25 Sep 2006, Comments Off on Girl Germs redux

Girl Germs redux

Author: Helen

Sam Holt, whose DVD “Being Dad — the Baby DVD ” is mentioned in this article, replies to this post (comments closed there now because the spambots move in after a few weeks).

I have just been forwarded your blog by a friend and i must say it was interesting reading. I am Mr Holt, please call me Sam. I trust that you haven’t seen the DVD we produced but have managed to draw your opinions on us and the DVD from a couple of quotes that made it into the press. I don’t take offence to your spray but i would encourage you to watch the DVD (I’ll happily send you a copy) so that perhaps you can draw your opinions from a more balanced perspective.
The DVD was not made because we are saying guys don’t read the books that are out there.

Well, what Sam said was: “”The reason we made it is because there’s nothing out there for dads…There are lots of things out there for women, by women.” Both of which statements are demonstrably false. The baby and child book market is positively bristling with male names. Perhaps the quotation was taken out of context from a longer and more reasonable statement – we all know how journalists do that. But it seems pretty unambiguous.

I read the majority of pregnancy and birth books and found them to be comprehensive in their advice and medical information. I would encourage all of my mates to pick up a copy of Up the Duff or Baby Love because they will give you plenty of info that our DVD won’t.

So, there is something “out there for Dads”. So why did the authors of the DVD want to say there was some kind of crisis, that men had literally nothing to guide them through the treacherous waters of early fatherhood? Well, they needed to advertise their product, and they went for it. Good for them. But I wish they had used a sales pitch which didn’t imply that a body of knowledge perceived to be completely dominated by women (and I hope I’ve made the point sufficiently that it isn’t), must be worthless as far as Dads are concerned.

Just to be clear, do I think books shouldn’t be written which are Dad-friendly? No! That would be silly, since dads taking up more of the nitty gritty of parenthood is exactly what we need and want. (Employers can’t deny employees family friendly conditions so easily if male and female employees are demanding parental leave and flexibility in equal numbers.) Baby books with pictures of Dads doing stuff, not just “ladies with babies?” Yay! I’d just like to have had the idea expressed in a way less… disrespectful, I guess, of “wimmins stuff”. I’d like Travis to have said “Wow! this is really hard. I’m looking at all these mums with prams with new eyes. And all the stuff in these baby books can be quite technical.” and I’d have liked Sam and Troy to express their opinion of their new DVD as the niche product it is, something to add to a useful body of work which will be especially useful to Dads, instead of the somewhat apocalyptic vision of men in a dreadful Information Vaccuum.

Personally speaking, the two most useful baby books I had were Christopher Green’s wonderful Babies! and Richard Ferber’s Solve your Child’s Sleep problems. Both by blokes, as you can see.

The premise of the DVD was two fold. 1. Not everyone likes reading books or finds them to be their preferred medium through which to learn. 2 we thought that many guys would appreciate listening to the stories and experiences of other men who are talking honestly about their feelings and emotions and not trying to macho it up or make it a try hard comedy act.
Whilst you may have taken 5 seconds to google some book titles i suggest you try reading some of them (which i have) that are targeted at men and get back to me with your honest opinion as to there readability. Even the odd good one still comes from the viewpoint of one individual or expert, we wanted to demonstrate the diversity of experiences that pregnancy and birth provides by showing lots of different people.
I would also encourage you to have a look at the feedback section on our site. You will see that there is a great deal of positive feedback from women who have also found the DVD to be a more preferable format to books and many who have said that it gave them another perspective on their pregnancy and birth.

There seems to be some confusion here, and it’s probably the journalist’s fault rather than yours, as to why exactly Travis and the rest of us are buying and reading this material. The DVD in question seems to fill a good and worthwhile niche – something to watch while expecting a child or while babies are still little, which can normalise a variety of experiences and show differing viewpoints, without going too much into the nitty gritty learning detail, as you say. But a lot of baby books and childraising books are for a very different purpose. Sure, info on breastfeeding may be irrelevant to Dads, but everything else is pertinent. If you’re looking for advice on tantrums, what to do when the kid has croup, what that funny rash might be, or when vaccinations are due, you don’t put on your gender-tailored DVD. You go to a book – and you don’t really much care who it’s written by (as long as they’re good). As for “readability”, well, that’s why Christopher Green and Kaz Cooke sell megasquillions of copies. (Well, so does James Dobson, but there’s no accounting for tastes.)

We didn’t make the DVD to make a fortune, we both have our own businesses that we are focused on. We believed, and still do, that this DVD would provide a different perspective on the millions of parenting publications that are out there. Perhaps if you were not so keen to try and make this a man v woman issue or one where you are seeking to criticise men, or women for that matter, for creating a differentiated product that others may wish to watch or read you may be able to see that.
If you are suggesting that we should have just accepted the material in the marketplace as opposed to creating something which we believed was missing from existing titles then perhaps you should stop blogging and just let people read rants from others that were doing it before you. Why reinvent the rant wheel?

Well, in general it’s good to get an idea of what’s out there first. Here we’re starting to find out what the DVD is really good for – as I said, getting others’ experiences and thereby normalising your own. But it would have been great if Travis had just had a bit more patience with learning from mothers’ experience and not behaving as if he’s a creature from another planet. (I blame that John Gray, myself). You know what would have been really interesting? If Travis had read one of the publications from the last decade or so which seek to answer the very problem he spoke of:


“It ended up being the most stressful time in my life,” says the 31-year-old IT consultant…. I felt a bit ripped off, because nobody had ever warned me it could be a bad time.

“…I thought it was meant to be happy.”

The fact is that this has been much discussed in baby books and the press over the last couple of decades, and I wish Travis had shown the insight that lots and lots of mothers feel exactly the same way. Contrary to popular wisdom, women don’t have a magical ability to parent just because of their gender. And you know what the books say about who’s most likely to freak out in the first few weeks? Highly organised, professional women. Why? because they’re used to being organised and in control, and with a newborn that’s hardly ever possible. Travis, being an IT consultant, is obviously at risk. I’m not being facetious here – as an IT consultant, he’s used to being organised and attacking a problem in a controlled way. With newborns, there’s no algorithm to make them sleep and burp and stop crying on time. If you want help with that, and the architectural diagrams, you do have to go to the baby books – and remember that every kid’s unique and they’ll never help 100%.

It would make a happy tear come to this patriarchy-blamer’s ageing eye if the Travises realised that in this respect they’re not so different, and perhaps men and women could come together and share knowledge about this and other things without obsessing over whether their manuals are coloured pink or blue. Is this an impossibly idealistic notion? maybe. But I read a lot of younger bloggers who are just starting out in family life and I get the impression that they are less hung up on gender roles in parenting, so I live in hope.

I commend your blog, and all blogs, and respect the fact that it allows you to have your spray. Do me a favour though and take the time to watch the DVD and, if you hate it, spray it. You should know better than to read a few lines quoted by a journalist and form an opinion on people and products without taking the time to see for yourself.
As a parting note i would like to say that your insinuation that we are wanting to ‘dumb’ the experience down for dads is quite insulting. I strongly believe that the DVD actually improves the birth and pregnancy for mums and dads due to the diversity of people in and experiences it shows.
All the best with your blog and let me know if you’d like a copy of the DVD…

(Snip silly last sentence implying that I’m a mad hormonal strawfeminist unable to think straight for Teh Emotions™ Surely that one’s ripe for retirement by now.)

Thanks, Sam, for the offer of the DVD. As a blogger I’m a bit over-punctilious about who I give my postal address out to, but I’m sure it will hit the local library after a while. Here’s a link, if anyone wants to check it out— maybe one of the first-time dads to be in the blogosphere can give it a try. The “dumbing down” reference was a reference to the paragraphs I quoted from the interview, which said that men didn’t want to know a lot of technical details and finer points and would rather just watch a few anecdotal stories with their mates. Then, there’s the capitalised BLOKES DON’T READ on your website. Again, I think the article is a bit confused as to what niche the DVD really fills. As a standalone product, it’s probably excellent, but it’s not a replacement for baby and child books. That’s the thing – I feel a bit silly devoting such a lot of time and space to what after all was little more than an advertorial, but I was questioning the assumptions behind the marketing exercise.

Comments (0)

  • Blue says:

    I think its sweet [sic] that they include a fact sheet on ‘how to react’ when told your wife/partner/significant other is pregnant and implies a level of boy scout preparedness that i wish had existed in my life when my pregancies were confirmed……

    Having read over his site I find it more than a little patronising, however that could be looking at it from the other side of babies (chronologically).

    I agree, everything I could possibly learn was in a book – until reality hits and that can’t be written down.

  • Armagnac Esq says:

    “just starting out in family life and I get the impression that they are less hung up on gender roles in parenting”

    Naturally, the ‘gnac assumes you refer to him. And yes I begged beloved to buy a breast pump and continue with her career unimpeded while I handled the lion’s share of nappy changing, feeding etc. Needless to say that went down like a Led Zeppelin!

  • Helen says:

    Yes, gnac, but others as well, even the dreaded J. Lileks seems happy in his parenting lot. But I’m just saying.. that freakout, “It was meant to be a wonderful time with fluffy bunnies and little bluebirds twittering everywhere and now I feel like shit” DOES HAPPEN and if it does, you are not alone.!… and there is help! Hope it doesn’t, though.

    Maybe you could buy the DVD and do a review? Maybe even a “before and after” review after the bub’s a year old or so. And when’s the due date again?

    What was/were your favourite parenting, or baby books, and why? Did any suck bigtime, and why?

  • Armagnac Esq says:

    I’ve got, and watched, the video.

    Here’s a payout for the makers if they are watching:

    Every ten minutes there’s this really bad, no let me emphasise BAD interlude which is an ad for some four X midstrength beer. It is so obvious, and repetitive, that it almost spoils the DVD. Obviously they needed sponsorship but I think if the sponsors had obtained good advice they would have been more subtle. Spending cash on people who don’t sound like 3am infomercial clowns would help as well.

  • kate says:

    I haven’t watched the DVD (and I’m never going to be a Dad – my ever-expanding belly is evidence of that) but I have been reading the pregnancy/baby books lately.

    There are some shockers. There are books that are generally well-researched that contain a few clangers (like referring to Dad’s ‘babysitting’ while ‘you’ go to the supermarket) and there’s Kaz Cooke. From my survey (far from complete – I’m supposed to be finishing a Masters on a completely different topic) Kaz is the only one who reliably writes with a genuine belief that blokes can be involved and competent, rather than ‘helpers’. She also mentions single mothers and lesbians in a grown up manner that wouldn’t make them want to throw the book across the room.

    Sheila Kitzinger sticks a mention of single and lesbian mothers into her introduction, and then carries on referring to ‘husbands’ all the way through the main text. There is a longer section about single mothers, mostly the (I would hope obvious) advice that you’ll need some extra help around the house.

    In the midst of a lesbian baby boom, there’s bugger all specifically directed at that niche. Lesbian mothers manage to ‘translate’ all the books for their baby needs, and make it up as they go along (or join queer playgroups) in dealing with all the crap they have to face in society.

    I don’t doubt that new Dads need information about the role from other blokes (the stuff in the DVD sounds like the sort of stuff my bloke and I get from talking to our families, and some blokes don’t have that family support) but blokes are hardly hard done by. These days no one’s going to look at them funny if they accompany their partner to a medical appointment, or antenatal classes, and ask a few questions.

  • Zoe says:

    Kaz Cooke and Penelope Leach are top of my list.

    I hated the “What to expect when you have no brain” series’ emphasis on Not Getting Too Fat. I moderated my opinion a bit after Getting Too Fat – but not much. They’re too bossy and act like you’ve never eaten a frickin’ vegetable in your life. Kaz Cooke talks to parents like they’re grown-ups, and Penelope Leach has a way of explaining a child-centred perspective that is really humane and (mostly) achievable. I found Robyn Barker’s Baby Book and The Mighty Toddler very good too, and she has a great food for kids book.

    Janet Balaskas was a bit too heavy on the horizontally striped leotards and compulsory mos for dad angle (but that may just have been an old book). Sheila Kitzinger has some great little bits – like reframing fear of “something wrong with the baby” as a fear of the perfection our bodies are capable of creating – but really, how much do you need to read about perineal massage? I was completely right out on her whole “birth can be quite orgasmic” until a friend of mine told me that’s what it was like for her, but I can’t see my mind changing much on the perineal massage ; )

  • Blue says:

    I liked Steve Biddulph’s books – but that was because I had no parenting models (that I was prepared to use) so I was looking for a beating free parenting methodology 🙂

    I quite liked Chris Green, but found him a bit patronising.

    My best teachers about parenting were my midwife who told me to trust myself & if it hurt i was doing it wrong; and all the other parents I was exposed to in public – I would watch what they did & decide if I liked the outcome….. Its been difficult – esp now that I’m on my own – but I quite like the little buggers & so long as they remain entertaining overall I’ll keep them.

    Zoe – the perineal massage helped me (thanks Sheila) but thats cause I accidentally gave birth to miniature whales instead of the slimy infants i expected.

  • kate says:

    The greatest benefit of Kaz Cooke is the cartoons. So you avoid the outdated photos of daggy couples. Fathers wearing budgie-smugglers in the shower with their labouring partner are a bit too frequent. The 80s big hair, or headband crowd are also pretty disturbing.

    Now I have to go and find my indigestion tablets…

  • Helen says:

    Comment from Tigtog rescued from spamtrap

    Ah, I’m late to this – my browser was being stupid last week, and not
    > refreshing when I visited sites, so I was thinking “Helen’s not writing much
    > lately” and you were the whole time. Poop.
    > Anyway, one book that hasn’t been mentioned which is a bit more technical in
    > discussing cognitive stages etc is href=”http://www.brazelton-institute.com/berrybio.html” rel=”nofollow”>T.
    > Berry Brazelton
    ‘s book href=”http://www.alibris.com/search/search.cfm?qwork=6747797&wauth=T%2E%20
    > Berry%20Brazelton&matches=307&qsort=r&cm_re=works*listing*title”
    > rel=”nofollow”>Touchpoints


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