The authors behind a fresh round of parenting books love their munchkins, to be sure, but there's something about the scorched earth narrative that sells memoirish parenting books these days.
Is the goal an instructional one? Inspirational? How about some advice?
"No, there isn't any. I don't have anything. No advice. Nobody has any advice," laughed Amber Dusick, a Los Angeles mother of two who brings us "Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures."
The book's 50 "crappy laws of parenting" include this at No. 16: "When you sneak to the pantry to eat chocolate, you will get caught."
The F-bombs fly, the flavored vodka flows and husbands pay dearly, but what's the point of dwelling on the smeared, sleep-deprived underbelly of life with kids? Even if it is just for a laugh.
"We've opened up the dialogue," offered Nicole Knepper, who has two kids and wrote "Moms who Drink and Swear," complete with a chapter titled, "Suck it, Santa Claus."
"People have really found ways to be more authentic about who they are and how it affects us as parents. My mom's generation, they did a lot of pushing down their own interests and their own personalities because they were all about the kids, and this was their job and their focus, whereas my generation (She's 43 and lives in Plainfield, Ill.), the expectations are different. You multitask. You do it all, only nobody can do it all well."
Jill Smokler's Scary Mommy certainly can't. "Motherhood Comes Naturally (and other vicious lies)" is her second spin off her popular blog and parenting community at Scarymommy.com. The first was "Confessions of a Scary Mommy."
The 35-year-old mom of three, including boys just 20 months apart, has noticed a difference in exactly how much filth and frustration parents are willing to reveal in the five long years since she first put up her blog.
"There wasn't this acceptance about being this sort of less-than-perfect mother, but all of a sudden it feels like that is becoming the norm rather than the exception," said Smokler, in Baltimore, Md. "There came a tipping point where everybody just couldn't keep up that facade anymore and there was just a backlash, and here we are."
On the dad side, Ian Frazier's popular cursing mommy character from his columns in The New Yorker now has her own novel called "The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days," a diary of dereliction spread over a year of boozing, bad parenting and expletive-infused mockery of a capacitor-hoarding husband named Larry.
There's this entry for Wednesday, April 13: "Yes, lying in a steaming tub with a bottle of Kahlua and ignoring the children's knocks on the bathroom door all afternoon is not the most mature coping strategy. So stipulated, your honor!"
And there's Adrian Kulp, the man-child who lost his job and turned his stay-at-home dad blog into a book, "Dad or Alive," writing of his daughter after his wife went back to work: "All I had to do was move our four-month-old from one station to the next so she didn't get bedsores. ... The idea of going outside seemed monumental."
An engineering-minded dude pair, Andy Herald and Charlie Capen, have provided an illustrated primer on co-sleeping, "The Guide to Baby Sleep Positions," complete with names for each diabolic configuration: The Stalker, the Yin and Yang and The Exorcist among them.
Dusick, whose boys are 6 and 3, began blogging nearly two years ago. Her childlike drawings lend a creepy air to life with the Crappy family, including that fateful day when they all get sick. Tempers and temperatures flare, and bodily fluids fly all night, brought alive by her hollow-eyed illustrations.
"It's a healthy balance of being able to laugh at things and yet still reassure ourselves that this is normal and we still love our kids, and parenting is really hard," she said.
Knepper's kids are 13 and nearly 9. She considers it far healthier to share the grief than do what her mother's generation likely did: "Hide their Valium and their vodka in the linen closet, where nobody could find it."
But she acknowledges that "schtick is schtick," especially when trying to sell books that began as blogs.
Smokler's blog has a "confessional" for anonymous commenters and she weaves some of their contributions into chapter starters. "I invited you into my home as a guest. And you brought my 2-year-old permanent markers and Play-Doh," reads the one for "Lie (hash)4, It Takes a Village to Raise a Child."
"Next time I visit you, I'm bringing your teenage daughter condoms and crack."
In real life, her kids are 5, 7 and 9. The oldest, her only girl, is a couple years shy of the first time Smokler's own mom washed her mouth out with a bar of soap. Smokler's crime? Telling mom she hated her.
"My daughter has told me she has hated me many, many times and I have never washed her mouth out with soap. I just roll my eyes at her, I get on my site and I say something snarky about her, and I move on," she said. "It's a big relief for my readers to realize that they're not the only parents who have ever been driven crazy by their kids."
Relief, yes, and also revelation. While her own mom never cursed, Smokler's daughter dropped her first F-bomb at age 4, when a tower of blocks toppled over, her offspring making it clear, "I heard it from you."
"My parents just didn't talk like that," Smokler said. "It's funny, now they do. At least my mom does now."
So what do these derelict moms want for Mother's Day?
"I'll beg for time to curl up in bed and read for the whole day," Knepper said.
Dusick: "I would really like to sleep in." Is that gonna happen? "Probably not."
Smokler the Scary Mommy is doing the unthinkable.
"We'll be in Disney World, so it's sort of my anti-perfect Mother's Day, but that's OK."
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