Scottish Daily Mail

Remember that Spock spoke sense


DO YOU remember Dr Spock? His classic manual, Baby And Child Care was first published in the year I was born (1946) and by the time I had my first child in 1974 it was still helping new mothers.

Sadly, it became associated with the permissive­ness of the baby boomer generation, but I remember it as being full of common sense — which is what every new mother needs.

I was reminded of Dr Spock’s good qualities when I found a delightful essay by the novelist Alice Jolly, in the quarterly magazine about books, Slightly Foxed. Jolly describes being alone (her husband away) in Brussels in 2002 with a threemonth-old who wouldn’t stop screaming. Who helped her? Dr Spock, of course — his book a gift from her mother.

Thus was good advice passed on through generation­s, although I’m afraid bad advice (known as old wives’ tales) is easily passed on as well.

Spock’s strength was to imbue the new mother with confidence: ‘What new mothers and fathers instinctiv­ely feel like doing for their babies is usually best after long as the mother acts as though she knows what she is doing.’

Alice Jolly selected a particular­ly brilliant piece of down-toearth advice, worth repeating here. Dr Spock was well aware that new mothers can become stressed and may even take time to love their babies. This is his counsellin­g gem: ‘Go to a movie, or a beauty parlour, or get yourself a new hat or dress.’

You may think that incredibly trivial and chide me that ‘mental health issues’ (I confess I become tired of the buzzphrase) can’t be dealt with by retail therapy or beauty treatments. And, of course, in a case of real post-natal depression you’d be correct.

Yet I can’t help thinking many people (new parents or not) could be helped by Dr Spock’s suggestion of stepping away from a problem and — instead of dwelling on it and giving in — treating yourself to something that gives pleasure. Try it!

Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationsh­ip problems each week. Write to Bel Mooney, Scottish Daily Mail, 20 Waterloo Street, Glasgow G2 6DB, or email Names are changed to protect identities. Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspond­ence.

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