Madeleine Hamilton and Bunny Banyai have written an irreverent parenting book. Banyai has a three-year-old daughter, Clementine, pictured, while Hamilton has two daughters, Posy and Patience. Photo: Craig Sillitoe
THE newest arrival on the parenting shelves began, of course, with a status update on facebook New mother Bunny Banyai wrote:
''Upside of being a parent: pure love.
Downside: shit on my hands.''
Her former neighbour and a new parent herself, Madeleine Hamilton, spotted a fellow traveller in that brief post and messaged Banyai, 33, asking whether she would like to jointly write a mothering blog.
''I thought it would be a great name for a blog,'' Hamilton, 34, says. And so Sh*t on my hands was conceived, later evolving into a twitter account and now a pocket-sized parenting book. Similar in tone to the picture book Go the F--- to Sleep - in which a father curses at the night-time ritual whereby his child refuses to rest - the women's ''companion to parenthood'' pokes fun at the po-faced advice of many child-rearing manuals, while adding some down-to-earth tips of their own.
The pair met in Northcote a few years back when they rented houses next door to each other, and their writing style smacks of an inner-northern sensibility (some might say snobbery). Witness the tip: ''Names: You will invite the scorn and befuddlement of the world if you give her a traditional name, then disregard its regular spelling and cobble together a bunch of similar sounding letters to render it unique (Jessykah).''
Banyai named her daughter Clementine, Hamilton's are Posy and Patience.
Topics such as crying are handled with equal parts sass and sageness, ultimately concluding that crying is normal for babies. Advice, the women say, that is a much-needed antidote to the parenting experts who assure that an infant's screaming can be solved by a strict routine/potion/electronic cot. ''What's really required is both a stiff drink and upper lip,'' they write.
As a single mother who left her partner when Clementine was about 18 months, Banyai has long railed against the tone of many parenting books, (Hamilton says she was too exhausted to read any). ''Everything I read took a very dim view of single parents and took a very pessimistic view of what to expect, Banyai says.
''If you're contemplating leaving your partner when you have a very small baby you've got plenty of fear already, you really don't need any more.''
They single out Kaz Cooke's parenting books as speaking their language. But whereas Cooke laboured for years to produce impeccably-researched tomes, theirs is based purely on experience and word of mouth. It's the sort of chatty, arch writing women might email to each other in moments of mothering desperation, translated into a book short enough to be read ''while you do your first post-partum poo,'' quips Hamilton.
An Australian history academic, Hamilton has previously written a book about the poster girls of the 1940s and '50s. Banyai works part time in retail. They touch on the thorny topic of childcare, suggesting: ''At all costs avoid participating in the 'Mummy Wars'. This is a phenomenon whereby seemingly rational women flail each other in online forums, newspaper columns and books about when and if mothers of young kiddies should return to work.''
Mostly though, the book is about finding humour in the dark moments all new parents experience. ''That and a lot of dick jokes,'' laughs Hamilton.