act.”
Having first labored naturally, then having had to endure an emergency Caesarian section, Johnson can afford to advise women: “Drug-free, peaceful, and private birth is the ideal, yet for every alternative, there are ways to humanize, personalize, and empower your birth. Seeing it first and foremost as your own sacred rite of passage is primary to feeling strong and connected.”
Johnson is wonderfully, refreshingly honest about so many aspects of mothering: postnatal sex (“Coming back into your sexuality after a birth is wed pretty tightly to coming back into your power”), fighting with one’s mate (“At the heart of most really awful fights between parents is the same challenge ripping at both the mother and the father but often in different forms”), fitness (“The depletion of muscle tone, loss of agility, and dull weight of new-mother exhaustion pin us down”). Many chapters provide lists with tips on how to achieve Yummyhood, and even if none of the ideas fit you, they should provide a decent springboard from which to find your own way.
Occasionally Johnson edges into what my friend PT-LawMom calls “SanctiMommy” territory. Her chapter on pregnancy diet is delivered like a Jo Frost lecture on discipline, and she strays a bit from her message–finding the woman under the mommy–in her chapters on play and simplicity, which left me feeling like an utter failure. I quite literally draw a blank every time I sit on the floor to play with my children, and I do rely on television and obnoxious plastic toys, but I admit – I am afraid to try more radical mothering, fearful that despite Johnson’s claims of the boon to her creativity, my own will be subsumed.
Johnson understands, though, and her following chapters include “Crafts for Women Who Hate Them” and “Mummy’s Room: How to Build a Sanctuary,” which brings with it a number of ideas for all kinds of spaces in all sizes of home. To that end, The Yummy Mummy Manifesto isn’t just a silly idea of becoming more in tune yourself through fashion and flirtation, but about all the ways in which womanhood and motherhood are inextricably intertwined.
At the core of her book, indeed, Johnson discusses “Gut Reaction,” the criticality of maternal instinct to our lives as both women and mothers: “Blazing your own trail through all the dogma, right and left, and following your heart and senses as much as your logic, will not protect you from the fatigue of the job. But it will help you stand by your choices and know that they were truly your own”–the reason we must all find our own path to Yummyhood.