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When did the yummy mummy army take over children's books?

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Alexander Residence: When did the yummy mummy army take over children's books?

Monday, 10 January 2011

When did the yummy mummy army take over children's books?

Shirley Hughes
One of my parenting new year resolutions was to read more books to my children. In the library this week I was struck by the extent to which the yummy mummy army has crept into children's literature.  My 4yo kept bringing me books full of glamorous foxy mums in floaty skirts, heels and flicked out glossy manes. No she hadn't picked up a copy of Vogue by mistake (Maybe though, she is trying to tell me something?  I reckon I scrub up ok when I need to, but I am far from being impeccably groomed in my day to day role of mum)

I looked at the books, looked round the library and laughed, no mum wears that kind of gear in the company of small children.  Unless it's a wedding, when you spend the whole day hissing 'don't you dare touch me with those sticky fingers'. Or you're a celebrity with a nanny and stylist in tow.

Anyway it made me all nostalgic for the mums of my late 70s/early 80s upbringing.  My own mum.  The mums of Shirley Hughes. The jeans and jumpers and let's go and get mucky in the garden and make crap cupcakes brigade. Rather than the let's go to the cafe and wear a pink dress, while I sip a cappuchino and nibble at an artisan cupcake brigade.  There are enough pressures to be a yummy mummy in the media, keep this out of children's books please.

On the flip side, my son loves Judith Kerr's The Tiger that Came to Tea which is a time honoured classic, but not a wonderful representation of the liberated woman. Sophie's mum defers all decisions to Sophie's Dad after she lets a tiger into the family home, panics she has nothing for Dad's tea and even lets Dad drink all the beer.  But I don't think lounging on a chaise lounge in a pink dress and reading interior decorating magazines (seriously this is what one mum was doing in a book we read) is any more aspirational either (although maybe a nice way to spend 10 mins if you can organise it).

Representations make a huge difference to groups in society. So I am recommending a book with a powerful Mum role model:

My Mum by Anthony Browne.  His My Dad is good too.

Any other recommendations?

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18 Comments:

At 10 January 2011 at 11:00 , Blogger This Mid 30s Life said...

Interesting! I haven't noticed that at all, most of our books are pretty old though. A few are from the 50s and the pictures of the mothers always crack me up - hair immaculate, always in a dress with apron and broom in hand. The fathers are all wearing suits too, of course!

 
At 10 January 2011 at 11:39 , Blogger The Alexander Residence said...

That's just like The Tiger who Came to Tea, makes me giggle too. Maybe it's just our library. Or a librarian with a penchant for high fashion.

 
At 10 January 2011 at 13:35 , Blogger Melaina25 said...

Most of Blondie Boy's books don't have Moms and Dads in them but I will have to keep an eye out and not get him any that contradict his feminist upbringing!

 
At 10 January 2011 at 13:44 , Anonymous Mummy Zen said...

I've always thought the mum in The Tiger who Came to Tea looks pretty stylish! I'm trying to think of other mums in books we read but I think a lot of them tend to be animals so as yet, the yummy mummy hasn't crept into reading lives...

 
At 10 January 2011 at 13:45 , Anonymous Kath Parklover said...

We've been rediscovering my old Topsy and Tim books, which my parents have dragged down from their loft. Brilliant - Topsy and Tim have a lovely life going off on their tricycles, bumping into friendly adults who know their family and have time to talk to them and help them get home.They go shopping to a variety of local independant shops, the owners of which they all know. Whilst Dad does seem to be the one doing the DIY, Mummy seems to be the more dynamic one. Nostalgic in a good way!Their train journey on British Rail is a blast from the past too.

 
At 10 January 2011 at 15:14 , Blogger Kate said...

Couldn't agree more with the general shift in peoples focus from making mud pies in the garden to buying overpriced pink glitter cupcakes in the local Cath Kidson designed cafe...Will now be on the look out for Yummy army in our books - think they may have given me the slip so far.

 
At 10 January 2011 at 15:17 , Anonymous @jencull said...

Hmm, wouldn't fond of this trend myself, I am most definitely not a pink floaty dress type! Jen

 
At 10 January 2011 at 15:23 , Blogger JulieB said...

Interesting - although to be honest a lot of our books are ones that my parents hoarded from my own childhood - probably not representative!

 
At 10 January 2011 at 16:09 , Blogger English woman in New York said...

That's a real eye opener..I had no idea kids books got like that. just to add, that in Miami women dress in designer gear, full make up, hair complete with high heels, and that's when they're shopping in the supermarket! Perhaps it's these women who hang about their kids like that? haha 'Loved the tiger that came to tea.'xx

 
At 10 January 2011 at 19:34 , Anonymous Lucy Quick said...

Wow - I'd not really thought about it before.

I'm definitely not a chaise longue lounging Mummy - although now you mention it, it does sound rather nice :)

 
At 10 January 2011 at 19:38 , Blogger The Alexander Residence said...

Melaina25 - Feminist upbringing, I love it. He will be so grateful for it though. That's what my boy's getting ;)
parklover- I love Topsy and Tim reckon we need to get back to a few 70s values!
English woman in NY - so so glad I don't have to raise my two in Miami!
Julie B- yep I think we need to dig out more of the oldies.
Kate-glad you agree. I won't name and shame the authors, def a trend in books my 4yo girl is finding. Along with lots of pink...mudpies...hmmm might just edit out crap cupcakes and put mudpies, reckon the picture is complete then.
Jen- who is?

 
At 10 January 2011 at 19:44 , Blogger The Alexander Residence said...

Lucy - I have coveted a chaise lounge for years but I doubt I would ever get to lie on it these days!

 
At 10 January 2011 at 20:51 , Blogger Laura said...

I can't think of any of our books that have mum and dad in them either, unless they are animals which to be fair would be an accurate description of my lot sometimes (myself included!). We've got the Tiger Who Came to Tea but haven't read it yet, I think I'll get it out tomorrow!

 
At 10 January 2011 at 21:03 , Blogger Ren- Lady Of The Arts said...

For some reason this reminded me of how so many Disney films don't have parents either-

So nice to meet you- I am following on twitter and here as well!

 
At 10 January 2011 at 22:04 , Blogger The Alexander Residence said...

Laura - yep most of ours are animals too. I love the tiger who came to tea, I think because it's so surreal. If a tiger came to our house to tea, to be fair I would probably default to my other half if it got nasty.
Ren- lovely to meet you, going through Disney in my head now! Now I know how people do MA courses in children's literature, so much going on.

 
At 12 January 2011 at 17:20 , Blogger Hot Cross Mum said...

We love Shirley Hughes! I couldn't agree more. Here's to normality (and let is all remember that macaroons are strictly for posh afternoon teas only).

 
At 13 January 2011 at 23:18 , OpenID imperfectpages said...

We haven't come across this much, perhaps because with two boys I wouldn't choose books that seem to be aimed at girls (whether I should or not is a whole other issue!).

Kath, I have a new Topsy and Tim book and their Mummy (and their friend's Mum) is slim with flicky hair and little heels these days.

I LOVE Janet and Allan Ahlberg. The Baby's Catalogue is brilliant, it has five families, including one where the mother goes to work in a suit and the father stays at home with the kids and pets, and dads doing housework and settling babies in the night.

I'm also a big fan of Anthony Browne. I love the combination of the everyday and the surreal. (We don't have My Mum - I thoughtfully bought My Dad for my husband last Fathers' Day, perhaps he will return the favour for Mothers' Day?)

Looking through the bookshelf... what about Meg and Mog? Not a mother but she cares for the pets, is a woman of various talents who sometimes makes mistakes.

 
At 10 April 2011 at 14:06 , Anonymous The Alexander Residence said...

Laura - yep most of ours are animals too. I love the tiger who came to tea, I think because it's so surreal. If a tiger came to our house to tea, to be fair I would probably default to my other half if it got nasty.
Ren- lovely to meet you, going through Disney in my head now! Now I know how people do MA courses in children's literature, so much going on.

 

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