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The Week That Was: A Childish Endeavour

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Who'd be a mother these days? Forget the exhaustion of broken sleep, it's all the arguments and wrangling over what's right and wrong that looks most painful.

In a week when expectant mothers were told they should actually be dieting rather than eating for two and when celebrity mothers were told they "owed" it to their fans to lose their baby weight, David Cameron saw fit to announce the launch of a new government-backed website offering free parenting advice.

I say free, it will cost the taxpayer £3.4 million.

"This is not the nanny state - it's the sensible state", Cameron said of www.NHS.uk/parents.

"It's ludicrous that we expect people to train for hours to drive a car or use a computer, but when it comes to looking after a baby we tell people to just get on with it."

The venture - swaddle-wrapped as it is with vouchers for parenting classes - hasn't exactly been met with rapturous applause, bar some muted championing from within Conservative ranks.

Should Cameron be surprised? The intentions aren't bad. As someone who is barely able to feed herself, I'm sure when the time comes for children, a resource that tells me how I might go about feeding smaller versions of myself will be somewhat essential, but here's the thing, there are quite a few websites already out there not only fulfilling that need, but dependent on my ignorance for business.

Britain might not be brilliant at quite a few things - predictable weather being bottom of that list right now - but one thing we're not bad at is producing parenting websites. Mumsnet, Netmums and AOL's own Parentdish, to mention just a few, attract millions of users between them every month, and that's before we even start on the plethora of parenting blogs that have sprung up in recent years.

Not only do all these sites enable parents of every age to swap tips, advice and ideas, but crucially support journalists, developers, entrepreneurs and many more make a living.

Naysayers will point to the conflicting advice available on these diverse sites, but if the Time-prompted breastfeeding debate that's still raging weeks after the magazine went on sale has taught us nothing, it's that there are plenty of different opinions on the best way to bring up kids.

What matters is getting that information out there, which is no doubt the seed which sprouted Cameron's latest ill-advised venture.

"We think we're being helpful here," he optimistically told Kate Garraway on Daybreak.

Really helpful might have been using those millions to encourage more start-ups in the parenting sector, or making sure homes that can't afford internet access get it. I'm sure Martha Lane-Fox and her new Go ON UK initiative have plenty of ideas how to spend it.

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