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Full Time Mothers

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Book Reviews

Family Policy, Family Changes; If You've Raised Kids You Can Manage Anything; What Mothers Do; Endangered; Why Love Matters; A Mothers' Rule of Life; Seven Myths of Working Mothers; Choosing to be different; Baby Hunger; The Miseducation of Women; Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families; Broken Hearts; Mother Love; The Smart Woman's Guide to Staying at Home; Ghosts from the Nursery - Tracing the Roots of Violence; Work-Lifestyle Choices in the 21st Century - Preference Theory; The Social Baby; Expecting Adam; Good Food for Kids; Access to Maternity Information and Support; Single Parents in Focus; The London Baby Directory; Marriage-Lite: The Rise of Cohabitation and its Consequences; Anything School Can Do You Can Do Better


The Social Baby

Professor Lynne Murray and Liz Andrews, reviewed by Alexandra Nightingale

This is a marvellous book for all of us who love peering into babies' prams and admiring their wonderful range of facial expressions. But it is much more than that. Subtitled 'Understanding babies' communication from birth', the inspiration for the book came from the Children's Project, which was set up in 1993 by a couple who, following the birth of their what they term 'sensitive' baby, found it difficult to find support and answers to questions in a culture which 'seems superficially to be focused almost entirely upon the pursuit of material possessions and success'.

The book is based on amazing sequences of photographs taken from video footage of babies from new-born up to about three months, the time when we have all experienced some sense of bewilderment at what appears to be 'random and confused behaviour'. What the photographs show, however, is that babies are born with an interest in their surroundings and a desire to engage in social communication which informs every aspect of their behaviour. We see, for example, a new-born turning towards his mother's voice and trying to imitate his father's facial expressions; some beautiful sequences of social games showing heartening interaction between babies, parents and siblings (those difficult early months really are worth it!); and possible strategies for recognising tiredness and coping with babies who seem to sleep little or cry a lot.

The aim of the book is to give all of us whom Winnicott called 'the good enough parent' support and encouragement in trying to appreciate and respond to our babies' early attempts at communicating their 'complex psychological lives', thereby enriching our relationships. It also makes suggestions for government policy on the importance of supporting parents in whatever combination of family life and work suits their 'deeply held beliefs and personal values', including evidence that 'a rapid return to work can pose difficulties'.

To us full time mothers, it is greatly encouraging to see the enjoyment which can be gained from the deeper understanding of a baby's experience which only time spent in loving, sensitive care can give. As Professor John Davis says in his introduction, 'parents deserve the support this book provides'.

CP Publishing 2000 £14.99 ISBN 1 903275 01 6