Unaccustomed as I am to self-help book reading... was how I'd like to have started this article but I'd be lying (yet I still managed it). The latest edition to join the dust-gathering, heaving shelf of questionable wisdom is Liz Fraser's 'The Yummy Mummy's Family Handbook'. Having missed the best-selling 'The Yummy Mummy's Survival Guide' from the Sunday Times bestselling author, I thought I'd find out what all the fuss what about. Not much, as it turns out but that's not to say it wasn't life-altering.
Sold as a definitive guide to yummy-mummies navigating the unpredictable waters that are fast-paced modern lifestyles, the handbook falls a little short. What Fraser does do is discuss the numerous challenges that arise in daily family life from loo-lid dilemmas to sex-drive sweeteners to playground politics. She delivers some great tips in this light-hearted guide to managing your dynasty.
The reverse cover of the book quotes Liz's line "Because Family shouldn't be an F-word" but then the title of one of her chapters is 'The F word: Becoming a family'...so family is an F-word after all?? Confusing, yet a perfect analogy to describe the book. Liz is a great woman for straight-talking, clean-mouthed gags and a little light-hearted entertaining about family life, however if you're looking for help of the scientifically proven or academically correct variety then this is the wrong handbook. It’s the old cliché of mixing business and pleasure, with the same old result.
Busy, working mums have more than enough to do between running the various home-based businesses such as the transport system (school, footy, playdate runs), laundry service, catering and domestic sanitation never mind the day job that when we reach for a survival guide we don't want it to be a far-stretch of the imagination. It should be clear, concise, specific and informative in that order. This handbook is not. Fraser has provided some gems of family wisdom but all wrapped up in flowing, conversational paragraphs that are difficult to highlight, return to and summarise.
Also at the risk of wrath from some I feel it only right to point out that while there is a long way to go before equality in the home has been achieved nation or worldwide, men are sharing more in family duties and as a result deserve more than the odd mention.
On the plus side, Liz has used a quirky structure to layout the book. Comparing the family unit to a house, she has broken down all the various chapters into various areas of the home from the foundations to the garden shed. Much like the rest of the book it’s a cute metaphor, I particularly liked her under-the-stairs cupboard which hoards everything you-don't-need-but-can't find-when-you-do plus a hundred-odd spiders.
She also moves away from the perfect-mother-model that too many parenting guides push without veering over to Susan Jeffers 'I'm Okay You're a Brat' territory. Without sugar-coating family life she has a clearly happy approach to the mayhem and her numerous anecdotes reflect this, which is both courageous and contagious.
I'd like to say that Liz Fraser's book is one of those invaluable additions to the easy-reach reference shelf, which you'll return to for essential household help but once again I'd be lying. It'll more than likely join the aforementioned dust-gatherers. I join the ranks eagerly awaiting the ideal family survival guide, yummy mummies or not.