Two years after the idea was born, Confessions of a Coffee Group Dropout is on the shelves

I am not good at self-promotion, but I am going to give it a shot anyway, because if you can't write about your new book with the pretty pink cover on your very own blog, there probably isn't anywhere you can safely do so.

Yes, I wrote a book, Confessions of a Coffee Group Dropout, and I am very pleased with it. It grew from a few blogs I wrote on this site, actually, (especially this one) and for those early readers and commenters, I would like to extend a belated thank you, because I probably wouldn't have had the chutzpah to write my book if it weren't for you.

You see, my book is about mothering, which can be a rather dangerous topic, inviting strong emotional responses, outright chiding, and sticky debates in which neither side comes out looking particularly good. You need to have your wits about you.

But I felt compelled to write it, and this is why: New motherhood has become a fraught arena for women, a sort of gladiator's ring for sleep-deprived, hormonally-challenged players who only ever wanted to have a baby and raise it their way, not to have to defend their choices to any passing stranger. But defend their choices they must, and after one too many discussions about the merits of disposible nappies, immunisation, working outside the home, bottled baby food, sunhats, coffee groups, professional childcare, epidurals, breastfeeding and baby routines I decided to write something useful about the whole confusing schemozzle.

In any case, it is exactly the sort of thing I would have liked to have read when I was pregnant, instead of the ghastly doctor's tomes I did pore over. Other women have told me the same.

Writing a book with a small child in the house was tricky, although there are many writers who do this, and far more gracefully and ably than I. Looking back, I may as well have propped a cardboard cutout of myself in the lounge, given how often I dived into the burnt orange confines of my circa 1981 office when people might have liked me to cook something, or fold laundry, or have a nice conversation not pertaining to nappies, vaccination, sunhats, et al. Our son Micah got fed up. He has developed a real grudge against the computer. At one point he pulled some of the keys off. Just this morning he got out a magic marker and scribbled on the keyboard. I really can't blame him.

The publicity part has all been amazingly positive so far. The Sunday Star-Times' Sunday magazine profiled me and called me a 'maverick', which mustered images of elderly American politicians driving across the desert in flag-emblazoned buses, but was quietly pleasing nonetheless. The subsequent letters to the editor were even more flattering, if you discount the woman from Timaru who seemed to think my main message was that living without coffee while pregnant is tiresome. It is, of course, but I wasn't actually complaining about it. Also, she clearly thought I should not be sharing my views on motherhood with anyone, let alone a magazine, although she was quite entitled to call me 'shallow' in the same publication.

The dear old Gisborne Herald, where I learned how to be a journalist, profiled me too. They were very kind. Little Treasures ran an interview and an enormous photograph. I was on Newstalk ZB Wellington, I even got to be on Kathryn Ryan's Nine to Noon show, which was a real thrill. I heart Kathryn.

There is more publicity to come, if all goes well, and I am hoping that when it comes to live TV I'm not going to revert to my 15-year-old self and stare at my shoes.

I keep reminding myself how small the New Zealand publishing industry is, and how few local books we Kiwis buy, and how I'd be better off writing paranormal romances a la Nalini Singh, who has been on the New York Times bestseller list six times and must surely be our most financially successful author. But I can't help being a bit excited anyway.

Comments (6)

by Ian MacKay on August 27, 2011
Ian MacKay

Congratulations Eleanor. Tough world but someone has to do it.

There was a short column in our free local Saturday paper which quoted a NZ Herald digi poll that had only 10% supporting the proposal from the Welfare Working group, that single parents should look for part time work when their youngest turns three.  What do you think Eleanor?

by Paul Corrigan on August 31, 2011
Paul Corrigan


I did hear one of the radio interviews with you. Can't remember which.

Disposable nappies were mentioned, and I think you said you were a fan of their use.

Very good. Late last year I looked after my grandson (about 1-1/2)  a few afternoons a week. In less than a week I was praising and thanking God for giving someone the inspiration to devise Huggies and Treasures.

They're a lot easier to manage than the cloth nappies that I had been more familiar with 30 years ago. Get one off, wipe bottom (Oh, thank you, God, for wet wipes), slip on a clean nappy, tape it up - done.

No spearing with safety pins. No loose fitting. No leakages.

And bugger the landfills.

by Eleanor Black on September 06, 2011
Eleanor Black

Thanks, Ian. In response to your question, I am dubious about a scheme that would make it harder for single parents to do the important job of raising their children. I also suspect that a lot of welfare mothers would dearly love some part-time work, but it's really not that easy to come by. I have a part-time job which works well for me, but for mothers of young children, they're like gold dust. On the other hand, I think it is good for a child to see their parent contributing to society as a working person, so I agree that it should be a goal to help welfare parents into work. I'm just not convinced about this particular method.

by Eleanor Black on September 06, 2011
Eleanor Black

Hi Paul,

The good news is that when it comes to nappies, there is no particular environmental advantage to cloth nappies anyway, once you factor in the energy used to clean them. So while I went disposable for the convenience of them (and because I didn't want to have to soak dirty nappies in buckets like my grandmothers did) I didn't actually feel guilty about the impact on the environment. The thing is to get kids toilet trained as soon as possible!

by on September 08, 2011

Hi Eleanor,

After reading your comment I actually went and had a look at the report by the UK Environment Agency that looked at the life cycle of cloth and disposable nappies. This I believe is where you're getting your info; it was widely reported on when it came out in 2005.

Cue mild astonishment that well-paid professionals would spend months of their life coming up with a 200 page report on pooey nappy flow charts and inventory analysis.

What the report  found was that disposables use up lots of stuff (fluff pulp and super absorbment polymer) and washing cloth nappies uses lots of energy heating water and for dryers. Apparently, having your child in nappies for 2.5 years is comparable (in terms of climate change) to driving about 3000km. So nappies vs holiday?

Anyway, the report (and a follow up addendum from 2008) does say that the main source of environmental impact for cloth nappies is the generation of electricity for washing and drying them. They assumed warm/hot washes and something like 50 percent in the dryer.

Now I mostly use secondhand modern cloth nappies, dried on a indoor hangy thing after a cold wash (which doesn't seem to have killed anyone yet). You don't need a 200 page report to know that has a low enviornmental impact. I've never soaked any, and Paul they're just as easy to put on as disposables (the first one of those I put on turned out to be backwards).

So, should you feel guilty about disposables? And should I feel guilty about often driving the equivalent of an entire child's time in disposables worth of climate change, while on holiday? I would say no. What's the use of that? We should pay; we need a proper price on carbon, and we need it now.



by on September 22, 2011

Hi Eleanor,

I brought your book whilst in NZ as I was sick to death of everyone laying their opinion on me, something that is very difficult to deal with when you have a new born baby and you are just trying to get through your own way. I thought yey, finally someone who doesnt judge, only judges the judgers!

It is sad there are so many 'mean mothers' there really is no right or wrong if you are a good parent and it was good to see that you outlined the two sides to all scenarios to show there is no one that is better than the other.

This was until I looked for what you had to say about bottle feeding. I was really disapointed that you like every other breastfeeding nazi had clearly stated your view that breast was best. up until here the book has followed the path that the different ways mothers decide to do things dont matter and has an emphasis on mothers having such a strong opinion against a certain topic and voicing this to others who dont do the same is 'mean'.

That is why I was disapointed to read you small amount of input on this huge matter that bottle feeding mothers deal with every day. you have even gone as far to add about the bond between breast feed mothers and babies, what about the bond between bottle fed mothers and babies? the times I fed my son and he stared lovingly into my eyes are priceless, not to mention my husband being able to experience this also. I personally dont give a hoot whether someone breastfeeds or bottle feeds and strongly believe that unless you are a super healthy individual that in some circumstances bottle feeding is best.

I could not breast fed, but was never very fussed about it before bub came anyway, I have always had the opinion that what will be will be, I wasnt going to worry if things didnt work out that way as there are high quality formulas out there now that are full of nutrition. It doesnt matter whether you cant breast fed or you choice not to, you should not be made to feel any less of a mother or that you have not chosen the best start for your baby. I must say I was surprised that your book took this turn and disapointed as I have had it with this opinion. the whole reason I brought your book was because I was feeling low about coping crap on how breast is best.

I find it hard to believe breast feeding mothers feel so strongly about this in yet, you will feed yur baby pre made supermarket food, a bit hypo crititcal. I make all my babies food fresh and once again dont give a hoot about whether others do or not, but dont like the double standards.

just because I formula feed my baby does not mean I love my baby any less, that he is not super healthy, or that we dont have a special bond.




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