If a Gina Ford-style routine works for you, do it!

When I first put Kitty’s routine in place, like clanging a steel door shut – SLAM – and turning the key in the lock, I obeyed it to the letter.

I would hold her 3pm bottle and wait as the minute hand ticked over, thinking ‘You can have your bottle … nnn…ow.’It stayed like that for a long time.

It was only when she started to drop her morning nap that I realised that you can’t do everything by the clock. You are probably laughing at me, now, probably thinking, ‘You stupid cow, of course you can’t!’

I never had to think, ‘Shall I give her a bottle now? Or later?’ I never had to worry about why Kitty was crying because she rarely did.

But the thing I found so luxurious about a very strict routine was that I didn’t have to make any decisions or judgement calls. I never had to think, ‘Shall I give her a bottle now? Or later?’ I never had to worry about why Kitty was crying because she rarely did. I’m being serious!

The first time I ever really heard Kitty cry – really cry – was when she got a throat infection when she was five months old. (And Holy Cow was that a shock.)

She was never hungry, because she was fed on time, and she was never overtired, because she was in bed before she was exhausted. It just worked. And I was brilliant at it. Brilliant! She was a little robot baby and everyone marvelled at my control, while calling me a control freak behind my back.

It just worked. And I was brilliant at it. Brilliant! She was a little robot baby and everyone marvelled at my control, while calling me a control freak behind my back.

A word on this: if you choose to follow a strict routine with your baby, then people will call you a control freak. You might even call yourself a control freak. But this is not what control freakery is.

Control freaks are ill, they are almost always male and, crucially, they don’t know that they are control freaks. If you declare that you are ‘a bit of a control freak’ then by definition you are not.

If you like a well-ordered house, clean bed sheets, a neat wardrobe and children on a routine, this does not make you a control freak. If you snap quite sharply at your husband at a party that you have to go ‘now’ in order to get home in time to do the dream feed, that does not make you a control freak.

Control freaks are control freaks for life, they are born that way, and what they do is endlessly criticise other people in order to get them to change their behaviour because the control freak believes that a change in other people’s behaviour (and by ‘other people’, I do not mean small babies) will make them, the control freak, happy. Does that sound familiar? No, because you are not a control freak.

If you are very rigid about timing and routines, inflexible about mess, food quality, supplies and blackout blinds, if you like to plan far in advance and do not like to ‘wing it’, ever, then what you are is probably a bit neurotic.

Or, more likely, manifesting your anxiety by wanting to have everything just so. This doesn’t have quite the glamorous ring to it of ‘control freak’, but that it what it is. And if it makes you feel better, I say go for it.

If anyone tells you to ‘relax’, get up without a word, leave the room and never speak to that person again.

This extract is taken from Esther Walker’s new book Bad Mother. If you can’t wait for the next instalment, buy and download the whole book here

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