"I love when someone who's pregnant with her first child tells me, 'I have a plan,'" says Tracy Beckerman, the humorist behind the popular parenting blog, newspaper column and book Lost In Suburbia (Perigee, 2013). "It's like in quotes: 'The Plan: After the baby's born, I'll be home for two months, then hire the perfect nanny and go back to work.'…I love 'The Plan' because there is just nothing you can factor into 'The Plan' that makes any sense when you first have a kid. The whole experience is so unpredictable. It's like going through The Twilight Zone."
No one speaks about that tumbled-around, upside-down Twilight Zone experience with more authority than Beckerman herself. "I had 'The Plan,'" she says, laughing.
A proud New Yorker complete with an all-black wardrobe, chic haircut, enviable TV job, loving husband and a brownstone duplex on the Upper West Side that she adored, Beckerman figured after she got pregnant that she'd have her baby and—boom!—be back at her desk in no time.
"Three weeks after I got back to work, I realized I was miserable. My nanny was having a better time with my child than I was. I quit my job three months later. I wanted to be the one raising my son," Beckerman recalls.
Sounds like a happy ending. But that's when Beckerman's problems really began. In a bid to get more room for the "three strollers, bouncy seat, Exersaucer, jumperoo, high chair" and other baby gear that seemed to multiply daily, she and her family headed to the New Jersey suburbs. What Beckerman didn't count on—and was utterly blindsided by—was losing her sense of self in the process.
"I didn't have a career to define myself with anymore," Beckerman says. "Working people would ask me what I did, and when I said I was a stay-at-home mom to now two kids, the conversation would stop. Like a lot of women, I felt I was doing the best thing for my family and thought I'd get such joy out of it. I didn't realize my whole identity was going to be flushed down the toilet."
Five years of floundering later, Beckerman on a whim sent her local newspaper a funny essay about something her kids had done. The editor loved it. That led to a regular column, which in the explosion of social media, eventually expanded to include a blog, where she now reposts her newspaper columns together with fresh material written just for the online crowd.
"There were so many ways I could get my humor about finding the joys in parenting across in a blog format. My column is once a week. But with my blog, I can go be funny any time I like," Beckerman says.
And so she is. Since Beckerman's riffs on suburban family life—the 10 moms to avoid, for example, and getting flummoxed by her kids' homework—routinely give us the giggles, we asked her, "Who tickles your funny bone?" Here's what she told us.
I appreciate funny people, and this blog, run by Leslie Marinelli, who's hilarious in her own right, is a compilation of tons of funny women. Recently, I loved Banished to Pinterest Purgatory by Debra Cole of Urban Moo Cow. I'm also a total Pinterest failure, so I really appreciated that she was like, "I can't possibly do this!" I could relate to Welcome to the Zoo by Marcia Kester Doyle of Menopausal Mother about the myriad animals in her house because at one point, we had a dog, a chinchilla, a bearded dragon, and six fish. And as someone who's a double-D cup, I appreciated all the bra trauma Robyn Welling of Hollow Tree Ventures suffered in The 8 Breeds of Bras.
I really love this blog because Jen, the blogger, doesn't pull any punches. She is so honest. She calls out people who treat their dogs like children ("You can knit sweaters for it and put bows in its hair and push it around in those weird doggie strollers or carry it in your Prada bag, but it's still a dog. It's not a baby.") And people who complain that their families are so busy. ("I actually overhead a mother complaining that school was taking away from her children's activities. I asked her, 'Isn't it more important for Elmer to study so that he can go to college or get a job someday?' She looked at me like I was speaking Japanese.") She just calls them out in the snarkiest, funniest way possible. And she gets hundreds of comments on her blog, so obviously a lot of people relate to what she's writing.
Anissa Mayhew, who's also the brains behind the parenting humor site Aiming Low, is amazing. She had two strokes in her 30s, is paralyzed on one side, and she's raising three children while she's in a wheelchair. Many of her posts are about her struggles to parent with those limitations. She talks a lot about how she strives for her children to see her as more than a "person in a wheelchair." She does all of her writing with a one-handed keyboard, and her posts—about her new rules for the PTA, the third anniversary of her strokes, and why she doesn't want to be the yardstick by which others compare how crappy their lives are—are sometimes painful, always real, and, even more often, very funny.