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How Humor Eases Parenting Anxieties

11/05/2013 05:40 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

The incredible joy new parents feel is often rivaled only by their fear of doing something wrong. Studies found that "failure," "performing well," and wondering "what is normal?" are key preoccupations for new parents and feeling exhausted and overwhelmed creates fertile ground upon which such anxieties can easily grow. The problem with allowing them to do so is that fears of failure typically involve not only conscious anxieties but unconscious behaviors that can impair one's judgment and functioning (for example by becoming frozen in a moment of crisis), and can even be transmitted to one's children.

And now for the good news: Humor is a great way to recover from parenting anxieties as it provides a platform via which parents can recognize and acknowledge their fears, put them in perspective, and by doing so, minimize the psychological and functional disruption they cause. To be clear, being able to laugh about the many, many things that go wrong on a daily basis in no way implies you don't take parenting seriously. That said, a growing number of humorous parenting blogs are now directly (and hilariously) addressing parenting "failures" that until recently were all but unspoken.

Because the purpose of this article is to illustrate how humor eases parenting anxieties, I chose to focus on one article from one blog rather than to summarize the multitude of parenting humor blogs out there (such as, Crappy Pictures and Baby Sideburns). Specifically, The Ugly Volvo, written by stand-up comic and new mom Raquel D'Apice, had a recent entry titled, A Baby Book of Disasters.

D'Apice opens by suggesting parents chuck their "Baby Book of Firsts" ("Why are we keeping track of these yawn-inducing milestones? Unless your daughter's first tooth is a mastodon-style tusk, the woman in your carpool isn't going to care about it."), in favor of the more compelling, "Baby Book of Worsts." Her first entry is, The first time you turned your back for one second and your child rolled off the bed or sofa or changing table.

Cringe worthy as the thought is, the fear of "dropping the baby" is an extremely common worry among new parents. She goes on to caution new parents that, "A baby on a bed is like a wallet on a Times Square sidewalk -- there's no way you're going to step away for a few seconds and it's going to be right where you left it." Other entries D'Apice covers in her book of "worsts" are, The first time you forgot to lock the wheels on your stroller, and The first time you tried cutting your child's fingernails and she bled a little.

By tackling the very fears and challenges parents often experience but rarely discuss and making them explicit, not to mention laugh-out-loud funny, The Ugly Volvo provides an antidote as well as a path to empowerment to the many parents who harbor anxieties and fears of failure. As one of her followers commented, "I cannot love this post enough. Keep it up! PLEASE. You make me feel so normal."

And that is exactly the purpose of The Ugly Volvo and other humorous parenting blogs -- to help parents feel normal, to help them understand their fears and failures are shared by all parents, and to help them see the humor in what is otherwise an insanely stressful and overwhelming task. By turning unconscious fears into conscious worries and providing a way to laugh about them, parents can gain control of their anxieties so their anxieties don't control them.

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