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07 March, 2007

Gina Ford Clobbers Mumsnet

Apparently, Gina Ford – the American childcare ‘guru’ – has had enough of the "relentless personal attacks on her" by people who write into the Mumsnet website.

Mumsnet was set up a few years ago by two mothers (later joined by a third) and is a place for mothers to share information about parenting. Described by Junior Pregnancy and Baby magazine (which may no longer exist) as, "engaging honest, and above all reassuring...more like a chat with friends than being told what to do," it certainly has a cosy, middle-class, working mums kind of feel to it. So how come its normally restrained readership has been viciously attacking Gina Ford?

Well, it’s probably because they care a lot about babies and don’t want to see them put through the kind of upbringing Ms Ford advocates. The Mumsnet ladies seem to have a down-to-earth, practical approach to most of the childcare issues they discuss and generally advocate deferring to the child when it comes to deciding when to eat, sleep, or defecate. Not so Ms Ford. She seem to prefer that the child be brought up to a strict schedule with feeding, play, sleeping and, well, everything decided by a rather rigid timetable.

My recent piece about Jean Liedloff’s Continuum Concept means you can probably guess which side I come down in favour of here. Liedloff’s approach is the exact opposite of Ford’s. I find the idea of raising a child according to a ‘routine’ to be completely unacceptable. No doubt such routines help busy, working mothers cope with their stressful lives, but let’s not pretend that they are for the baby’s benefit. However many good things Ms Ford advocates (and there are plenty - breastfeeding to name a very important one) the enforced scheduling of a baby’s life is not a practice that anyone should follow.

Would Ms Ford approve of someone who had absolute power over her, forcing her to eat, sleep and play, at times that suited them? Would she benefit from this routine? I hardly think so. It’s the kind of thing we do to prisoners in order to make their management more convenient. So why does she advocate doing it to a baby? The whole idea has a horribly Victorian ring to it and I had hoped we were moving away from such practices.

Naturally, with views like this, Gina Ford has upset a lot of people and they have responded in highly emotional ways. Several have been personally insulting to Ms Ford. Which is why she has been threatening Mumsnet with lawyers lately. She says she doesn’t mind the criticism but doesn’t like the personal attacks. Mumsnet, not having Ms Ford’s resources, has crumbled. All mention of Gina Ford has been removed from its website. Another victory for the rich over the (relatively) poor.

I’m sure it is very irritating to have strangers calling you names in print but it seems to me that if you set yourself up as a guru in an area as sensitive as this, you are bound to make some people angry. And let’s not forget how important all this is. It is the psychological wellbeing of little babies and future adults we are talking about here. If a few mothers get a bit overheated trying to defend children from what they see as a terrible threat, isn’t that to be expected? If Gina Ford wants to put forward such proposals, maybe she should accept that many will see them as inflammatory, that she is in fact offending a great many people, and take the backlash on the chin. Either that or stop doing it.

3 comments:

Lindyloo said...

Very well said! Your last couple of sentences pretty much summed it up for me.

Liz said...

Gina Ford is many things but American is not one of them. You don't have to be American to be litigious!

graywave said...

Liz, you're quite right. I should be more careful about such things. Gina Ford is, as far as I can tell, Scottish. I hope she didn't take offence. I wouldn't want her lawyers turning up.

The Gray Wave Jukebox


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