I read a couple short books that are parodies of parenting advice books. Often these books are given to parents as gag gifts.
Sh*tty Mom: The Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us by Laurie Kilmartin, Karen Moline, Alicia Ybarbo, and Mary Ann Zoellner
I felt ambivalent about this one. It’s mostly a lot of rants about people who make parenting harder, especially “perfect” moms who make the rest of us look bad and feel guilty and inadequate. The step by step instructions are about how to slack or get away with slacking. And their definition of slacking is my definition of normal. There were a few essays that rubbed me the wrong way, but most were witty and truthful.
How to Traumatize Your Children: 7 Proven Methods to Help You Screw Up Your Kids Deliberately and With Skill
I preferred this book to Sh*tty Mom because it was actually reassuring in a weird way. It provides illustrated step-by-step instructions for ruining a kid’s childhood in several different ways. Chapter titles include “It’s All About You: Parent as Narcissist” and “Validation Is For Parking: Parent as Self-Esteen Killer.” Reading it made me feel better about the small mistakes I’m making as a parent–at least I’m not calling my boys names or literally neglecting them. There are moments in parenting when that perspective is helpful. The tone makes the joke clear: you, reader, are a good parent laughing at truly terrible people who damage their children.The illustrations provide extra humor.
Motherhood Comes Naturally (and Other Vicious Lies) by Jill Smokler
The theme of this little volume is blowing apart a bunch of myths about motherhood. Each chapter has a myth as its headline, and Smokler tells stories to show why these little pieces of conventional wisdom are so wrong. For the most part her point seems to be that motherhood is harder than we’ve been taught to expect
After reading this and Smokler’s first book, I think I’ve decided that Scary Mommy, Smokler’s blog, is better than either of her books. It’s odd to say that because she’s the same person writing them both, obviously. Maybe Smokler’s guest writers and her forums and confessional make the blog bigger than her singular vision, and the “extra” that the blog has and the book doesn’t is something that doesn’t translate well into book form. Maybe I hold books to a higher standard than blogs. But when I compare Scary Mommy to other mom blogs, Scary Mommy is a clear winner. And when I compare these books to other writing about mothering that I’ve read, I can’t get very excited about them. Maybe I’m humorless because I don’t find this or other mom humor books quite as funny as I’d like to. I definitely agree with Smokler’s Manifesto: she considers maintaining a sense of humor about parenting so important that she lists it as her first commandment/affirmation. Probably my issue is that I’m so deep in the thick of it right now that I don’t always have the perspective necessary to find things funny. And I think to some extent, laughing about how horrible things are for moms is just accepting the status quo. I prefer to examine why things are so bad, through books like Jessica Valenti’s Why Have Kids?