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The family way
7:00am Saturday 2nd February 2013 in ShuttleXtra
MOB - Mother of Boys - Hannah Evans talks to Lisa Salmon about her new book MOB Rule, which describes the fun and frazzled nerves that come with being an enthusiastic (at times) MOB.
By Lisa Salmon
Hannah Evans is a MOB three times over.
And as a MOB - Mother of Boys - she has come to the conclusion that bringing up boys "is like dealing with dogs".
While males, or FOB (Fathers of Boys), may initially take offence at the analogy, her reasoning does, perhaps, make more than a little sense.
Evans, a mother of three boys aged seven, nine and 10, explains that 'boy pups' need feeding at least three times a day, a tree or a toilet to mark his territory, clear commands of no more than one syllable such as 'Stop!' or 'No!', love which may be shown in manic displays of tummy tickling, and most importantly, to go out to let off steam, twice a day, every day.
"Or be warned," she says, "it will be you, not just him, who is climbing the walls."
It's such observations that make Evans's new book, MOB Rule, so easy for other MOBs to relate to.
The book is no guide on how to bring up boys - Evans herself concedes that as an ordinary mum of three, she's certainly in no position to dish out advice.
All she's doing is describing what it's like to be the single female in a house brimming with testosterone.
Evans, 40, insists that despite the sweat, tears and occasional blood she has to deal with, being a MOB is "marvellous", even though she's heavily outnumbered in a household where competition is key, farting is fun, and it's a much better idea to make an exploding volcano from mum's bicarbonate of soda and vinegar than it is to bake girlie fairy cakes.
"Making a mess in the name of science is an important part of the mainly male mindset," she cheerfully concludes.
"That selfsame mindset which means that our family home, once a balanced amalgamation of husband and wife, has been almost totally transformed into an ode to the boy, a temple to testosterone."
From potty training and dealing with 'little boys' bits', visits to A&E, and the questionable joys of family camping, most, if not all, of Evans's often amusing experiences with Toby, Barney and Josh - known in the book as Sensible Son, Binary Boy and Feisty Fellow - will ring bells with every MOB.
"The reaction I've had to the book from other MOBs is that it's great to know you're not alone," says Evans.
"Mothers of boys - and probably mothers of girls as well, but I wouldn't know - have certain things that they tussle with in common.
"The book isn't about how to raise boys, it's much more a reflection of the issues that come up for me as a woman surrounded by boys.
"It's about being a girl and having to deal with something that you're not quite used to."
And that, of course, includes "farting and willies".
"While farting is fascinating, boys go wild for their willies," she says, recalling how the household collapses in mass male hysteria when FOB Charles joins in a rhyming game, asking: 'What rhymes with cart?'
Like many dads, Charles, who's in the Navy, can be as bad as any of the younger male members of the family, laments Evans.
"At home, stripped of rank and responsibility, he joyously joins the pack and becomes easily as excitable, absolutely as competitive, totally as tumultuous as his sons," she says.
While she concedes that some of the experiences she's had with her boys are universal and unisex parenting issues, she's particularly adamant about one thing: "Girls are not born the same as boys."
In the book, she recalls how at the age of 14 months, Sensible Son Toby picked up a branch and "beat seven bells" out of a bush, to her horror.
However, she soon realised that rather than her eldest son being a 'thug', it was simply a case of a boy being a boy.
"However much you encourage equality or adopt a unisex approach, however hard you try to foster the feminine or even push the pink, deep down inside their mini-male minds, a boy will be forever true boy," she declares, going on to describe the family garden as a "battlefield of balls", the lawn as the "Western Front", and her sons as a boy brigade that "attacks anything that moves".
But Evans, like most MOBs, weathers the violent boy storms, and concludes she wouldn't have it any other way.
She points out that one of the many reasons why being a MOB is great is that boys' needs are simple: "Exercise, discipline, lunacy and love.
"Oh, and a never-ending supply of Scooby snacks."
She observes that while boys are indeed boisterous, they don't hold the grudges that girls do or get emotional like their female counterparts, and while boys tend to be hugely competitive, that side of their nature can be used to their parents' advantage.
To illustrate, she advises: "You can get your sons to eat almost anything by telling them that whoever eats quickest/most/best wins.
"Anything, that is, except Brussels sprouts."
Like many mums with children of the same sex, Evans has deftly fielded questions from others about wanting a girl, and stresses: "I feel extremely lucky to have what I've got.
"We've got three extremely healthy, happy and funny boys. I do sometimes wonder if my life would have been very different if we'd had three girls, but obviously I'll never know.
"Now, I wouldn't change having three of a kind for anything.
"I'm a proud and happy - if somewhat frazzled and frequently perplexed - mother of three small boys."
:: MOB Rule: Lessons Learned By A Mother Of Boys by Hannah Evans is published by Bloomsbury, priced £12.99. Available now Ask the expert Q: "I'm pregnant and have requested a home birth but my midwife says I can't have one, although I have no medical problems and the pregnancy has been uncomplicated. Do I have to accept this refusal, or can I appeal?"
A: Barrister Elizabeth Prochaska, founder of Birthrights, a new legal advice organisation protecting women's rights in childbirth, says: "You have the right to decide where you give birth.
"You cannot be compelled to give birth in any particular location against your will, so long as you have mental capacity to make your own healthcare decisions.
"All NHS trusts are expected by the Department of Health to make out-of-hospital services available to women in their area.
"According to Department of Health guidance, women's choice of place of birth, whether in hospital or at home, should be a 'national choice guarantee'.
"Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects every person's right to respect for their autonomous choices about their private life.
"If an NHS trust refuses to provide a home birth service, this may breach a woman's Article 8 rights, unless it can give good reasons and evidence for its decision.
"If there are no good medical reasons for refusing you a home birth, then the NHS trust may use staffing shortages as a reason for refusing.
"If this is the reason given, a hospital ought to have contingency plans (such as hiring independent midwives) to ensure there are enough staff to provide the services expected.
"You should contact the head of midwifery at your local NHS trust to find out why you've been refused a home birth.
"Midwives are under obligation to respect a woman's decision to give birth outside hospital and attend a woman at home if requested.
"So if the NHS trust continues to refuse to provide you with a midwife, you should draw their attention to the guidance provided by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). You could also contact the NMC and/or your Local Supervisory Authority to complain."
:: For more information about Birthrights, visit www.birthrights.org.uk Warm and snuggly Heat Holders Thermal Socks These thick socks have a soft inner seven times warmer than normal cotton socks, with a 2.3 tog rating. Available for all the family, including children's sizes 9 to 1.5 and 2-5, from national retailers and www.heatholders.com, £5 for children's sizes.
Celtic Sheepskin Mini Toscana Boots These luxurious children's sponge-clean boots have a cuff of plush Toscana sheepskin. Available in sizes from 5-6 to 11-12, from www.celticandco.co.uk, 01637 871 605, priced £65.
Vertbaudet Boys' Sweater A chunky jersey rollneck cable knit sweater made from 70% acrylic and 30% wool, available in various colours, and sizes from two-14 years, from www.vertbaudet.co.uk, from £15. Vertbaudet stockist details: 0844 842 0000.
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