Polly Williams, The Rise and Fall of a Yummy Mummy (2006)

This is the first book I’ve read and finished since I’ve become a… Mummy. Needless to say, I needed a light, entertaining book I could pick up and drop every five minutes, the perfect beach read except that I won’t go anywhere close to a beach this year of course. I’ve since mastered the skill to read with one free hand while breastfeeding, which requires some finger agility (although I don’t think I’ll mention this in my resume anytime soon).

What kind of a Mummy am I evolving into? Well, too soon to answer that one, but I could relate to many feelings that this chick-lit heroin Amy Crane is experiencing, six months into motherhood after being a London fashion-conscious working-girl (except for the working part, the identification doesn’t go any further). Torn apart between the so-called Mother Earth types (who are sanctifying self-sacrifice and cultivating self-pity and secret envy at the same time) and the Yummy Mummies, the glamorous, rich and selfish mothers who master the art of having a baby and finding time for Botox and leg wax, she is taken into the 2 extremes before reaching a balance and getting her much-deserved happy ending.

I remember Litlove made quite a deep analysis of this book recently for her research on motherhood, and I agree with most of it, but even though judgments are very harsh on both groups of mothers, I still found it highly enjoyable. Because both groups are caricatures, you can’t help but develop a love-hate relationship with the Yummies and the Mother Earth-types. It’s made very clear that Amy can’t even dream of ever reaching the standards that both groups set (whichever she should choose) and it takes her 300 pages to fully realize that they are crazy standards. The author put the finger on the insecurity, loss of identity, puzzlement and frailty new motherhood throws you into and still manages to be funny and light, within the limits of the genre. Contrary to Pearson’s bestseller “I don’t know how she does it”, I felt that the ending was hopeful, Amy returning to work and eventually getting a new identity by reclaiming some parts of her old one and integrating the changes in her life. If there is a sequel, she might turn out like Pearson’s heroin, but at least she’ll have escaped the pitfalls of new motherhood.

PS. It seems that this title is the UK one, the US one is The Yummy Mummy, period. It seems that not only for Agatha Christie’s mysteries do the publishers change titles… I don’t quite like the US one as much though, it’s not quite the same meaning isn’t it?

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6 thoughts on “Polly Williams, The Rise and Fall of a Yummy Mummy (2006)

  1. The UK title is much better – maybe they are dumbing it down for the US audience? And very interesting comment about the insecurity, loss of identity, puzzlement, frailty etc. of motherhood.

  2. Motherhood is all about a balance, and not necessarily between two extremes. However, I’m sure the Yummies versus the Earth Mamas makes for entertaining reading – it’s not a self-help book, after all. I recently read the Slummy Mummy book (I can’t remember the title, but she’s the one who takes the kids to school with her pyjamas under her coat), and in it there are some other mother stereotypes – the Alpha Mummy for instance, who having given up her job at McKinsey, now rigidly organises her family and the PTA. I liked that it offered more nuances, while still being amusing.

  3. Interesting review; how useful to be able to read with one hand while feeding the baby — glad you are able to snatch some time to read! I’d be a slummy mummy without a doubt …

  4. You’re clearly not going to be a slummy mummy, Smithereens, if you have already mastered the art of reading over the top of a feeding baby! Congratulations! And this is a good read for the time and sleep deprived.

  5. Congratulations on becoming a mother!

    I read that Polly Williams book a couple of years after my daughter was born and I remember wishing at the time I’d read it sooner- it really demystified other mothers for me who in the first year I mostly found utterly intimidating. The end where the protagonist realises that mostly everybody is just muddling through the best they can was, while trite sounding, quite a revelation.

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